Six decades after Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel for his crimes, a German news outlet has revealed that the person who led to his capture was a geologist who worked with him at a construction company in Argentina.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Gerhard Klammer, a German who opposed the Nazi regime, provided the key information that allowed Israeli spies to track down Eichmann, one of the organizers of the “Final Solution” against Jews.
Klammer’s identity had remained a secret since the Israeli Mossad spy agency’s operatives abducted Eichmann in Argentina on May 11, 1960, and brought him to the Jewish state, where he was tried the following year and executed in 1962.
Now, 32 years after the geologist died, his family has agreed to reveal his name and his role in bringing the notorious Nazi to face justice in front of his accusers in a widely publicized and televised trial in Jerusalem.
Klammer — who studied geology, philosophy and history in Germany — emigrated to Argentina in 1950 to find work around the same time Eichmann arrived in the country under a fake name, according to Haaretz.
He found work at the Capri construction company in Tucuman Province in northern Argentina. Using the name Ricardo Klement, Eichmann joined the firm soon after, but moved to Buenos Aires a few years later when the company developed financial difficulties.
Klammer, who reportedly knew of Eichmann’s true identity, returned to Germany. His family said he contacted German authorities in the early 1950s to inform them about Eichmann’s whereabouts but got no response, Haaretz reported.
He later told a priest pal who had served in the German military about Eichmann. The priest relayed the information to his bishop, who passed it to Fritz Bauer, a Jewish prosecutor in Germany who was hunting for Eichmann.
German authorities were aware that Eichmann was hiding in South America but made no efforts to pursue the wanted war criminal, but Bauer’s information proved very valuable because it included Eichmann’s home address.
He also had a key photograph from the early 1950s showing Eichmann and Klammer standing next to each other at the construction company.
Bauer had previously obtained information about Eichmann from Lothar Hermann, a German man who had moved to Argentina. The half-Jewish man’s daughter had gone on a date with Eichmann’s son, who boasted about his father’s identity, Haaretz reported.
In 1957, Hermann sent this information to Bauer, who passed it on to the Mossad – but the Israeli agents who were then sent to try and track down Eichmann returned empty-handed.
Two years later, however, Klammer provided more detailed and valuable information to the Mossad that allowed it to capture Eichmann.
In 1960, agents finally located Eichmann after Bauer met in Israel with Mossad chief Isser Harel and Attorney General Haim Cohn to give them his information.
While Eichmann had lived at the address Klammer provided, he moved to a different location soon afterward, but Israeli agents led by Rafi Eitan found him at his new place, abducted him and put on a plane to Israel.
Bauer kept his promise not to reveal the source of his information and the Mossad also has kept mum on the matter.
For 316 days after his capture, the 55-year-old Eichmann was held in secret in a special prison in northern Israel before he was taken to Jerusalem for the historic trial.
The defendant was “dressed in a black suit… his eyes looking off into the distance behind big glasses” as he listened impassively to the German translation of the 15 charges against him, AFP journalists reported.
“We expected a kind of monster, given the scale of his crimes, but Eichmann just looked like some little civil servant,” Marcelle Joseph, who recorded the trial, told AFP in 2011.
A total of 111 witnesses took the stand during the four months and three days of the trial, each delivering chilling personal accounts to the world’s cameras, including renowned writers like Elie Wiesel and Joseph Kessel.
Eichmann insisted he was being tried for the deeds of others and did not take personal responsibility for the crimes, saying was merely following orders.
On Dec. 15, 1961, he was sentenced to death by hanging.
“Eichmann was guilty of terrifying crimes, different from all crimes against individuals insofar as it was the extermination of a whole people,” Supreme Court President Moshe Landau told the packed courtroom.
Eichmann wrote an appeal to Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in May 1962.
“I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty,” he wrote.
On May 31, 1962, he was hanged at Ramleh prison near Tel Aviv. His ashes were scattered in the sea — beyond Israel’s territorial waters.