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“Operation Finale” - The Capture of Eichmann


Israeli intrigue: “Operation Finale” exhibition on the Mossad capture of Adolf Eichmann

The February opening of the new Beit Hatfutsot exhibition, “Operation Finale: The Story of the Capture of Eichmann,” marks the first time in history that the Mossad, the super-secretive and world-renowned Israeli spy agency, has opened its archives to reveal the intricacies of one of the most significant operations of all time: the 1960 capture of SS officer Adolph Eichmann.  The opening, which was attended by Speaker of the Knesset Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin, Minister Yossi Peled and  Mr. Rafi Eitan, Commander of the Capture Unit,  along with diplomats, communal and business leaders, was a stirring event that was received with intrigue, awe, Jewish-Israeli pride, and reminiscence about one of the most powerful events in Israeli history.

The exhibition curator, a Mossad agent known only as “Avner A.”, in collaboration with Minister Yossi Peled, Chair of the Committee to Mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Eichmann Trial, put together this captivating exhibition that the Wall Street Journal calls “compact but sharp”, with never-before-seen artifacts from the complex operation. Displays include forged license plates, a document camera hidden in a bag, and an intricate sketch of Eichmann’s ears that was pivotal in proving his identity. “Rich with newly declassified documents, photos and artifacts—from the identification, knife and comb Eichmann carried while kidnapped in 1960, to the bulletproof glass booth in which he was tried in 1961 and sentenced to death—the exhibition quickly orients even the uninformed, leading rhythmically along a path of several 90-degree turns that take visitors from stage to stage along this tale's 14-year evolution,” writes Amos Asael in the Wall Street Journal. “While learning what lengths Israel went through to bring to justice to the man who oversaw European Jewry's transport to the extermination camps, visitors also get a rare glimpse at secret agents and their work, and a surprising salute from the Mossad to World Jewry.”

The items displayed in this exhibition give substance to a defining moment in the history of the State of Israel, and indeed of the entire world: a moment which was made possible thanks to the bravery of a few who enabled so many to finally make their voices heard. The exhibition includes, among other things, details about the first identification of Eichmann. Lothar Hermann, a German-born Argentinean Jew, who suspected that his daughter's suitor was Eichmann's son, was stubbornly insistent as he alerted Fritz Bauer, the Jewish Attorney General of Hessen, West Germany, who then alerted the Mossad. To express their gratitude towards this tenacious Diaspora Jew, the Mossad exhibition includes a display of the teleprinter and tickertape by which an agent was ordered to inform Bauer of Eichmann's kidnapping.

"The capture of Adolf Eichmann -- bringing him to court and to justice in Jerusalem -- was for so many Israelis of my generation a watershed event,” said Beit Hatfutsot CEO Avinoam Armoni. “It actually brought out the stories and the horror of what happened to the Jews in Europe."

"Every day I find something new, often from small stories of people coming to see the exhibition," Avner A. said. "My role is to find all these small pieces and put them together. I am still investigating. We still don't have the whole story. But this is as close as we can get."

Among the attendees were Dalia Rabin, Eitan Haber, Shomo “Cheech” Lahat, Danny Yatom, Dov Tadmor, Maj. Gen (res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu, Ambassador of Lithuania Mr. Darius Degutis, and Tami Hausner-Raveh, daughter of Gideon Hausner, Chief Prosecutor of Adolf Eichmann.

“The exhibition is a powerful testament to an event that constituted the perfect response to Holocaust denial,” said Rubi Rivlin. “Beit Hatfutsot is a temporary home for an exhibition that reminds us of our potential obliteration.”

“The Eichmann trial, which gave public exposure to the stories of the survivors, their memories and their witness statements, portrayed the human spirit in instances of bravery and dignity, alongside inconceivable depths of depravity,” Avinoam Armoni added. “Beit Hatfutsot is proud to have been selected to display this outstanding exhibition marking such an important event in the history of the Jewish people.”

The opening received wide media coverage in Israel and abroad, in  television, radio and on-line media, including: ABC News, CNN, The Guardian, Associated Press,  Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, US NewsMSNBC, Chicago Tribune, NPR, San Francisco Gate, Miami Herald, China Post, Daily Mail, and more.  

Operation Finale” is being held under the auspices of the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations and the Israel Security Agency.   The exhibit was made possible by the generous support of The IRIS Charity Trust, The SUNFLOWER Charity Trust, The ORCHID Charity Trust, and The JASMINE Charity Trust, and will be on display in the Lady Sarah Cohen Gallery through April 2012.