Mos­sad agent caught Nazi war crim­i­nal

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Obituaries - BY ARON HELLER As­so­ci­ated Press

Rafi Eitan, a legendary Is­raeli Mos­sad spy who led the cap­ture of Holo­caust mas­ter­mind Adolf Eich­mann, died Saturday. He was 92.

Eitan was one of the founders of Is­rael’s vaunted in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and among its most promi­nent fig­ures in Is­rael and abroad.

“Rafi was among the he­roes of the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices of the State of Is­rael on count­less mis­sions on be­half of the se­cu­rity of Is­rael,” said Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. “His wis­dom, wit and com­mit­ment to the peo­ple of Is­rael and our state were with­out peer.”

The 1960 oper­a­tion to cap­ture Eich­mann in Ar­gentina and bring him to trial in Jerusalem was the Mos­sad’s most his­toric mis­sion and re­mains one of the defin­ing episodes in Is­rael’s his­tory. His trial brought to life the hor­rors of the Nazi “Fi­nal So­lu­tion,” which fol­lowed Eich­mann’s blue­print for liq­ui­dat­ing the en­tire Jewish pop­u­la­tion of Europe. Eich­mann was con­victed in 1961 of war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity. He was hanged the fol­low­ing year – the only time Is­rael has car­ried out a death sen­tence.

Known as the “ar­chi­tect of the Holo­caust” for his role in co­or­di­nat­ing the Nazi geno­cide pol­icy, Eich­mann fled Ger­many af­ter World War II and as­sumed the name Ri­cardo Kle­ment in Ar­gentina.

Eitan, who headed the seven-man team on the ground, grabbed Eich­mann on the way back to his Buenos Aires home, shoved him into a car and spir­ited him to a safe house. In the back seat of the car, one agent shoved a gloved hand in­side Eich­mann’s mouth in case he had a cyanide pill hid­den in a tooth, as some for­mer top Nazis were known to have to foil their cap­ture. Eitan iden­ti­fied Eich­mann by search­ing his body for dis­tinc­tive scars on his arm and stom­ach. “And once I felt it I was con­vinced. This is the man – we got Eich­mann,” he re­called years later.

Mos­sad Direc­tor Yossi Co­hen said the ma­jor­ity of Eitan’s ex­ploits still re­main un­known to the gen­eral pub­lic.

“His work and his ac­tions will be etched in gold let­ters in the an­nals of the state,” Co­hen said in a spe­cial state­ment Saturday. “The foun­da­tions that Rafi laid in the first years of the state are a sig­nif­i­cant layer in the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Mos­sad even to­day.”

Eitan’s rep­u­ta­tion took a hit in the 1980s for his han­dling of Jonathan Pol­lard, a civil­ian in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst for the U.S. Navy, who sold mil­i­tary secrets to Is­rael while work­ing at the Pen­tagon. Pol­lard was ar­rested in 1985 and pleaded guilty, in an es­pi­onage af­fair that em­bar­rassed Is­rael and se­verely tar­nished its re­la­tions with the United States.

Eitan claimed his ac­tions were sanc­tioned by his su­pe­ri­ors, but even­tu­ally was forced to re­sign his post.

The short and stocky Eitan was eas­ily rec­og­niz­able by his mop of white hair and his thick, large framed eye­glasses.

Rafi Eitan

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