One of the men who carried out a failed assassination attempt on then-West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in order to sabotage the German-Israeli reparations agreement said yesterday that he does not know why Menachem Begin, who he said promoted the operation, and Begin's associates "kept their mouths shut" about the hit.
"Today I believe they saw the operation as a failure and thought that they had nothing to be proud of," Eliezer Sudit said in an exclusive first media interview with Haaretz. "I was a soldier and I carried out orders, but all in all I am pleased that I tried to do something against the reparations."
On March 27, 1952, a bomb Sudit made was sent by mail to Adenauer. It exploded when a German sapper attempted to neutralize it, killing the sapper. The affair was hushed up through the years by Israel and Germany. However a journal Sudit wrote in 1994, the only testimony linking Begin to the affair was distributed among his friends.As reported in Haaretz yesterday, the journal came into the hands of a reporter for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine, Jorg Bremer, and parts of it were published Monday in the German paper.
All the individuals Sudit mentions have passed away. Historians who have studied the subject and people close to Begin told Haaretz yesterday that Sudit?s account does not convince them that Begin was involved in any way in the attempt on Adenauer's life.
On January 7, 1952, Begin, Knesset member and leader of the Herut Party, led a mass demonstration in Jerusalem against the reparations agreement in the works. Rocks were thrown at the Knesset and Begin was accused of fomenting revolt. However the historian Dr. Yehiam Weitz, who studied the reparations agreement, said due to the public outcry against the protest, Begin worked to tone down the struggle. "Opposition leaders in Herut accused him of doing everything possible to lower the flames," he said.
Begin?s personal secretary Yehiel Kadishai and the director of the Begin Heritage Center, Herzl Marov, also said they had never heard of Begin?s involvement in the affair.
"Kadishai could not have known because he began to work with Begin only in the 60s," Sudit said.
Sudit claimed that the initiative to act against Adenauer began after the demonstration in Jerusalem. He said he was summoned to a meeting at Begin's Tel Aviv home by his father-in-law, Yitzhak Gurion, who was close to Begin. "I remember that at the beginning of the meeting Begin said something had to be done against Adenauer and the reparations. I didn't know them even who Adenauer was, but I agreed with Begin that this agreement should not be accepted. We thought the Germans should pay directly to the survivors of the Holocaust and that the government of Israel should not take the money from them in the name of the Jewish people and buy tractors with it for the kibbutzim."
Sudit, 82, came to Israel from Bessarabia in 1936 and volunteered for the Etzl, the underground movement led by Begin. Following the War of Independence he was in charge of explosives at a quarry.
"The intent was not to hit Adenauer but to rouse the international media. It was clear to all of us there was no chance the package would reach Adenauer."
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