Buenos Aires, Argentina
Harel gave a briefing, devoting most of it to the bigger picture. "I strove to impress upon the men the unique moral and historical significance of what they were doing," he recalled. "For the first time in history the Jews would judge their assassins, and for the first time the world would hear, and the young generation in Israel would hear, the full story of the edict of annihilation against an entire people."
The team deployed two cars for the operation, timed to intercept Eichmann when he normally got off the bus from work, 7.40pm. Aharoni drove the first car, which also contained Eitan, an agent named Moshe Tavor, and Malkin, the designated man to seize Eichmann. Malkin wore a pair of fur-lined gloves. Since it was winter in Argentina, this hardly looked unusual. "The gloves of course would help with the cold, but that is not the main reason I bought them," he noted. "The thought of placing my bare hand over the mouth that had ordered the death of millions, of feeling the hot breath and the saliva on my skin, filled me with an overwhelming sense of revulsion."
Shalom, Eitan's deputy, was in the second car with other agents. They were parked about 30 yards away, with the hood up as if they were doing some repairs. As soon as they spotted Eichmann, they were supposed to turn on their bright lights, blinding Eichmann so he wouldn't see the first car just up ahead.
Eichmann normally followed the same routine every day, but on that evening he did not get off the bus the Israelis were waiting for. Although it was dark, the two parked cars risked attracting attention. Shalom had gotten out of the second car when, at about 8.05pm, he spotted Eichmann in the evening darkness. He rushed back to the car, another agent quickly slammed the hood down, and Shalom flashed the headlights. In the first car, Aharoni saw Eichmann clearly through his binoculars. Leaning out the window, he warned the waiting Malkin: "He has a hand in his pocket. Watch out for a weapon."
As Eichmann turned the corner from the bus stop and walked directly by their car, Malkin turned around and blocked his path. "Un momentito, seņor," he said, using the phrase he had been practising for weeks. Eichmann stopped abruptly, and Malkin took advantage of that instant to lunge for him. The problem was that, because of Aharoni's warning, he grabbed for his right hand instead of his throat and the two men tumbled into a ditch.
An unholy mess
Eichmann began screaming. "This turned a well-planned and carefully exercised operation into an unholy mess," Aharoni reported later. He gunned the engine to drown out the screams, while Eitan and Tavor jumped out of the car to help. Malkin grabbed Eichmann by his legs while the two others took him by his arms, quickly pulling him into the car through the back door. They put him on the floor between the front and the back seats, where they had placed blankets both so that he would not be injured and to cover him. Eichmann's head was pressed against Eitan's knees, and Malkin sat on the other side. Their captive had no weapon.
Aharoni delivered a sharp order to Eichmann in German: "If you don't keep still, you'll be shot." Malkin still had his hand on his mouth beneath the blanket, but when Eichmann nodded, signalling he understood, he took it off. They then drove in silence. Eichmann, who was now outfitted in thick goggles so he could not see anything, lay completely still.
The Israelis walked Eichmann to the small second-floor room prepared for him, and put him on an iron bed, shackling one of his legs to its heavy frame. A member of the team who was a doctor examined his mouth to make sure he did not have any poison. The prisoner protested that after all this time as a free man he was not taking such precautions, but the doctor still removed his false teeth to be sure and then inspected the rest of his body.
Eitan, Shalom, Malkin, and Aharoni were all in the room, watching while the doctor checked his armpit, where normally SS officers had a tattoo with their blood type. Instead, Eichmann only had a small scar, which later he admitted was the result of his efforts to burn away the tattoo with a cigarette when he had been detained by the Americans at the end of the war. His captors had failed to realise his true identity then.
Now, Eichmann broke down much sooner than anyone expected, answering questions with answers about his height, shoe size, clothing size, Nazi Party membership number, SS number, and birthdate and place – March 19, 1906, in Solingen, Germany – that matched those in his file.
"Under which name were you born?" Aharoni then asked. "Adolf Eichmann," he replied.As Aharoni put it, "We had come out of the tunnel ... the tensions of a long and difficult operation
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