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Buenos Aires, Argentina


Argentine workers, less forthcoming, so Aharoni and his small team decided to track his movements after work.

That led them to a newly built small house in Garibaldi Street. Aharoni made repeated trips to San Fernando and, talking to neighbours using a variety of pretexts, confirmed that the German family had moved in recently, and an architect obtained the document showing that plot 14 in Garibaldi Street, where the new house was situated, was registered under the name of Veronica Catarina Liebl de Eichmann, listing both her maiden and married names.

After repeated passes to observe the house, Aharoni caught his first glimpse of "a man of medium size and build, about 50 years old, with a high forehead and partially bald" on March 19. The man collected the wash from the clothesline and went back into the house. Excited, Aharoni cabled his superiors that he had spotted a man at Vera Eichmann's house "who definitely resembled Eichmann", and that there was no longer any doubt about his identity. He also recommended that he return to Israel right away to help in the planning of a kidnapping operation.

Harel and Eitan now knew that they had to work out how to get Eichmann out of the country. Harel took charge of making arrangements for the preferred option: flying Eichmann out. El Al, the Israeli airline, had no flights to Argentina at that time, but, fortuitously, Argentina was planning to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its independence in late May and Israel had been invited to send its representatives.

Eitan looked into a backup plan: the much less desirable option of a lengthy journey by sea which, if triggered, would have resulted in Eichmann being smuggled out with a regular shipment of kosher beef.

On April 24, Aharoni landed back in Buenos Aires. He was now posing as a German businessman, with a new passport, a new moustache, and new clothes. One of the first to follow was Avraham Shalom, Eitan's deputy for the operation.

Shalom was an experienced agent but, for whatever reason, he nearly blew his cover. After reaching Paris on the first leg of his journey, he picked up a German passport with new identity papers. In transit in Lisbon, he and other passengers were required to hand in their passports and then to ask for them back when they were ready to board their next flight – in his case, the flight to Buenos Aires. Shalom forgot his fake name and had to reach behind a startled airport official to point to the passport, which he recognised only by its colour.

Shalom was favourably impressed when he saw Garibaldi Street. It was "not a real street", he recalled. "It was a footpath for cars. It was an ideal place for an operation – no electricity, few people." The only lights came from the occasional passing car.

The Israelis observed Eichmann's daily routine; they watched him walk to a bus stop to travel to a Mercedes factory every morning, and return by bus to the stop right at the corner of his street at the same time every evening. Peter Malkin​, an especially strong member of the team, was given the assignment of grabbing Eichmann first. "Never before in my career had I been even a little frightened," he recalled. "Now I was terrified of failure."


There was always the possibility of something going wrong. Good cars were hard to get in Buenos Aires, and the beat-up vehicles the team had rented broke down often; there was always the possibility, too, that some slip by one of the Israelis could arouse suspicion. Harel, who also flew to Argentina but stayed in downtown Buenos Aires to monitor the action from a short distance, had given Eitan a pair of open handcuffs, keeping the key for himself. If the Argentine police should catch up with them after they seized Eichmann, he instructed Eitan, he had to be sure to handcuff his hand to Eichmann's. Then he would tell the police to bring both of them to the Israeli ambassador.

But Eitan and Aharoni had also agreed, keeping it from Harel, that if the operation really went wrong, they would just kill Eichmann.

By the evening of May 10, the day before the scheduled operation, seven safe houses and apartments had been prepared, primarily to provide alternatives for where to hold the captive until he could be smuggled out of the country, but also for members of the team. Those who had been staying in hotels had already been told to move to one of the safe houses. The Mossad chief did not want everyone checking out from hotels on the day of the kidnapping, which could tip off the police about their identities.


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