Eichmann was dressed up in an El Al uniform (more on Peter Malkin)

March 14, 2005

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to the dispatch "Better than James Bond" (The death of Peter Malkin), sent on the morning of March 3, 2005. Since then, many other newspapers have carried reports and obituaries on Malkin, some written by subscribers to this email list.

These articles include information on how Malkin helped capture a number of Soviet agents, and how he personally crawled under the table in Nasser's conference room in Cairo, to place a listening device as Nasser and others were entering the room.

In particular, you may want to read the piece by journalist Uri Dan who co-authored several books with Malkin (also sometimes written as Malchin). Malkin wrote under the name Peter Mann, since the Mossad forbade the use of his real identity and picture for many years after he retired.

There are summaries first for those who don't have time to read these articles in full.

 

CONTENTS

1. "Agent of the century" (By Uri Dan, Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2005)
2. "Peter Malkin: Israeli agent who snatched Adolf Eichmann off the streets of Buenos Aires and delivered him to justice" (Times (London), March 4, 2005)
3. "Nazi hunter captured Eichmann for Israel" (Australian, March 8, 2005)
4. "Israeli agent who caught the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann" (Guardian, March 8, 2005)
5. "Zvika Malchin was the greatest undercover agent of his generation – maybe ever" (By Michael Ledeen, National Review Online, March 4, 2005)
6. "Peter Zvi Malkin Is Dead; Captured Adolf Eichmann" (By Margalit Fox, New York Times, March 3, 2005)
7. " Peter Z. Malkin: Mossad agent who captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires" (Independent, March 4, 2005)

 



SUMMARIES

"PROBABLY THE LAST CENTURY'S GREATEST INTELLIGENCE AGENT"

"Agent of the century" (By Uri Dan, The Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2005)

... Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, described Malchin as "an absolutely extraordinary man, probably the last century's greatest intelligence agent."

Just as Ariel Sharon was regarded as a great battlefield commander, Malchin was regarded as a genius in the secret war which he waged in the service of the Mossad.

In the nature of things Sharon became famous after the wars, but the hundreds of operations successfully directed by Malchin have remained secret, and his name became known only because of the major part he played in Eichmann's capture. I introduced these two good friends of mine to one another in 1974, after the Yom Kippur War. Sharon became famous because of his crossing of the Suez Canal, while Malchin's name as Mossad chief of operations remained a closely guarded secret.

The first thing needed, they agreed, was imagination and boldness in order to surprise the enemy. Malchin told Sharon: "I strictly observe two rules: (1) to do everything perfectly, and leave no traces, so that I can return to the enemy's position and repeat the operation if necessary; (2) to prepare the operation meticulously, and to reach the objective, but to be prepared to cancel it at the last moment, if only the slightest risk emerges."

Malchin told me several times: "The Arab enemy bored me. To work against the KGB would be far more interesting – a real battle of wits." Malchin delivered a blow at KGB agents in Israel when in a short time he brought about the arrest of 17 of them. The then head of the GSS, Amos Manor, told me: "Another generation will pass until another Zvika Malchin is born." ...

 

'YES,' HE SAID FINALLY, 'BUT HE WAS JEWISH, WASN'T HE?'"

"Peter Malkin: Israeli agent who snatched Adolf Eichmann off the streets of Buenos Aires and delivered him to justice" (The Times (London) March 4, 2005)

[This obit also appeared in The Australian on March 8, 2005, under the title "Nazi hunter captured Eichmann for Israel."]

Safebreaker, explosives expert, Haganah resistance fighter and finally Israeli secret agent, Peter Malkin has his proud niche in the history of covert operations for his remarkable capture of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann on the streets of a Buenos Aires suburb in 1960.

Eichmann, who as an SS Obersturmbannführer in charge of Jewish affairs, was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews during the Holocaust, had been arrested at the end of the Second World War. But in 1946 he had escaped from an internment camp in the American zone of occupation, and had disappeared. Along with that of Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, his name became almost talismanic among those of desperately sought senior Nazis who had avoided being brought to justice by the Allies.

... Well aware that an Argentine Government harbouring many Nazi fugitives from justice was unlikely to permit his being returned to Israel by due process of law, the Israeli Government determined to bring him in itself.

Mossad's feat... was far from being a foregone conclusion. According to Malkin, the first Mossad operatives who were sent to Argentina went about their task with an elephantine lack of subtlety. Among the "gaffes almost beyond invention" committed by Malkin's predecessors, one agent spectacularly crashed a Jeep in a quiet neighbourhood.

... In the three months of painstaking surveillance that preceded the snatch, Malkin and his team had several scares as the tension was racked up. On one occasion Malkin silently cursed himself for breaking into a sweat as a suspicious policeman scrutinised his forged passport at a roadblock.

... Malkin described how he confronted the Nazi about the death of his nephew: "My sister's boy, my favourite playmate, he was just your son's age. Also blond and blue-eyed — just like your son. And you killed him." Malkin recorded: "Genuinely perplexed by the observation, he actually waited a moment to see if I would clarify it. 'Yes,' he said finally, 'but he was Jewish, wasn't he?'" ...

 

MALKIN HAD TOLD JUST ONE PERSON, HIS MOTHER.

"Peter Malkin: Israeli agent who caught the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann" (By Christopher Reed, The Guardian, March 8, 2005)

In May 1960, the Israeli secret service (Mossad) agent Peter Malkin, who has died aged 77, captured the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in a Buenos Aires street. Yet his role only became public with the publication of his Eichmann In My Hands (1990).

Malkin had told just one person, his mother. She had fled anti-semitism in Poland with her family in 1936 and went to Palestine, but because of a visa shortage, her daughter Fruma stayed behind. She and other relatives perished in the Holocaust and as his mother was on her deathbed, Malkin told her of his capture of Eichmann. "Fruma is avenged," he said.

... Malkin spent 10 days talking to Eichmann. He recalled: "The problem here is with a human being, not with a monster, not with an animal. The human being does things that even the monster does not do, because the human is more sophisticated. The problem is not how the monster did it, but how the human being did it."

... In 1996, a television film, The Man Who Captured Eichmann, was produced with Robert Duvall playing the man who coined the term "the final solution" for the destruction of the Jews...

 

"PERHAPS THE GREATEST AGENT EVER"

"Zvika Malchin was the greatest undercover agent of his generation – maybe ever." (By Michael Ledeen, National Review Online, March 4, 2005)

... Zvika never did anything the way normal people do. He was an utterly extraordinary person who did extraordinary things that hardly anybody noticed because Zvika was the grand master at making sure nobody noticed him. Most of the time, nobody even saw him.

That is how he became the greatest undercover agent of his generation, and perhaps the greatest ever. I don't know anyone whose skills were at once so diverse and so sharply honed, but he was never satisfied with those skills, nor with his own mastery of so much of modern life. He never stopped analyzing problems most of us thought we understood, and a conversation with Zvika was like jumping into an intellectual and emotional tornado. Nobody could maintain that intensity, and he found solace in painting, at which he excelled.

His most celebrated accomplishment was the capture of Adolph Eichmann in Buenos Aires... But Zvika's real ability, his great genius I would say, was not simply carrying out dangerous operations. Many have done that. Zvika was utterly unique in penetrating to the heart of intelligence problems, from the security of buildings to the seemingly incomprehensible mysteries of counter-intelligence. It is said that he organized the capture of nearly thirty Soviet agents in Israel, and I once asked him how he tracked them down. "I didn't track them at all," he chuckled. "I just asked myself, if I were a Russian spy, where would I be right now? And once I had that answer, I went there and waited for him. It wasn't hard to spot the guy."

... My favorite Zvika story had to do with Egypt. The Mossad was determined to place listening devices in Nasser's conference room, so that Israel could be privy to discussions at the highest level of the Egyptian regime. Zvika got into the room during the long lunchtime break and crawled under the table — which was covered with a very large cloth that hung down to the floor — to place the bug. As he was finishing, he heard people entering the room, and he remained under the table during the meeting. "The big problem was to watch those feet and figure out which one was getting ready to move." God only knows how he managed it. Afterwards, back in Israel, he delivered a typically wry after-action report: "The manual is incomplete. We only tell how to break in, but we have to add a chapter on breaking out. Sometimes quickly." ...

 

HE DREW ON THE ONLY SURFACE THAT CAME TO HAND, A SOUTH AMERICAN TRAVEL GUIDE

"Peter Zvi Malkin Is Dead; Captured Adolf Eichmann" (By Margalit Fox, New York Times, March 3, 2005)

... A master of disguises, Mr. Malkin often posed as an itinerant painter during intelligence-gathering missions. Repelled and fascinated by Eichmann during the time he spent guarding him in Argentina, he began surreptitiously sketching his portrait. Eichmann was later spirited out of the country by Mossad to stand trial in Israel; he was convicted of crimes against humanity and other charges and executed in 1962.

In an interview last night, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, called Mr. Malkin "an absolutely extraordinary man, probably the last century's greatest intelligence agent." Starting in the late 1970's, Mr. Malkin assisted Mr. Morgenthau on several cases, including the investigation of Frank Terpil, a C.I.A. operative convicted of selling weapons and explosives to Libya and Uganda. Mr. Terpil fled the United States and remains a fugitive.

... As an adolescent, Mr. Malkin joined the Palestine Jewish underground. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, he was recruited by Mossad; he eventually became the organization's chief of operations.

... He drew on the only surface that came to hand, a South American travel guide he had purchased for the trip. The results, portraits of Eichmann and other images of the Holocaust superimposed on yellowing pages of maps and text, are hauntingly beautiful. The images, along with Mr. Malkin's later work, may be seen on Mr. Malkin's Web site, www.peterzmalkin.com...

 

EICHMANN WAS DRESSED UP IN AN EL AL UNIFORM

"Peter Z. Malkin: Mossad agent who captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires" (By Phil Davison, The Independent, March 4, 2005)

Zvi Malchin, better known as Peter Z. Malkin, was the Israeli Mossad agent who tracked down and captured Nazi Adolf Eichmann, architect of Hitler's "Final Solution", in Argentina in 1960.

... Eichmann, considered responsible for the murder of six million Jews in Second World War extermination camps, had disappeared, then fled Germany in the post-war years. Like many of his fellow Nazi officers, he found refuge, even a welcome, in the military-oriented South America of the time. He lived quietly under the name Ricardo Klement, working in a Mercedes-Benz factory in Buenos Aires, but Malkin, who had lost his sister and many other members of his family in the Holocaust, finally tracked him down.

[Tom Gross adds: It is typical of the anti-Israel newspaper The Independent to say Eichmann was "considered responsible for the murder of six million Jews" rather than say that he was responsible.]

... It was on the cold, wet night of 11 May 1960 that Malkin, backed by other Mossad men in a waiting car, walked up to Ricardo Klement and used the only two words of Spanish he had learnt: "Momentito, señor. One moment, sir." Then came the neck-lock, Eichmann was bundled into the car and taken to a safe house outside the Argentinian capital.

There he was held for 10 days, and given kosher food by his captors, before being drugged and spirited on to an El Al airliner to Jerusalem. To explain his condition, Malkin had obtained an Israeli passport for him, dressed him up in an El Al uniform and told Argentinian airport staff that he was an El Al steward who had had too much to drink and was being shipped home...

 



FULL ARTICLES

AGENT OF THE CENTURY

Agent of the century
By Uri Dan
The Jerusalem Post
March 9, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1110338402830

Mossad agent Zvi Peter Malchin, who captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960, died in New York and was buried last week in Israel. His funeral was attended by heads of the Mossad.

In an interview published in The New York Times on March 3, Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, described Malchin as "an absolutely extraordinary man, probably the last century's greatest intelligence agent."

Just as Ariel Sharon was regarded as a great battlefield commander, Malchin was regarded as a genius in the secret war which he waged in the service of the Mossad.

In the nature of things Sharon became famous after the wars, but the hundreds of operations successfully directed by Malchin have remained secret, and his name became known only because of the major part he played in Eichmann's capture. I introduced these two good friends of mine to one another in 1974, after the Yom Kippur War. Sharon became famous because of his crossing of the Suez Canal, while Malchin's name as Mossad chief of operations remained a closely guarded secret.

The first thing needed, they agreed, was imagination and boldness in order to surprise the enemy. Malchin told Sharon: "I strictly observe two rules: (1) to do everything perfectly, and leave no traces, so that I can return to the enemy's position and repeat the operation if necessary; (2) to prepare the operation meticulously, and to reach the objective, but to be prepared to cancel it at the last moment, if only the slightest risk emerges."

Malchin told me several times: "The Arab enemy bored me. To work against the KGB would be far more interesting – a real battle of wits." Malchin delivered a blow at KGB agents in Israel when in a short time he brought about the arrest of 17 of them. The then head of the GSS, Amos Manor, told me: "Another generation will pass until another Zvika Malchin is born."

Morgenthau, when eulogizing Malchin in New York, recalled how Malchin uncovered an important Soviet agent in South America and informed the CIA. This was when Malchin was searching for the death doctor of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele, in Brazil in the 1980s, a long time after he left the Mossad. Malchin explained to Morgenthau how he had discovered the Soviet agent: "After all these years I can smell them."

He also smelled them in Moscow during the communist era. During the 1960s the Russians constructed a new building for the Israeli Embassy in Moscow. Zvika came to inspect it, and quickly discovered a secret tunnel built by the KGB from a nearby courtyard, that led to the embassy's coding room. The Kremlin threatened that if Israel were to publicize the affair Moscow would break off diplomatic relations with Israel. Later Zvika told me that the KGB was following him but had not succeeded in killing him with a staged road accident.

His successes were sometimes so imaginative that Mossad director Meir Amit found it necessary to tell his officers: "What Zvika is going to report to you now has actually happened."

It was a unique experience for me to write several books together with Zvi Malchin, who wrote under the name Peter Mann, since the Mossad forbade publicizing his name and picture even many years after he retired.

We published in Hebrew and French the book Eichmann Is In My Hands. We also published, at Zvi's suggestion, Uranium Ultimatum, in France in 1977. Malchin insisted on writing the book to warn against nuclear terrorism. He requested that we delay publication of two other books, based on his tremendous experience, to a later date.

In Sharon's letter of condolence to Malchin's widow, Roni, and his family, he wrote: "You have lost the head of your family and we have lost a faithful friend and a great fighter for Israel's security. There are not many secret fighters in the history of Israel's secret war who have chalked up so many operations over so many years, as was done with devotion, courage, and outstanding imagination by Zvika Malchin.

"The capture of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann, in which Zvika played a major role, was the most well-known of the operations in which he participated, but not the most important and complex one in the intelligence battle of wits, on which he set his special seal.

"Most of his achievements as an individual fighter and as a commander cannot be revealed for many years. Otherwise they could be used to teach Israelis how fight, not only in secret warfare but also in the overt warfare that we must wage in order to defend the Jews in Eretz Yisrael.

"Zvika proved in his 28 years' service in the GSS and the Mossad that there is no such thing as an impossible mission. He did so while remaining a sensitive person, a friend, a unique artist who devoted his imagination and talents over decades to the strengthening of Israel's security.

"In the name of the government I send you my condolences and wish to personally salute a great fighter who marched in darkness, before the army."

 

PETER MALKIN: DELIVERED EICHMANN TO JUSTICE

Peter Malkin: Israeli agent who snatched Adolf Eichmann off the streets of Buenos Aires and delivered him to justice
The Times (London)
March 4, 2005

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-1509642,00.html

[This piece also appeared in "The Australian" on March 8, 2005, under the title "Nazi hunter captured Eichmann for Israel."]

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,12469366%255E2703,00.html

Safebreaker, explosives expert, Haganah resistance fighter and finally Israeli secret agent, Peter Malkin has his proud niche in the history of covert operations for his remarkable capture of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann on the streets of a Buenos Aires suburb in 1960.

Eichmann, who as an SS Obersturmbannführer in charge of Jewish affairs, was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews during the Holocaust, had been arrested at the end of the Second World War. But in 1946 he had escaped from an internment camp in the American zone of occupation, and had disappeared. Along with that of Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, his name became almost talismanic among those of desperately sought senior Nazis who had avoided being brought to justice by the Allies.

Then, from 1948 onwards, the nascent State of Israel became committed to bringing as many of the authors and executants of Jewish persecution to justice as it could. In the late 1950s Mossad agents received a tip that Eichmann was living in Argentina under an assumed name. Well aware that an Argentine Government harbouring many Nazi fugitives from justice was unlikely to permit his being returned to Israel by due process of law, the Israeli Government determined to bring him in itself.

Mossad’s feat in tracking and then seizing its notorious SS target in Argentina, from where he was brought back to Israeli to expiate his crimes at the end of a rope, is perhaps its single most spectacular success. But, as Malkin was to recount in his book Eichmann in My Hands, published in 1990, that success seemed, at first, far from being a foregone conclusion.

According to Malkin, the first Mossad operatives who were sent to Argentina went about their task with an elephantine lack of subtlety. Among the “gaffes almost beyond invention” committed by Malkin’s predecessors, one agent spectacularly crashed a Jeep in a quiet neighbourhood.

Appalled by these amateurish blunders, Malkin, who already had a number of successful covert operations to his credit, insisted when tasked by Isser Harel, the head of Mossad, that he should be given sole charge of the snatch attempt, with a small elite team as backup. When Harel pointed out to him that Eichmann might well resist if seized on the street, and asked Malkin how he proposed to subdue him, Malkin put his boss in a deadly chokehold that carried instant conviction to the Mossad chief.

Even so, things were far from plain sailing for Malkin and his team once they arrived in Argentina. In a country swarming with former Nazis and Nazi sympathisers, where bribery of officialdom was taken for granted, a false move which would be reported through the Nazi grapevine was all too easy to make.

In the three months of painstaking surveillance that preceded the snatch, Malkin and his team had several scares as the tension was racked up. On one occasion Malkin silently cursed himself for breaking into a sweat as a suspicious policeman scrutinised his forged passport at a roadblock.

In the event, the regularity of Eichmann’s routine made the task the easier. Every day the former SS chief left his place of work, took a bus and finished the journey on foot from the bus stop nearest the modest home on Garibaldi Street that he shared with his wife and family. Malkin elected to confront him unarmed. The snatch was the work of a moment, though Malkin was later to say that the 20 seconds it actually took was twice as long as he had bargained for.

Approaching Eichmann, Malkin addressed him in the only three words of Spanish he knew: "Un momentito, señor". The puzzled Nazi stepped backwards, upon which Malkin went for his throat. Eichmann collapsed on the ground, taking Malkin down with him, but the getaway car was at hand. Another agent sprang out, grabbed Eichmann's feet and bundled him into it. Passers-by had apparently noticed nothing untoward. Eichmann was sped to the safe house where he was to spend the next ten days.

Having done his job, Malkin was not meant to be a part of the interrogation process. Indeed there was a strict prohibition on talking to the prisoner for all except the allocated interrogator. But when it came to the point, the mere proximity to such an infamous symbol of Jewish suffering caused Malkin to infringe the rules.

A self-taught artist, he began at first to make sketches of his prisoner, perplexed at the sheer mundanity of the physiognomy that had housed such evil impulses. Prevented from making notes for security reasons, he covered the pages of his tourist guide with pictures of his surroundings, and of other Nazi figures, and this became a pictorial diary of the period. The Polish-born Malkin, whose elder sister and her children had perished in the Holocaust, then began speaking to Eichmann in a mixture of Yiddish and German.

In Eichmann in My Hands, he described how he confronted the Nazi about the death of his nephew: "My sister's boy, my favourite playmate, he was just your son's age. Also blond and blue-eyed — just like your son. And you killed him." Malkin recorded: "Genuinely perplexed by the observation, he actually waited a moment to see if I would clarify it. 'Yes,' he said finally, 'but he was Jewish, wasn't he?'"

At that point Malkin glimpsed something of the monstrous nature of the Nazi psychology.

Eleven days after his capture Eichmann, by now metamorphosed into an El Al steward who had drunk too much, was shepherded on to a waiting airliner at Buenos Aires airport. Malkin, who left the country by a different route, never spoke to him again. But he was present at the trial in Jerusalem which found Eichmann guilty of crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and condemned him to death. Adolf Eichmann was hanged on May 31, 1962.

By his own account Peter Malkin was born Zvi Malchin in Palestine, but spent his early childhood in Zolkiewka, a small village in Poland. By the mid-1930s a rising tide of anti-Semitism was making life intolerable for his family who decided to return to Palestine. A shortage of exit visas meant that his 23-year-old sister had to remain behind. She and her children perished in the death camps.

Malkin led a somewhat lawless life in Palestine, roaming with gangs of children and committing petty street crimes.

But a focus for such activities was to hand. In 1939 one of his school teachers recruited him into the Haganah, the underground Jewsih military organisation which was then fighting both British and the Arabs in a Palestine then administered by Britain under a League of Nations mandate.

After graduating from high school in 1947 on the eve of Israel’s independence, Malkin had explosives training, and went to work for Shin Bet, the internal security service. He was a natural candidate for recruitment by Mossad, when the agency began to flex its muscles. As Israel established a diplomatic presence abroad, he toured the new embassies, advising on security.

He was also involved in the trailing and arrest of the Soviet spy Israel Beer, and operated against Nazi rocket scientists working for Egypt. After the Eichmann snatch he continued with Mossad, eventually becoming chief of operations.

Retiring from the agency in 1976, he moved to America, settling in New York. There he wrote and painted, his pictures being shown in galleries throughout the world.

He also occasionally assisted the Manhattan district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, on investigations, and worked as a private counter-terrorism consultant.

Malkin is survived by his wife Roni, and by three children.

Peter Malkin, Israeli secret agent, was born on May 27, 1927. He died on March 1, 2005, aged 77.

 

OBITUARY: PETER MALKIN

Obituary: Peter Malkin
Israeli agent who caught the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann
By Christopher Reed
The Guardian
March 8, 2005

www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,10551,1432618,00.html

In May 1960, the Israeli secret service (Mossad) agent Peter Malkin, who has died aged 77, captured the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in a Buenos Aires street. Yet his role only became public with the publication of his Eichmann In My Hands (1990).

Malkin had told just one person, his mother. She had fled anti-semitism in Poland with her family in 1936 and went to Palestine, but because of a visa shortage, her daughter Fruma stayed behind. She and other relatives perished in the Holocaust and as his mother was on her deathbed, Malkin told her of his capture of Eichmann. "Fruma is avenged," he said.

As an untrained but accomplished artist - his cover identity in Argentina - Malkin completed dozens of portraits of Eichmann while he was held secretly in Buenos Aires. These, too, he kept secret for decades.

In 1960 Mossad had been tipped off that Eichmann was in the Argentinian capital. But agents sent to track him down kept blundering. Then Malkin was dispatched.

He discovered that Eichmann, working under a pseudonym at a Mercedes Benz plant, returned home punctually every evening. On May 11, as Eichmann was walking towards his house, Malkin approached him and said "un momentito, senor". He threw Eichmann to the ground from where Israeli comrades hustled him into a waiting vehicle. Malkin, unarmed, had worn gloves so he would not have to touch the Nazi.

Malkin spent 10 days talking to him. He recalled: "The problem here is with a human being, not with a monster, not with an animal. The human being does things that even the monster does not do, because the human is more sophisticated. The problem is not how the monster did it, but how the human being did it."

During that time Malkin confronted Eichmann about the death of his nephew in Poland during the Holocaust. He knew Eichmann had a son, with whom he played fondly every evening, and he said: "My sister's boy, my favourite playmate, was just your son's age. Also blond and blue-eyed, just like your son. And you killed him."

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

When Israel revealed that it had secretly removed Eichman from Argentina, there was diplomatic uproar. But he was put on trial, convicted and hanged in 1962.

Malkin, born Zvi Malchin in British-mandate Palestine was brought up in a small Polish town. When he revisited it after the war, he found that even the Jewish cemetery had been vandalised. On his return to Palestine, aged 12, he was recruited by a school teacher into the underground Haganah, fighting against the British army.

He learned skills that were to help him during his 27 years in Mossad. He became clever at disguise, was proficient in making and dismantling bombs, and trained in the martial arts. He also developed "a real talent" for thievery and pilfered ammunition from police stations for the Haganah.

When Israel was born in 1948, he joined the Shin Bet, the internal security service, before joining Mossad. He travelled widely, and became Mossad's chief of operations. He retired in 1976.

A frequent destination was the United States, and in the 1970s he helped New York's law enforcement departments in several cases. One was the investigation of Frank Terpil, a CIA agent convicted of selling weapons and explosives to Uganda and Libya. But Terpil fled the US and remains a fugitive. Malkin settled in New York but kept a home in Tel Aviv.

In 2002 he published The Argentina Journal, and Casting Pebbles On The Water With A Cluster Of Colours - a collection of his art - some recording his part in the Eichmann capture and memorialising his lost family members. His art was also exhibited in Europe, Japan and Israel.

In 1996, a television film, The Man Who Captured Eichmann, was produced with Robert Duvall playing the man who coined the term "the final solution" for the destruction of the Jews.

Malkin is survived by his wife, a son in California, and two daughters in Israel.

• Peter Zvi Malkin, counter-intelligence agent, born May 27, 1927; died March 1, 2005

 

ZVIKA MALCHIN WAS THE GREATEST UNDERCOVER AGENT OF HIS GENERATION

Zvika Malchin was the greatest undercover agent of his generation — maybe ever.
By Michael Ledeen
National Review Online
March 4, 2005

www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200503041006.asp

Peter Malchin – Zvika to his friends – has left us, having died in a New York City rehabilitation center following a serious blood infection. He couldn't have just closed his eyes and left. Zvika never did anything the way normal people do. He was an utterly extraordinary person who did extraordinary things that hardly anybody noticed because Zvika was the grand master at making sure nobody noticed him. Most of the time, nobody even saw him.

That is how he became the greatest undercover agent of his generation, and perhaps the greatest ever. I don't know anyone whose skills were at once so diverse and so sharply honed, but he was never satisfied with those skills, nor with his own mastery of so much of modern life. He never stopped analyzing problems most of us thought we understood, and a conversation with Zvika was like jumping into an intellectual and emotional tornado. Nobody could maintain that intensity, and he found solace in painting, at which he excelled.

His most celebrated accomplishment was the capture of Adolph Eichmann in Buenos Aires. He was the invisible man who came up to the Nazi murderer on Garibaldi Street and whispered, "Un momentito, senor," and – his hands encased in gloves to avoid having to actually touch the monster – took him away. During the interrogation of Eichmann, awaiting the proper moment to fly him to his doom in Israel, Zvika started to sketch the captive on a map, and those sketches were subsequently framed and displayed around the world.

But Zvika's real ability, his great genius I would say, was not simply carrying out dangerous operations. Many have done that. Zvika was utterly unique in penetrating to the heart of intelligence problems, from the security of buildings to the seemingly incomprehensible mysteries of counter-intelligence. It is said that he organized the capture of nearly thirty Soviet agents in Israel, and I once asked him how he tracked them down. "I didn't track them at all," he chuckled. "I just asked myself, if I were a Russian spy, where would I be right now? And once I had that answer, I went there and waited for him. It wasn't hard to spot the guy."

Zvika was unparalleled at getting inside others' minds, just as he was unmatched at breaking into buildings. The Israelis used him to check their own security. Once they thought they had made a building or an office impenetrable, Zvika was ordered to break in, and he invariably did it. Then they made it Zvika-safe, and they figured that was the best any human beings could do. Back in the '50s, when the Singaporeans got Israeli help in setting up their intelligence and security services, Zvika went down to see what they had done. To his surprise, he found that a single building housed both the defense ministry and the intelligence service, and he suggested that wasn't very smart. "Once someone gets in he'll get both the defense and the intelligence secrets," he observed. The Singaporeans weren't convinced. They thought it was easier to secure one installation than two, and the head of the intelligence service balked at separating the two. This man's prize possession was a carved turtle, which he locked in his safe every night. Shortly after his conversation with Zvika, the intelligence chief came to his office early one morning and unlocked the safe. The turtle was gone, and there was a note in the safe: "Nothing is really secure, not even a turtle."

My favorite Zvika story had to do with Egypt. The Mossad was determined to place listening devices in Nasser's conference room, so that Israel could be privy to discussions at the highest level of the Egyptian regime. Zvika got into the room during the long lunchtime break and crawled under the table – which was covered with a very large cloth that hung down to the floor – to place the bug. As he was finishing, he heard people entering the room, and he remained under the table during the meeting. "The big problem was to watch those feet and figure out which one was getting ready to move." God only knows how he managed it. Afterwards, back in Israel, he delivered a typically wry after-action report: "The manual is incomplete. We only tell how to break in, but we have to add a chapter on breaking out. Sometimes quickly."

Later in life, disgusted with what he considered the excessively heavy-handed methods adopted by the Israeli internal security people and contemptuous of the quality of his successors, Zvika moved to New York City and spent most of his time painting and lecturing. From time to time he would help track down some of our monsters, of which Robert Morgenthau has spoken, and Uri Dan has written.

As befit a person who wished to remain invisible, he was a very quiet man. He spoke in a gravelly whisper that you sometimes had to strain to hear. But it was worth the effort, for he was an inspiration, especially to young people. He managed to explain to them that life was very difficult, and sometimes terrible – much of his family was killed by the Nazis in Poland. But with all that, he would say, one had to shoulder life's burdens and fight for life.

As befit the paradigmatic outsider, Zvika was not much sought after by the modern practitioners of his intelligence skills. Even after 9/11, official Washington shied away from him, although the unworthy officials of our various failed agencies could have learned a great deal from him. And until one of his friends insisted, not even the Holocaust Museum thought to honor him, or even to have him tell his story to a generation that badly needed to hear it. When he finally came, the room was packed, and nobody who was there that day will ever forget it.

Like almost all of the survivors of the Nazi horrors, he was a tortured soul, and his anguish was intensified by the need to keep secret most of the activities of his adult life. Many of his activities will remain unknown for a long time, maybe even forever, and he would approve of that. His own mother only learned of Zvika's capture of Eichmann on her deathbed. But the glory of the man himself – from his art to his personal wisdom – that we know, and we cherish it, and we will miss it. And we will say the Kaddish for him with all our hearts.

 

PETER ZVI MALKIN IS DEAD

Peter Zvi Malkin Is Dead; Captured Adolf Eichmann
By Margalit Fox
New York Times
March 3, 2005

www.nytimes.com/2005/03/03/obituaries/03malkin.html

Peter Zvi Malkin, a former Israeli intelligence agent who in 1960 captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, and who afterward captured him again and again on paper in his second career as a painter and writer, died on Tuesday in a rehabilitation facility in Manhattan. He was believed to be 77, and he had homes in Manhattan and Tel Aviv.

Mr. Malkin, who was recovering from a blood infection he contracted several months ago, choked to death after vomiting, Gabriel Erem, a longtime friend, said.

A Mossad agent for 27 years, Mr. Malkin was the author of a memoir, "Eichmann in My Hands" (Warner, 1990). Written with Harry Stein, it chronicles Mossad's pursuit and capture of Eichmann, an architect of the Final Solution, the systematic Nazi program to exterminate Jews.

A master of disguises, Mr. Malkin often posed as an itinerant painter during intelligence-gathering missions. Repelled and fascinated by Eichmann during the time he spent guarding him in Argentina, he began surreptitiously sketching his portrait. Eichmann was later spirited out of the country by Mossad to stand trial in Israel; he was convicted of crimes against humanity and other charges and executed in 1962.

In an interview last night, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, called Mr. Malkin "an absolutely extraordinary man, probably the last century's greatest intelligence agent." Starting in the late 1970's, Mr. Malkin assisted Mr. Morgenthau on several cases, including the investigation of Frank Terpil, a C.I.A. operative convicted of selling weapons and explosives to Libya and Uganda. Mr. Terpil fled the United States and remains a fugitive.

A two-volume collection of Mr. Malkin's art, "The Argentina Journal" and "Casting Pebbles on the Water With a Cluster of Colors," was published by VWF Publishing in 2002. Mr. Malkin, who retired from Mossad in 1976, was also a private consultant on counterterrorism in later years.

Zvi Malchin was born, most likely on May 27, 1927, either in Poland (according to his son, Omer) or in British Palestine (according to Mr. Malkin's Web site).

"With him, it depends on what passport you're looking at," Omer Malkin said by telephone yesterday. Mr. Malkin adopted the name Peter and anglicized the spelling of his last name as an adult, his son said.

Mr. Malkin's son and Mr. Malkin's Web site agree that Mr. Malkin spent his early childhood in Poland. In 1936, with rising anti-Semitism there, his family settled in Palestine. Mr. Malkin's sister, Fruma, and her three children remained behind in Poland. All died in the Holocaust, along with many of Mr. Malkin's other relatives.

As an adolescent, Mr. Malkin joined the Palestine Jewish underground. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, he was recruited by Mossad; he eventually became the organization's chief of operations.

In the spring of 1960, Mr. Malkin was part of a team of agents sent to Buenos Aires to kidnap Eichmann, who was living in a suburb under the alias Ricardo Klement. A creature of meticulous habit, Eichmann was rigorously punctual, returning home by the same bus each evening from his job at a Mercedes-Benz factory.

On May 11, Eichmann alighted from the bus and walked toward his house on Garibaldi Street. Mr. Malkin approached him and uttered the only words of Spanish he knew, "Un momentito, Señor." He grabbed Eichmann's arm. As he told The New York Times in 2003, he wore gloves so he would not have to touch the man.

Concerned about bystanders, Mr. Malkin was unarmed. In an interview in 2003 with Midstream magazine, a monthly Jewish review, he explained, "Obviously, we couldn't tell people, 'We are going to capture Eichmann, so please stay away.' "

Mr. Malkin and his colleagues wrestled Eichmann into a waiting car and drove him to a "safe house," where he was interrogated for 10 days. Standing guard over Eichmann during this time, Mr. Malkin began quietly to draw him, using the sketch pencils, acrylic paints and makeup he carried in his disguise kit.

He drew on the only surface that came to hand, a South American travel guide he had purchased for the trip. The results, portraits of Eichmann and other images of the Holocaust superimposed on yellowing pages of maps and text, are hauntingly beautiful. The images, along with Mr. Malkin's later work, may be seen on Mr. Malkin's Web site, www.peterzmalkin.com.

Besides his son, of Los Altos, Calif., Mr. Malkin is survived by his wife, the former Roni Thorner; two daughters, Tami and Adi, both of Israel; and eight grandchildren.

Because of the extreme secrecy Mossad demanded, Mr. Malkin for many years said nothing about his role in Eichmann's capture. As he recounted to Midstream magazine, he broke his silence only when his mother was on her deathbed. "Mama," he told her, "I captured Eichmann. Fruma is avenged."

 

PETER Z. MALKIN

Peter Z. Malkin: Mossad agent who captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires
By Phil Davison
The Independent
March 4, 2005

news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/story.jsp?story=616619

Zvi Malchin (Peter Zvi Malkin), intelligence agent and artist: born Zolkiewka, Poland 27 May 1927; married Roni Thorner (one son, two daughters); died New York 1 March 2005.

Zvi Malchin, better known as Peter Z. Malkin, was the Israeli Mossad agent who tracked down and captured Nazi Adolf Eichmann, architect of Hitler's "Final Solution", in Argentina in 1960.

For that and many other operations which became known only decades later, "Zvika", as he was known to his friends, was hailed as the greatest secret agent in Israel's history.

Eichmann, considered responsible for the murder of six million Jews in Second World War extermination camps, had disappeared, then fled Germany in the post-war years. Like many of his fellow Nazi officers, he found refuge, even a welcome, in the military-oriented South America of the time. He lived quietly under the name Ricardo Klement, working in a Mercedes-Benz factory in Buenos Aires, but Malkin, who had lost his sister and many other members of his family in the Holocaust, finally tracked him down.

It is said that, when the Mossad chief in Israel asked his agent how he would capture the ex-Nazi officer, Malkin grabbed his boss and put a painful chokehold around his neck. He was a martial arts expert, as well as a master of explosives and disguises. Once in Buenos Aires, he posed as a painter while studying Eichmann's movements.

It was on the cold, wet night of 11 May 1960 that Malkin, backed by other Mossad men in a waiting car, walked up to Ricardo Klement and used the only two words of Spanish he had learnt: "Momentito, señor. One moment, sir." Then came the neck-lock, Eichmann was bundled into the car and taken to a safe house outside the Argentinian capital.

There he was held for 10 days, and given kosher food by his captors, before being drugged and spirited on to an El Al airliner to Jerusalem. To explain his condition, Malkin had obtained an Israeli passport for him, dressed him up in an El Al uniform and told Argentinian airport staff that he was an El Al steward who had had too much to drink and was being shipped home.

Eichmann was sentenced to death in Israel in December 1961, for crimes against the Jewish people, and hanged on 31 May 1962. Malkin's involvement emerged only a quarter of a century later.

Zvi Malchin was born in Zolkiewka, Poland, probably in 1927, but, after suffering anti-Semitism, his family took him to British-mandated Palestine in 1933. He was barely a teenager when recruited by Haganah, the Jewish underground movement fighting the British and Arabs, where he developed his skill with explosives.

After independence, he joined the Israeli Secret Service, later to become Mossad. Many of his operations, before he retired to the United States in 1976 and became a distinguished painter in Manhattan, remain veiled in typical Mossad secrecy. But he is known to have unmasked Israel Beer, an aide to the then Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, as a Soviet spy.

Malkin's 1990 memoirs Eichmann in My Hands were turned into a television film, The Man Who Captured Eichmann (1996), with Robert Duvall playing the Nazi and Arliss Howard as Malkin.

In his book The Argentina Journal (2002), Malkin movingly describes what it was like, in a room in Buenos Aires, to face the man held responsible for the murders of his own family members and millions of other Jews. "Who is that man lying on the iron bed? What does he signify to me?" he asked himself.

Malkin found himself surprised that Eichmann "did not look like a monster" and wrote that he had forced himself to face his captor, and to talk to him. "Long an accomplished agent, I was at last becoming a human being."

He later said: a monster can be excused for his behaviour ... The problem is not how a monster could do it, but how a human being did it.


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