March 03, 2005

Israeli Spy Who Captured Nazi Eichmann Dies

He was a true hero.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli spy who captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, approaching him on a Buenos Aires street with the words "one moment, sir" before bundling him into a car to be smuggled to Israel, has died in New York. He was 77.

Friends said Peter Malchin, considered one of the Mossad intelligence agency's most intrepid agents, died earlier this week of complications from an infection and was to be buried in Tel Aviv. He had been living in New York for the past few years.

"He was an extraordinary secret warrior," said Israeli journalist Uri Dan, a close friend.

Most of Malchin's missions remain state secrets.

But he earned renown as the agent who in 1960 found Eichmann, the German SS officer responsible for deporting millions of Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust, living in Argentina. He approached him on a Buenos Aires street, tapping him on the back with the words "one moment, sir" before wrestling him to the ground and bundling him into a getaway car.

Eichmann, who had been living in Argentina under a false identity since fleeing Germany after World War II, was interrogated at a safehouse in Buenos Aires before being smuggled to Israel.

The daring operation, which inspired books and films, led to Eichmann's conviction in a 1961 trial and his hanging in 1962. He remains the only person ever to have been executed in Israel.

Malchin, a martial arts expert, decided to confront Eichmann alone near his home on Garibaldi Street to avoid attracting attention and to ensure he would be brought to Israel "in one piece," Dan said.

"There were six million pairs of eyes on me ... I had to succeed," Malchin later recounted, Dan said.

NAZIS KILLED NEPHEW

Malchin, who was born Tzvi Milchman, escaped the Holocaust, but dozens of his relatives were among the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II.

In his book "Eichmann in My Hands," Malchin described how he told Eichmann during the 10 days the Mossad team held him before smuggling him to Israel on an El Al plane that he was responsible for the death of his nephew in the Holocaust.

"He was just your son's age. Also blond and blue-eyed, just like your son, and you killed him," Malchin told Eichmann.

"Genuinely perplexed by the observation, he actually waited a moment to see if I would clarify it," Malchin recounted in his book. 'Yes', he said finally, 'but he was Jewish, wasn't he," Malchin wrote.

Known as a technological wizard and master of disguise, Malchin served as the chief of the Mossad's operations unit in the 1960s. He retired from active duty in 1976. He was also an acclaimed artist, an author of five books and was involved in private consulting on counter-terrorism methods.

Malchin joined the Jewish underground in British-ruled Palestine at the age of 12 and became an explosives expert as well as a talented safe cracker before being recruited by the Mossad where he served for 27 years.

Among his other achievements, according to a World Zionist Organization Web Site, was the capture of a Soviet spy who had penetrated the highest levels of the Israeli leadership and an operation against Nazi nuclear rocket scientists who assisted an Egyptian weapons development program after World War II.

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