On may 23, 1960, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rose in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, to make a stunning announcement. “Adolf Eichmann,” he revealed, “one of the greatest Nazi war criminals, is in Israeli custody.” Nearly two weeks earlier, Israeli officers had nabbed Eichmann on a quiet street in a suburb of Buenos Aires as he walked home from work. Eichmann, who once lamented to SS colleagues that only 6 million Jews were murdered under his supervision, had been living under the alias Richard Klement for a decade after the war. Once he realized the Israelis would not shoot him on the spot, Eichmann admitted his real identity.
Eichmann's abduction came as a complete surprise to the U.S. government. The Israelis had given no warning to the CIA (the principal point of contact between the Israeli intelligence community and Washington since 1951) that they had tracked down the most famous living Nazi war criminal and would summarily bring him to justice. In the final days of World War II, Allied counterintelligence officers had assumed that Eichmann would take his own life rather than risk capture. But by late 1945, based on the testimony of two former SS men, the Allies concluded that he had somehow escaped their dragnet and was on the run. The Israelis decided that his fifteen-year odyssey had to end.
Documents released in response to the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 reveal that had the Israelis not made the effort to capture Eichmann, he might well have ended his years in peace in Argentina.