On This Day: Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann captured in Argentina

Julian Gavaghan
British Pathé

May 11, 1960: Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann was captured by Israeli spies in Argentina on this day in 1960 – after 15 years of hiding from justice.

The SS officer, who was in charge of implementing the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’ plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, was then smuggled to Israel by Mossad agents.

Eichmann, who sent the majority of the six million Holocaust victims to their deaths by piling them into cattle wagons, was tried in Jerusalem and hanged in 1962.

People around the world imagined they would catch a glimpse of cold, unrepentant evil as they watched the opening hearing, captured in this British Pathé newsreel.

Yet Eichmann, who stood in the dock behind bulletproof glass, cut rather a pathetic figure as charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity were read out.

Gone were his the smug expression, forbidding SS uniform and cap bearing a sinister silver skull.

Instead,  aged 55, he was bald, thin and gaunt, and wore a plain suit and thick-rimmed glasses as he meekly denied the charges and claimed he was ‘just following orders’.


Yet the trial in 1961 provided catharsis to a traumatised people - with hundreds of Holocaust survivors taking the stand and revealing their ordeals for the first time.

The audacious capture of the most prominent Nazi fugitive bolstered the reputations of both Mossad and Simon Wiesenthal, a Jewish Nazi hunter who first learned of Eichmann’s whereabouts.

After the war ended, Eichmann escaped American captivity and fled to Argentina in 1950, taking on the name Ricardo Klement.

There he kept out of sight until 1957, when his eldest son Klaus began dating a girl whose father was a Jewish Holocaust victim from Germany.

Mossad located the family house in Buenos Aires and on May 11, 1960, a seven-man team seized him as he got off a bus returning from work at a Mercedes Benz factory.

Agent Zvi Malkin jumped on him, put his gloved hand inside Eichmann's mouth to ensure he wasn’t concealing a cyanide pill and bundled him off to a safe house.

Nine days later he was drugged, dressed in an El Al uniform, seated in first class and passed off as a crew member who was ill as he was flown to Israel.

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