"Un Momentito, Senor": The 20 Seconds That Made History. (History)
Schvindlerman, Julian, Midstream
This article is based on my interview with Peter Z. Malkin on February 12, 2002 in Washington, D.C. and on Malkin's book (co-authored with Harry Stein), Eichmann In My Hands (New York: Warner Books, 1990)--JULIAN SCHVINDLERMAN.
Zvi Milchman spent the first four years of his life in Zolkiewka, a small village in Poland. None of his neighbors, relatives, and friends could have imagined at the time that, decades later, this boy would become a daring Israeli secret agent whose path along the world of espionage would grant him an historic role and a legendary reputation as the man who physically caught Adolf Hitler's main executioner and one of the most wanted Nazi fugitives in the post-Holocaust era: Adolf Eichmann.
The Polish young man (who years later would adopt the name of Peter Malkin) emigrated to Palestine with his family in 1933. At the age of 12, he joined the Palestine Jewish underground as an expert in explosives. Once the State of Israel was established, Malkin was recruited by Mossad (Israel's intelligence service) where, using his skills as a master of martial arts and disguises, he rose through the ranks from field operative to chief of operations. In his 27-year-tenure in the secret service, Malkin participated in various anti-terror operations. Among his most outstanding feats, the capture of Israel Be'er--the Soviet spy who had penetrated the highest levels of the Israeli government--as well as his lead role in the operation against German Nazi rocket scientists assisting Egypt's weapons development program after World War II, deserve special mention.
But it was undoubtedly his deed on the evening of May 11, 1960, in a remote town in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, that placed Malkin in the pantheon of heroes of the Jewish people. That day, Israeli agents hunted down the German officer under whose directives six million Jews perished during the Holocaust--and Peter Malkin was there, capturing Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962) with his own hands.
SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann's record is notorious. He was head of the Department for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo from 1941 to 1945 and was chief of operations in the deportation of three million Jews to extermination camps. He joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1932 and later became a member of the SS. In 1933--the year Zvi arrived in Palestine--Eichmann, then an obscure 27-year-old SS sergeant, was about to begin his impressive career in the Nazi hierarchy. In 1934, he served as an SS corporal at the Dachau concentration camp. By 1935, Eichmann was already investigating possible "solutions to the Jewish question." Two years later, in 1937, he was sent to Palestine to establish contacts with the rabidly antisemitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the most prominent leader of Palestinian nationalism at the time; but British authorities forced him to leave. In 1938, Eichmann was sent to Vienna where he established a "Center for Jewish Emigration" that was so successful that similar offices were soon established in Prague and Berlin. A year later, he returned to Berlin to become Director of Jewish Affairs and Evacuation in the Reich Security Main Office. In 1942, Eichmann organized the infamous Wansee Conference where the program of Jewish extermination was adopted. He subsequently supervised the deportation of European Jews to the death camps, as well as the plunder of the property they had left behind.
Eichmann was arrested at the war's end and confined to an American internment camp, but he managed to escape to Argentina. He lived there for ten years under the name of Ricardo Klement until Israeli secret agents abducted him in 1960 and spirited him out to Israel. On April 2, 1961, the trial of Eichmann opened in Jerusalem. Eight months later, Eichmann was found guilty of crimes against humanity and the Jewish people and sentenced to death. Executed on May 31, 1962, his remains were cremated and the ashes scattered over the Mediterranean Sea, outside Israeli waters. …