The House on Garibaldi Street

The House on Garibaldi Street

The First Full Account of the Capture of Adolf Eichmann

Book - 1975
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Publisher: New York : Viking Press, 1975
ISBN: 9780670380282
Call Number: B Ei24ha
Characteristics: xx, 296 p. : maps ; 23 cm


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Feb 03, 2018

The writing style of the book is matter-of-fact; Harel didn't embellish his account of the operation to identify, capture and transfer Adolf Eichmann to Israel with undue emotion. Thus, when Harel does show his heart, so to speak, I found myself nodding along.

As Harel described the sputtering start of the beginning of the operation, it was obvious how frustrated he and the handful of people who had access to it must have felt. Capturing Eichmann (and the other remaining Nazi war criminals) might have been a moral necessity from 1945 onward, but it wasn't a *possibility* until someone handed them a potential lead thirteen years later. But Harel used that frustration to create resolve: Eichmann would be caught, "come Hell or high water".

Harel's method was decidedly more elbow grease and shoe leather than tuxedos and jazzed up Aston Martins. He employed a team that was skilled in research, surveillance, subterfuge and meticulous preparation, all of which required patience. While a lot of money was spent on cars, hotels, houses, supplies and equipment (most of which he never details), the only person who might have seemed remotely glamorous was the person who was asked to take cover as a playboy- and even he had to literally get his hands dirty when his car broke down in the middle of the road on the final night of the operation.

Much of the book spends time detailing Harel's thinking about logistics and the many alternative plans he devised at all of the steps of the operation. As such, he has three safe houses, at least two extra vehicles, two plans of capture and no less than six possible methods of getting Eichmann on the plane. None of this comes off as brilliant or clever but rather logical and methodical. A well-trained intelligence operative, he knows enough about his quarry that he can predict that Eichmann's family has more to lose by going to the police, and that any appeals they would make to potential allies will mean that a search for him will be less than comprehensive (and he was right).

Harel is the voice of calm and his tactics the result of thorough planning, but this book is not without emotion. Every person involved in the operation- from the agents who captured and held him for a week to the pilots of the plane- suffered a horrific loss because of Eichmann's Final Solution. Harel is sparing in details- he assumes his readers know what the Holocaust was- until the final, wrenching account of how the mechanic of the plane lost almost everyone in his family. (I'm not going to stop seeing the man's six year old little brother for some time.) This was the moral imperative that compelled the agents to take their risks, and not surprisingly, the worst of it was when they were guarding Eichmann (and under orders to make sure he arrived safely in Israel). Needless to say, Eichmann was treated far more humanely by the Israeli agents than the six million people he killed.

The details of the lengthy subterfuge are Harel's way of reminding the reader of his awareness of their moral dilemma: in order to bring to justice the man who had ruined so many lives, they needed to violate the sovereignty of Argentina and, arguably, Germany. The agents are aware of this too, and at one point, astonishingly, one of them asks whether what they're doing is fair to Eichmann's wife and children, who will now have no means of support. This was one of the most incredible moments in the book.


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