Adolf Eichmann, architect of and chief transport officer for The Final Solution... Look him up if you care about his life; I mainly love the snatch.
This is the guy who said that he would, "leap laughing into the grave because the knowledge that I have the lives of five million people on my conscience is a source of extraordinary satisfaction." A monster. And -- at the same time -- a man one writer beautifully said typified "the banality of evil..." Most of his victims ended up in Auschwitz.
He was captured at the end of the war in a general roundup of SS officers, but had phony papers identifying him as "Otto Eckmann," and he ended up in a POW work camp in Bavaria. He escaped when he heard the Americans had figured out who he really was, fled to Austria, and managed to live there for five years.
A team of eight Mossad agents was dispatched from Tel Aviv. In Buenos Aires, they grabbed Eichmann when he got off a bus, stuffed him in the backseat of a car, and threw a blanket over him. (The team had plans to make it a double snatch: they knew Josef Mengele was also living in Buenos Aires, but he was no longer at his last known address, and they lost his trail.) A doctor on the Mossad team sedated Eichmann, and they disguised him as an El Al flight attendant, passed him off as ill, and flew him to Tel Aviv on the same plane that, a few days earlier, had carried an Israeli diplomatic delegation to Argentina. At right is a photo of Eichmann, at Ayalon Prison in Israel, awaiting trial.
On April 11, 1961, in Jerusalem -- eleven months after he was snatched off that street in Buenos Aires -- Eichmann's trial began. In August, the verdict: not guilty of personally killing anyone, and not guilty of personally overseeing the death squads that did kill people, but responsible for the awful conditions aboard the transport trains, (a third of the people stuffed into those cattle cars died on the way) and guilty of obtaining persons to fill them. In addition, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to die.
A few minutes after midnight on May 31, 1962, at a prison in Ramla, Israel, Adolf Eichmann was hanged. He refused a last meal, and asked that they forego the black hood. Within hours, his body was cremated and the ashes dumped in the Mediterranean Sea (outside of Israeli territorial waters) by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.
"What went on at Auschwitz wasn't unique to the Germans," he said. "It's part of the human character. It could happen anywhere. It could happen right here. Adolf Hitler created an environment -- a garden, if you will -- where evil could grow. If Hitler had never become Reich Chancellor, no one would ever have heard of Adolf Eichmann. And Josef Mengele would have lived out his life an unknown, unimportant Bavarian doctor. But in Hitler's world, men like Mengele and Eichmann came to power. They flourished."
"They're here," he said. "They're all around you, the ones that will guard the camps and work the ovens. You just don't know who they are yet."
I think about this sometimes when I'm at the DMV, or getting a TSA patdown...