September 3, 2008, - 2:15 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
I’ve always wondered how Israeli Mossad agents were so skillfully able to locate, kidnap, and bring to trial Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann from his secret perch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but NOT Dr. Josef Mengele a/k/a “The Angel of Death”–the Nazi doctor who conducted Islamic-style barbaric experiments on Jewish twins and other concentration camp inmates. Mengele stitched together and dissected young Jewish children while they were alive and without anesthesia (and he murdered many more). He’s since been declared dead.
(By the way, a GREAT presentation of the Israeli operation capturing Eichmann is the TV movie, “The House on Garibaldi Street,” which ran on ABC in 1979 and is only available on VHS. It’s based on the Isser Harel book of the same name.)
Rafi Eitan, now an Israeli Cabinet Minister and one of the Mossad agents who participated in the Eichmann capture, says the Israelis actually did find Mengele while they conducted the Eichmann operation, but they didn’t want to jeopardize the Eichmann op:
Israeli agents who kidnapped Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann from Argentina in 1960 found the notorious death camp doctor Josef Mengele but let him get away, one of the operatives said Tuesday.
Mengele was one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, a doctor who conducted cruel experiments on twins and dwarves at the Auschwitz concentration camp and killed children with lethal injections. He selected prisoners who would be subjected to his experiments and sent others straight to their death in gas chambers.
Rafi Eitan, now an 81-year-old Israeli Cabinet minister, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he and other Mossad agents located Mengele living in a Buenos Aires apartment with his wife at the time of Eichmann’s capture in 1960.
But they decided that trying to nab him would risk sabotaging the capture of Eichmann, who implemented Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” to kill European Jewry and was deemed a more important target.
It was known that Mengele was living in Buenos Aires around the time of Eichmann’s capture. But Eitan’s comments indicated the Israelis were closer to him than had been previously thought – and shed light on why they decided to abandon an attempt to catch him. . . .
Mengele was infamous for his sadistic experiments in the death camps. He injected dye into the eyes of twins to change their color and sewed them together to try to create artificially conjoined twins. He ordered twins killed simultaneously and then dissected for examination of their organs. His horrors earned him the title “Angel of Death.” . . .
The Mossad men located Mengele’s apartment, and on one specific day even knew he was at home, Eitan said. But the next day, Mengele left with his wife for what the agents believed would be a temporary absence.
At the time, the Israelis had already snatched Eichmann and were holding him in a safe house while they waited to whisk him out of the country. They feared that if they waited for Mengele to come back, the Eichmann operation would be discovered. Eitan said they decided it was not worth the risk.
“When I have a bird in my hand, I don’t start looking for the bird in the bush. I’ll take the bird in my hand, put it in a cage, and then deal with the one in the bush,” Eitan said.
By the time the Mossad sent a team back to Buenos Aires a few weeks later, it was too late.
“After Eichmann’s capture was made public, he disappeared entirely,” Eitan said.
After missing him in Argentina, the Mossad had another shot at catching Mengele in Sao Paolo, Brazil, two years later, Eitan said. But the organization had other “operational priorities,” and Mengele got away again. He would not say what those priorities were and the Mossad then lost track of Mengele.
Having eluded capture for 34 years, Mengele drowned in Brazil in early 1979 and experts identified the body as his six years later. . . .
OSI [DS: Office of Special Investigations in the U.S. Justice Dept.–it’s the Nazi-hunting and prosecution arm] documents also show that Isser Harel, who oversaw the kidnap operation, told the OSI the Israelis attempted to capture Mengele in May 1960 at the same time they caught Eichmann. According to Harel, Mengele was able to escape, going underground after reports of his whereabouts appeared in the media, the OSI documents say.
Hmmm . . . I see an opportunity for Steven Spielberg here. Maybe he can repent for making such a great movie, like “Schindler’s List,” and make a movie about the Eichmann and Mengele operations, arguing that it all wasn’t worth it and that Nazis were nice, classy people, just like he did with “Munich.”