By Cavendish, Richard
History Today , Vol. 60, No. 5
It was Eichmann who inspired Hannah Arendt's phrase 'the banality of evil'. A career civil servant in Nazi Germany, he was put in charge of administering the 'Final Solution' and organised the seizure of Jews from all over Europe and their transportation to the concentration camps to be killed. Other observers also thought he brought to the job the same bureaucratic, unemotional, form-filling attention to detail that he would have given to road maintenance, say, or food rationing. That view of him has inevitably been challenged and his biographer David Cesarani remarked that 'Each generation has seen what it wanted to see in Eichmann.'
Captured at the war's end by American troops who did not know who he was--he was calling himself Otto Eckmann--Eichmann escaped in 1946 to skulk about under aliases, until in 1950 he managed to get himself and his family to what he thought would be sanctuary in Argentina. By 1960, however, the Israeli secret service agency Mossad had tracked him to Buenos Aires, where he was working as a foreman at the Mercedes-Benz factory and calling himself Ricardo Klement.
On a Wednesday evening in May, a small team of Mossad agents waited anxiously around an apparently broken-down Buick limousine near Eichmann's house at 14 Garibaldi Street for him to arrive back from work on his usual bus. …