In May 1960, an unassuming factory worker in Argentina on his way home from work was approached in the street and bundled into a car.

His family over the following week called hospitals, confused by his sudden disappearance.

But by then it was too late to save him as his crimes had finally caught up with Adolf Hitler’s most deadly lieutenant.

This was the setting for war criminal Adolf Eichmann’s comeuppance.

And it’s the subject of a new film Operation Finale, the dramatic telling of the capture of a Second World War Nazi and so called ‘Architect of the Holocaust’ Adolf Eichmann.

Eichmann escaped Europe in the aftermath of the war.

The movie, directed by Chris Weitz and starring Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley, details Eichmanns arrest in suburban Buenos Aries by Israeli intelligence in 1960 and the subsequent struggle to smuggle him out the country due to diplomatic tensions.

The story is so important due to the highly publicised trial in Jerusalem which for first time brought the horrifying truths about the holocaust and of Nazi atrocities to the world stage.

Who was Adolf Eichmann?

Eichmann joined the Nazi SS in 1932, and rising through the ranks he soon assigned to the Jewish section of the SS headquarters in Berlin due to his clerical ability.

This began a career long focus on Jews with his aiding one of the first deportations of the war in Vienna in 1939.

Soon after he joined Rienhard Heydrich in Prague, organising the logistics of the mass deportations of Jews in the capital.

His organisational role was restricted to ghettos until 1942 when plans towards the Final Solution began.

Eichmann was one of the elite Nazi’s who met near Berlin for the Wannsee Conference.

The conference, chaired by Heydrich, formalised plans for the mass deportation and genocide of Jews in Nazi occupied Europe.

Eichmann continued to be one of the key organisers and facilitators of the Final Solution following Heydrich’s assassination in 1942 and oversaw large scale deportations to extermination camps across eastern Europe.

Eichmann’s role did not lie in policy making and he received his orders from Heinrich Himmler in Berlin.

However, his gruesomely efficient organisation and coordination of the transportation of Jews directly resulted in a death toll of over five million who perished in gas chambers or in labour camps.

Eichmann was one of the central figures involved in the founding and proceedings of death camp Auschwitz, in which he oversaw the preparations for gas chambers and extermination methods.

One Nazi who knew Adolf Eichmann once commented that “he would leap laughing into the grave, because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”

How did he escape?

Eichmann spent his final months of the war in Hungary, supervising the the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz concentration camp.

Despite Heinrich Himmler’s orders to cease the Final Solution when axis defeat became inevitable, Eichmann enthusiastically continued proceedings, resulting in a further 50,000 Hungarian deaths.

In December 1944, as Soviet encirclement of Budapest tightened, Eichmann fled to Berlin, where alongside many other SS officers, he burnt incriminating documents before taking his family to Austria where he remained until he was captured by the Americans.

He was captive in various different camps for SS officers across Germany and during this time used forged papers under the alias of Otto Eichmann.

This alias changed again following his escape from an American work camp after which he discovered that his identity and evidence of his war crimes had been unearthed during the Nuremberg trials against Nazi officials that had started in 1946.

A sympathetic Austrian bishop provided the false identity and papers for his alias which he lived under until the time of his capture; Ricardo Klement.

The false documentation allowed him to emigrate to Argentina which due to its lax immigration laws had begun to be refuge for many war criminals, including the infamous Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele.

How was he captured?

Eichmann and his family had carved out benign suburban life in Buenos Aries.

He worked in a series of low paying jobs and by the time of his arrest he was a department head at a Mercedes-Benz factory. He was comfortable and secure in his new life, Eichmann even hired a journalist to aid him with his memoirs.

Unbeknownst to him though, snippets of intelligence about his existence in Argentina had reached Israeli intelligence.

One notable moment in the investigation was in 1957 where a German prosecutor informed the Israelis that Eichmann was living in Argentina.

His information came from a friend’s daughter in Argentina that had become became suspicious whilst dating a man named Klaus Eichmann – he’d spoken of his father’s Nazi status during the war.

Operatives were put in place in Argentina from 1957, but Eichmann’s identity was not confirmed until 1960.

About a dozen men were involved in the operation, most are now dead.

The specially selected men ranged from a doctor, to a forger and a safe house expert – they were known as the ‘Snatch squad’.

The Mossad team observed Eichmanns routine for several days before his capture, photographing him and comparing to his SS profile.

His ears ultimately proved to be the deciding evidence that Ricardo Klement was in fact Adolf Eichmann.

On May 11th Peter Malkin, Oscar Isaac’s character in the movie, engaged him in the street as he got off the bus from work to walk home.

The two struggled for a moment, crashing into a ditch by the side of the road.

Two other members of the team helped bundle him him into a car whilst Eichmann tried violently to fight them off.

Eichmann was bound and covered with a blanket and they sped off to the nearby prepared safe house.

Rafi Eitan, a member of the team still alive, detailed in testimony that Eichmann’s head was on his lap in the car during which time he examined Eichmanns body and found previously known scars, a final confirmation of the Nazi’s identity.

Many from the Israeli intelligence team were survivors of the holocaust and Malkin particularly had lost his sister and her children.

One-on-one scenes in the movie between Malkin and Eichmann depict Malkin’s psychological torment at odds with Eichmann’s stoic demeanour, who at first denied his true identity.

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How did he die?

Argentina’s history of non compliance with Nazi extradition meant they were kept in the dark throughout the entire investigation and capture.

The country had become a safe haven for Nazi sympathisers and war criminals, and thus Israel predicted getting Eichmann out of the country through diplomatic means would be difficult, if not impossible.

Consequently, he was smuggled out the country on a flight to Israel, drugged and sedated whilst dressed as a sick Israeli flight attendant, along with two of the Mossad team.

His capture was announced to the world upon his arrival in the country and sparked diplomatic conflict with Argentina who asserted the capture to be a violation of their sovereign rights.

In an attempt to appease Argentine anger, Israel dubiously claimed some while later that the operation was carried out by Israeli citizens rather than government agents.

The trial in Jerusalem went ahead, and became the first to be televised. Eichmann’s 15 charges included crimes against humanity and against the Jewish people.

He was found guilty on all accounts and was hanged near Tel Aviv on May 31st, 1962.

The trial proved hugely significant in dialogue surrounding the holocaust, in its exposing of heinous crimes and in raising public awareness and understanding of the holocaust.

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