Israel Tried to Abduct Adolf Eichmann 11 Years Before His Capture, Report Says

Quoting classified German intelligence documents, Der Spiegel report details failed Israeli attempt to take hold of the Final Solution architect in as early as 1949.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Israel attempted and failed to abduct Adolf Eichmann eleven years before successfully capturing the Nazi war criminal, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

Adolf Eichmann.Credit: Israel Police

Eichmann, considered one of the key architects of the Final Solution, was captured by Mossad agents in 1960. A year later, he was sentenced to death and was hanged in 1962.

Basing its report on classified German intelligence documents, the Der Spiegel described a detailed attempt to apprehend Eichmann in Austria in as early as 1949, an attempt which eventually failed due to bad intelligence.

The failed operation was based on the mistaken premise according to which Eichmann was to visit his wife in the town of Bad Aussee in the state of Styria.

A plane containing an Israeli commando team was already at hand in Salzburg airport in order to abduct the Nazi war criminal, but Eichmann, who was at that time hiding in northern Germany, never showed up.

According to the Der Spiegel report, the source for the bad intelligence was a questionable informant, who had been employed by Austrian intelligence, as well as other intelligence agencies, and even cooperated at one time with famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

The German intelligence documents quoted by Der Spiegel added that the arrest itself was to be conducted by Austrian police, with Israel having paid a chief Austrian official 50,000 shillings as well as offering a 1 million shilling reward.

The Der Spiegel report comes after last week the German daily Bild reported that the West German secret service knew about Eichmann's hiding place in Argentina nearly a decade before Israeli agents captured the Nazi criminal in 1960.

According to documents just released last week, the predecessor of today's Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, knew at least since 1952 Eichmann's fake name and the country where he was hiding.

"SS Colonel Eichmann is not to be found in Egypt but is residing in Argentina under the fake name Clemens. E.'s address is known to the editor-in-chief of the German newspaper in Argentina Der Weg [The Way]," an index card from 1952 stated, according to the paper.

Hiding in Argentina, Eichmann indeed used the false name Ricardo Klement. When he sent for his wife and children to join him in South America from Austria, the West German intelligence service, then still called the Gehlen Organization, learned of Eichmann's hiding place but did nothing to attempt to capture him, according to the paper.

German historian Dr. Bettina Stangneth, who has been researching the topic for six years, said the discovery of the index card is indeed a "sensation," according to Bild. "Until now it was not known that the West German secret service knew about Eichmann's hiding place eight years before his arrest."