Zvi Aharoni, Israeli spy who first spotted Eichmann, dies at 91


Zvi Aharoni, a member of the Israeli spy team that captured Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 and then brought him to Jerusalem for trial, died at 91 on May 19 in England, where he had lived for 24 years.


"I saw him about two o’clock in the afternoon," Aharoni wrote in his memoir of the event, Operation Eichmann: Pursuit and Capture. "I saw a man of medium size and build, about fifty years old, with a high forehead and partially bald, collecting the washing." Aharoni felt certain it was Eichmann.

Aharoni and other members of the Eichmann team feuded in the years afterward in dueling memoirs and interviews over which of them was the most responsible for the Nazi’s capture, and which of them received too much (or not enough) credit. While some accounts do say Aharoni was under-credited for his work, virtually all agreed that he was the first to spot Eichmann.

In a 2010 interview on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Eichmann’s capture, team member Rafael Eitan, the operation’s commander and later a prominent Israeli politician said: “The greatest contribution was by Zvi Aharoni. He found Eichmann and infused us all with the passion of the historic importance of bringing him to trial. Without people like Aharoni, it would not have succeeded. He was the one who was smart enough to find the place where Eichmann was hiding.”

Aharoni’s son, Dr. Amram Aharoni, said his father was also involved in the identification of Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele in the Brazilian jungles and in the failed attempts to capture him. Aharoni said his father “always expressed remorse” about that.

Aharoni was born Hermann Arendt in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1921, and immigrated to Palestine as a child. He served in the British Army and then joined the Mossad, Israel’s secret service.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Follow the Eulogizer on Twitter @TheEulogizer

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