“Better than James Bond” (The death of Peter Malkin)

March 03, 2005

“IN 28 YEARS, I NEVER KILLED ANYONE”

[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch follows the recent one on the passing away of "Patricia Roxborough" ("Patricia Roxborough," the Mossad's Christian superspy, buried in Israel, Feb. 20, 2005).

Peter "Zvika" Malchin, the legendary Mossad agent who physically captured Adolf Eichmann, has died in New York. He is being brought to Israel today for burial.

Malkin is regarded by many Israeli 'insiders' as the most successful agent in the history of the Mossad. He first joined the Palestine Jewish underground when he was just 12, and eventually became chief of operations of the Mossad.

He had little time for popular fiction's idea of a spy. "In 28 years, I never killed anyone," he said. "My most important weapon wasn't a gun – it was my brain." He was also known as a master of disguise.

Many of his covert tales can never be told, so he is best known for his capture of Eichmann.

Malchin was born Zvi Milchman in pre-state Palestine but spent part of his childhood in Zolkiewka, Poland. He returned to Palestine in 1936, but more than 150 of his relatives, including his sister and her family, were murdered in the Holocaust.

I attach articles from today's editions of the New York Post and Jerusalem Post, and an AP report from the Guardian's website.

(There will be no dispatches next week as I will be particularly busy with work and other matters.)

-- Tom Gross

 




FULL ARTICLES

(Eric Fettman is a long-time subscriber to this email list.)

BETTER THAN BOND

By Eric Fettman
New York Post
March 3, 2005

www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/22215.htm

Zvi Malchin was not only the single greatest secret agent the state of Israel was lucky enough to produce, he was one of the most extraordinary people one could ever hope to meet.

The world knew him as Peter Z. Malkin, the man who on a cold night in 1960 kidnapped a factory worker named Riccardo Klement outside his ramshackle Buenos Aires home and brought him to Israel — — where he stood public trial as Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official who saw to it that 6 million Jews were murdered efficiently.

Yet that was just one of hundreds of exploits undertaken by Malchin — who died here Tuesday night at age 75 — during more than a quarter-century with Israeli intelligence, first as an agent and, ultimately, as chief of operations.

Even today, nearly 30 years after his retirement, many of Malchin's most spectacular achievements remain hidden behind the veil of official Israeli censorship. But enough of what he did is publicly known to leave you in awe that one man could have accomplished so much.

Malchin unmasked Israel Be'er, one of the top aides to then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, as a Soviet spy. He bugged a meeting of Arab League heads of states. He uncovered former Nazi scientists who had gone to work for Egypt in the 1950s. He battled Palestinian terrorism in Beirut.

Even in retirement, he outdid active agents.

During the '70s, he went to Brazil in search of Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor of Auschwitz. While there, he uncovered a Soviet agent who was bribing Brazilian army officers and buying U.S. Army materiel.

"He asked me to notify the CIA," recalled Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, who frequently used Malchin as a freelance investigator. "I said he didn't have enough evidence. So he went back and did a black-bag job on the guy — came up with his passport and his visa.

"I called Stanley Sporkin, then general counsel of the CIA. Within hours, the agency had sent people to New York to take the evidence. 'We know all about this guy,' Sporkin told me. 'We just had no idea where the hell he was.'"

How did Malchin know? "After all these years," he told Morgenthau, "I can smell them."

His career alone was exceptional enough. But Zvika, as he was known to his friends, was not some Hollywood stereotype of a secret agent.

Malchin was an artist, whose stunning paintings — including a series of sketches done while he was interrogating Eichmann in Argentina — in recent years have been exhibited in leading museums around the world. (He divided his time between Israel, Florida and New York — he kept a studio here on the Lower East Side and lived in the East 30s.)

"Was being a painter my cover story for the Mossad, or was being in the Mossad my cover story for being a painter? Sometimes, I'm not sure, he joked." (His art can be seen as peterzmalkin.com.)

Malchin was a poet — an irrepressibly funny and always eloquent observer of the human condition. He enthralled audiences around the world as a lecturer; they all wanted to hear how he'd captured Eichmann, but he had much more to say to them.

It's wrong, he would say, to call Eichmann a monster. After all, "a monster can be excused for his behavior. A human being, though — how does a human being become a beast who can kill children, women, the elderly? The problem is not how a monster could do it, but how a human being did it."

"He was a brilliant analyst," said Morgenthau. "For him, information was always much more important than action." No doubt, that's what attracted early Israeli leaders to Malchin — by age 13, he'd been recruited into the pre-statehood Haganah underground.

And though he saw more than his share of genuine dramatic action, Zvika had little regard for popular fiction's idea of a spy. "In 28 years, I never killed anyone," he said.

"My most important weapon wasn't a gun — it was my brain."

That, and his engaging, larger than life, personality — which allowed him to talk his way out of some 40 arrests or detentions during his career.

Though he loved being acclaimed for his achievements, he didn't go seeking glory. He was a curious mixture of humility and pride who never demanded recognition, but was always happy to receive it.

You couldn't help being hopelessly charmed by such a man; everyone who met him wanted to spend more time with him. His friends, and I was lucky to count myself as one for more than 25 years, were fiercely loyal.

Last night, many of those friends gathered at the Park East Synagogue to say goodbye to a man who was literally a legend in his lifetime.

Today, he is headed on his final journey back to Israel, the country and people he served so well.

 

MAN WHO GOT EICHMANN DIES

New York Post
March 3, 2005

www.nypost.com/news/worldnews/22253.htm

Peter Malkin, the Mossad agent who nabbed top Nazi official Adolf Eichmann on a
Buenos Aires street in 1960, has died, Israeli media reported yesterday. He died in New York at 77.

The Mossad security agency tracked Eichmann to Argentina, and Malkin stopped him in the street. According to his memoirs, "Eichmann in My Hands," Malkin said to him simply, "Un momentito, seρor" (just a moment, sir), before kidnapping him.

Those were the only words Maklin knew in Spanish, according to a Web site of the World Zionist Organization. He grabbed Eichmann's arm and wrestled him to the ground as another agent grabbed his legs, and they stuffed him into a car.

Eichmann was interrogated for 10 days in a safe house before being spirited to Israel on a plane that carried an unwitting diplomat, Abba Eban, later Israel's foreign minister, for a meeting with Argentine officials as a cover.

Eichmann headed the "final solution," the plan to exterminate Jews. AP

 

ISRAELI AGENT WHO CAUGHT EICHMANN DIES AT 77

Israeli agent who caught Eichmann dies at 77
By Sam Jones
The Guardian
March 3, 2005

www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1429305,00.html

Peter Malkin, the Israeli agent who snatched Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust, from the streets of Buenos Aires and took him to face trial in Israel, has died in New York at the age of 77.

Three years after the end of the second world war, Israel pledged to hunt down the Nazis responsible for the deaths of almost 6 million Jews. Heading the newly formed state's most-wanted list was Eichmann, Hitler's foremost expert on Jewish matters and the man who oversaw the Final Solution.

Malkin was one of the men sent by Mossad, the Israeli secret service, to hunt Eichmann down. He eventually found him wandering down a street in the Argentinian capital in 1960. According to his autobiography, Eichmann in My Hands, Malkin stepped up and said: " Un momentito, seρor " (Just a moment, sir) - the only words he knew in Spanish. He then grabbed Eichmann's arm and wrestled him to the ground with the help of another agent.

Eichmann was interrogated for 10 days in a safe house before being spirited away to Israel on a diplomatic flight. In 1961, he was put on trial in Jerusalem for crimes against humanity and 14 other charges. He was executed in 1962.

Malkin was born Zvi Malchin in the British Mandate of Palestine, but the family moved to Poland when he was a boy. He returned to Palestine in 1936, unlike his sister. She was later killed in the Holocaust with some 150 relatives.

At the age of 12, Malkin joined the Palestine Jewish underground and later became a member of Mossad. He served for 27 years, becoming a master of martial arts.

The cause of his death is not yet known.

 

MOSSAD AGENT WHO CAPTURES EICHMANN DIES

Mossad agent who captured Eichmann dies
By Arieh O'Sullivan
The Jerusalem Post
March 2, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1109733531507

Peter "Zvika" Malchin, the legendary Mossad agent who physically captured Adolf Eichmann, died in New York and is being brought to Israel for burial, his family and friends said Wednesday.

Malchin was 77 and died of complications from an infection. He is to be buried in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv at 11 a.m. on Friday. Former comrades are expected to eulogize him, including former Mossad head Meir Amit.

Raised in Poland, Malchin represented a different breed of secret agent from a time when spies would sneak into factories and secretly photograph blueprints of missiles, or catch enemy spies. He eventually became chief of operations of the Mossad during the 1960s. His career spanned 27 years.

"He was an ambassador of extraordinary and clandestine Israeli might," journalist and long-time friend Uri Dan told The Jerusalem Post.

Many of his covert tales can never be told, so he is best known for his 1960 role in the Mossad's most famous coup by personally nabbing Eichmann, an SS officer who symbolized the cold, bureaucratic horror of Hitler's Final Solution.

"Malchin convinced his commanders to let him trail Eichmann alone in order not to scare him off," Dan said. "He told me later: 'I was determined to catch him because the eyes of six million are following me.'"

"Uno momento senor (just a moment, sir)," he said to Eichmann as he walked down Garibaldi Street and then wrestled him into a ditch before grappling him into a car. Those were the only words he knew in Spanish, according to a Web site of the World Zionist Organization.

Eichmann was interrogated for 10 days in a safe house before being spirited to Israel on a plane that carried an unwitting diplomat, Abba Eban, for a meeting with Argentine officials as a cover.

Eichmann was put on trial in Jerusalem. He was executed in 1962.

In his book Eichmann in My Hands, Malchin described the interaction with the Hebrew-speaking Nazi as he watched over the prisoner in the safe house in Buenos Aires.

According to Dan, Malchin considered killing Eichmann after the Nazi began reciting the Shema.

"I wanted to murder him when he said the same prayer that millions of Jews recited before they were burned up in the crematoriums," Dan quoted him as saying.

Malchin was born Zvi Milchman in pre-state Palestine but spent his childhood in Zolkiewka, Poland. He returned to Palestine in 1936, but more than 150 of his relatives, including his sister and her family, were murdered in the Holocaust.

At 12 he was recruited into the Hagana and became an explosives expert before joining the secret services. According to the book Israel's Secret Wars, Malchin was "a technical wizard and master of disguise." He also received two Israel Defense Prizes for deeds in the war against Palestinian terror.

Dan described Malchin as looking like actor Spencer Tracy with blonde hair and blue eyes.

"As a sportsman you couldn't beat him," he said.

Malchin often went by his pen name of Peter Mann. He was an internationally acclaimed artist who used this trade as his cover. A recent article about him in The New York Times referred to him as "the artist who captured Eichmann."

In recent years he made his home in both Israel and New York, where he enjoyed the art scene.

"Zvika was one of the greatest Jewish heroes of the past 100 years. There was never another like him," Dan said. "He was a mensch."

(AP contributed to this report.)

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.