Former Mossad agent Zvi Aharoni, who was on the team that tracked down and captured senior Nazi Adolph Eichmann in 1960, died in England at the weekend, aged 91.
Aharoni was among the agents who identified that Eichmann was still alive and living under a false identity in Argentina. Aharoni himself flew to Buenos Aires and found the Eichmann family home on the outskirts of town. On March 19, 1960, he saw Eichmann and photographed him with a hidden camera. Once the identification was positive, plans for the abduction went into high gear.
Aharoni and four other Mossad agents carried out the operation to capture Eichmann on May 11, 1960. Eichmann, who under interrogation revealed his true identity, was drugged and smuggled out of Argentina on May 20 dressed as an El Al airline steward. In Israel, Eichmann was placed on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Eichmann was hanged on May 31, 1962, the only person in Israeli history on whom a death sentence was carried out.
According to Aharoni's son, Dr. Amram Aharoni, his father was also involved in the identification of Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death in the Auschwitz concentration camp, in the Brazilian jungles and in the failed attempts to capture him. Aharoni said his father “always expressed remorse about Operation Yossele Schuchmacher [a global operation to find a child who was hidden by the international ultra-Orthodox community to prevent his return to secular Russia with his parents], and then Mengele's disappearance and his failure to pick up the trail again.”
Aharoni was born Hermann Arendt in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1921, and immigrated to Palestine as a child. After serving in the British Army, he joined the Israeli secret service and spent 20 years as a Nazi hunter. He served as both the head of Investigations for the Israel Security Agency and head of the Caesarea unit of the Mossad, today known as Kidon, which carries out targeted assassinations and killings.
Aharoni is survived by two children and five grandchildren.