On May 11, 1960, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was nabbed by a team of Israeli spies after years on the run in Argentina, ending a long manhunt.
Ten days later, drugged and dressed as a crew member of Israeli flag carrier El Al, he was smuggled to the Jewish state by Mossad agents and put on trial.
The architect of the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” under which six million European Jews were exterminated during World War II, Eichmann was tried and hanged in 1962, aged 56.
Sixty years on, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has revealed the identity of the man believed to have sparked the dramatic capture and eventual trial, releasing a never-before-published photo of Eichmann reportedly passed on to the Mossad, and central to its decision to pursue him.
According to the paper, Gerhard Klammer, a German geologist who had worked at the same construction company as Eichmann in Argentina, made multiple attempts in the late 1950s to alert both German and Argentine authorities of the whereabouts of the infamous Nazi.
Klammer, who had moved to Argentina after the war, was said to have opposed the Nazi regime and sought Eichmann’s capture in the face of efforts to protect him by numerous Nazi supporters.
Eichmann’s name and his role as architect of the Nazi killing machine had surfaced during the Nuremberg war crimes trials, which took place from 1945 to 1946.
He had been charged with organizing and coordinating the deportation of Jews to death camps in Eastern Europe. But the former chief of Section IV B.4 of the Gestapo, responsible for the so-called “Jewish question,” had vanished after the “Third Reich” collapsed in May 1945.
A manhunt was launched in 1945, led by prominent figures in the Jewish community, including famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who himself had escaped a concentration camp.
A breakthrough came in 1957 when the prosecutor of the German state of Hesse, Fritz Bauer, tipped off the Israeli secret service that Eichmann was in hiding in Argentina, under the false name of Ricardo Klement.
Quoting associates of Klammer, the Süddeutsche Zeitung report said that, via a close friend, he had provided Bauer with a photo of himself standing next to Eichmann during the time they had worked together.
That photo, the report said, led the Israeli spy agency to carry out the mission that would eventually end in Eichmann’s capture.
It nonetheless took the Mossad more than two years to locate him, living in a home without running water and electricity, in the neighborhood of San Fernando, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
During a March 1960 mission, Mossad agents, using Klammer’s photo, formally established that Ricardo Klement was the former lieutenant-colonel Eichmann.
On April 11, 1961, the captured Eichmann, facing 15 charges, appeared for the first time in public in a glass booth in a Jerusalem court, which would question some 111 witnesses.
Writer Haim Gouri said: “The trial gave the survivors of the genocide, for the first time, the possibility of being heard.”
Some 450 foreign journalists, 100 observers and diplomats attended the different hearings.
Among them was author and concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel and American Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, who published in 1963 a major book on the subject, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
Eichmann was sentenced to death on December 15 after being convicted on all counts, including crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
On May 29, 1962, his appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court.
He was hanged on May 31 at midnight and his ashes were scattered at sea.
Agencies contributed to this report.