[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 5 March 2005, 11:48 GMT
Obituary: Spy who captured Eichmann
File photograph of Peter Malkin
Malkin was an explosives expert, a safe-cracker and a painter
The Israeli spy who captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann approached him in a Buenos Aires street with the words "one moment, sir", before bundling him into a car to be smuggled to Israel.

The operation, which had involved months of preparation, was over in 20 seconds - twice as long as Peter Malkin had planned.

As an SS officer, Eichmann oversaw the logistics of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews died.

He was put on trial in Jerusalem and hanged in 1962 - he remains the only person to have received the death sentence in Israel.

The daring operation eventually made Malkin, who died on Tuesday in New York aged 77, one of the Mossad intelligence agency's most high-profile agents.

He was buried in Tel Aviv on Friday.

'Secret warrior'

Known as a technological wizard, artful safe-cracker and master of disguise, Malkin rose through the ranks of Mossad in a 27-year career, serving as the chief of the operations unit until retired from active duty in 1976.

He was also an internationally exhibited artist, a martial arts expert and counter-terrorism adviser.

"He was an extraordinary secret warrior," Israeli journalist Uri Dan, a close friend, told Reuters news agency.

Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem in 1961
Eichmann's capture led to his trial in Jerusalem in 1961

Malkin, born Tzvi Milchman in 1927, left Poland for Palestine with his family in 1933. His older sister, Fruma, stayed behind. She was killed in the Holocaust, along with many other relatives.

Accounts of his childhood depict his taste for excitement and talent for petty thievery.

Malkin joined the Jewish underground in British-ruled Palestine at the age of 12 and became an explosives expert as well as a talented safe-cracker.

In 1950, he was recruited to Shin Beth, the internal security service. On the application form, under "reasons for applying", he reportedly wrote: "I like adventure."

It was after moving over to work for Mossad that he was tasked to lead the operation to capture Eichmann.


The Nazi officer had escaped to Argentina under a false identity, and was living with his wife and children while working in a Mercedes-Benz factory.

According to Malkin's account in his book, Eichmann in My Hands, published in 1990, previous operatives sent to Argentina to observe Eichmann committed "gaffes almost beyond invention", including spectacularly crashing a car in a quiet neighbourhood.

Malkin undertook three months of surveillance, under the cover of a working artist, then decided to confront Eichmann alone near his home to avoid attracting attention.

There were six million pairs of eyes on me... I had to succeed
Peter Malkin

Wearing gloves to avoid touching him, Malkin tapped him on the back with the three words of Spanish he knew: "Un momentito, senor."

Eichmann paused, upon which Malkin went for his throat, the two men falling to the ground. Another agent sprang out of the getaway car, grabbed Eichmann by the legs and helped bundle him into it.

He later told his friend, Mr Dan: "There were six million pairs of eyes on me... I had to succeed."

The Mossad team held Eichmann in a safe house for 10 days before smuggling him out of the country, drugged and disguised as a airline steward.

'I got information'

Only a designated interrogator was allowed to speak with the prisoner, but Malkin had a series of conversations with Eichmann which he later recounted in Eichmann in My Hands.

At one point, Malkin told Eichmann he was responsible for the death of his sister Fruma's son.

"He was just your son's age. Also blond and blue-eyed, just like your son, and you killed him," Malkin told Eichmann.

"Genuinely perplexed by the observation, he actually waited a moment to see if I would clarify it," Malkin recounted. "'Yes', he said finally, 'but he was Jewish, wasn't he?'"

Among his other achievements were the capture of a high-profile Soviet spy and an operation against Nazi nuclear rocket scientists working for Egypt.

His taste for adventure endured. Once, it was reported, he snooped on an Arab conference by hiding under the table.

"I never killed anybody in my life," he told the New York Times. "I helped get information."

He moved to the US after his retirement.

During the Eichmann operation, he filled a 1960 South American guidebook with paintings and drawings, including a portrait of Eichmann.

The guidebook was reproduced in The Artwork and Memories of Peter Z Malkin.

After his retirement, he devoted himself to painting, keeping his hand in with private consulting on counter-terrorism methods.

He is survived by wife Roni and three children.

Israel releases Eichmann diary
29 Feb 00 |  Middle East

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific