Der Spiegel: Israel Almost Captured Eichmann Before He Fled to Argentina

Classified German intelligence documents reveal Israel planned to kidnap Adolf Eichmann as far back as 1949.

Classified German intelligence documents reveal that Israel planned to kidnap Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as far back as 1949, 11 years before it succeeded in bringing him to trial in Israel. The information was published yesterday in the Germany magazine Der Spiegel.

The documents obtained by the weekly reveal that, relying on erroneous information, an Israeli commando unit had planned to kidnap Eichmann from Austria and bring him to Israel. A plane prepared for the mission was already waiting in the Salzburg airport and ready for takeoff. The Austrian police were supposed to have arrested Eichmann and brought him to the airport. The Israeli consul in Vienna had already paid 50,000 shillings to a senior Austrian official to locate Eichmann, and another reward of one million shillings was offered for his capture.

Adolf Eichmann (Israel Police)
Israel Police

Israeli agents had planned the operation based on information that Eichmann intended to visit his wife in the town of Bad Aussee, located in the Austrian state of Styria. But Eichmann, hiding then in northern Germany, never showed up, and for this reason, the operation failed.

The source of the erroneous information was an informer, who worked for Austrian intelligence and other intelligence services and even cooperated with Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

The article in Der Spiegel is the latest in a series of new reports on the affair that have emerged in the wake of the publication of classified German intelligence documents. Last week, Germany's Bild newspaper reported that Germany knew about Eichmann's hiding place as far back as 1952 but withheld the information from Israel.

Eichmann, one of the key engineers of the Final Solution, fled to Argentina in 1950 after hiding for several years under a false identity in Europe. He lived in Argentina for a decade under the name of Ricardo Klement. With the assistance of supporters and admirers, he was able to reunite with his family members, who were smuggled out of Germany to Austria and from there to Argentina. In 1960, he was captured in Buenos Aires by the Mossad and brought to trial Israel. A year later he was executed by hanging.

German intelligence has in its possession almost 4,500 classified documents pertaining to the affair. German courts have recently been considering petitions to publish these documents. To date, only a small portion have been made public.

German intelligence officials have argued in court that publishing the documents would jeopardize the country's security. Groups demanding the documents be published have countered that the motivation for keeping them secret is to cover up aid provided by the state to the Nazi war criminal.