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May 11: Eichmann Captured

May 11, 2012

Four Israeli Mossad agents captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina on this date in 1960. Eichmann had been living with his family for more than a decade, under the name Ricardo Klement. Israel’s intelligence network had been alerted by a Dachau concentration camp survivor, Lothar Hermann, whose daughter Sylvia had begun to date Eichmann’s son. The son had bragged of his father’s Nazi exploits, and Sylvia ultimately investigated on behalf of the Mossad and met Eichmann in his house. The agents kidnapped him near the house, kept him in a safe house for more than a week to confirm his identity, then drugged him and smuggled him out of Argentina on an El Al plane. He was placed on trial for crimes against humanity in Israel and was the only convicted prisoner to receive capital punishment in the country’s history.

“Eichmann’s astounding willingness, in Argentina as well as in, Jerusalem, to admit his crimes was due less to his own criminal capacity for self-deception than to the aura of systematic mendacity that had constituted the general, and generally accepted, atmosphere of the Third Reich.” —Hannah Arendt