A small man, Eitan had built up the strength in his arms and hands by climbing ropes in his youth.
“It was well known that there was at least one strong Jewish underground unit that had been working ceaselessly since the end of the war in all parts of the world, tracking down Nazi war criminals who had evaded the Allied net in 1945.
He had heard that its members were fanatically devoted to their task, brave people who had dedicated their lives to bringing some of inhuman monsters responsible for Belsen, Auschwitz, and other hellholes to justice.”Sitting in his comfortable living room in his strikingly modern house in the Afeka neighborhood of Tel Aviv in March 2014, Rafi Eitan was in a relaxed mood as he looked back on his long service in the Mossad—and the highlight of his career, leading the commando unit that seized Adolf Eichmann near his home in Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960.
“I said I’ll buy the land and one day I will be in a private house in the middle of Tel Aviv,” he said, flashing a contented smile.
Today Afeka is an upscale neighborhood of chic villas and apartment buildings connected to the downtown area by pristine highways.
But his house is set on a quiet street that looks like it could belong to a Mediterranean resort.
The main floor is filled with flowers and plants and is flooded with light—from glass doors that open on his patio and garden, and from a large skylight.
As he stepped out of the train in Frankfurt, he recalled thinking to himself: “Just a few years ago, eight years ago, if I would be here, probably I would be executed.
But now I am a representative of the Israeli government.” He hastened to add that his visit had nothing to do with Nazi hunting.
Bronze and iron wiry, minimalist sculptures of animals and people decorate the entry hall and his book-lined study.
They are the product of his favorite hobby, crafted by the same powerful pair of hands that helped lift Eichmann into his team’s waiting car on that fateful day more than a half century ago.
One of the great myths of the postwar era was that Israeli agents were constantly scouring hideouts all over the world, relentlessly tracking down Nazi war criminals.