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Peter Malkin, 77; Helped Catch Nazi Criminal

March 03, 2005|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Peter Malkin, the Israeli Mossad agent who captured Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust, has died, media in Israel reported Wednesday. He was 77.

Malkin, who in his later life became an internationally recognized artist and lived in New York, died of complications from an infection, the Jerusalem Post reported on its website. The report did not indicate when Malkin died but said he is expected to be buried Friday in Tel Aviv.

For years after the capture of Eichmann in 1960, Malkin continued to work in the Mossad secret security service, eventually becoming chief of operations, but did not disclose his role in the operation to anyone. He broke his silence in 1990 with the publication of a memoir, "Eichmann in My Hands," which was made into a television movie in 1996. Called "The Man Who Captured Eichmann," the movie starred Robert Duvall as the Nazi war criminal and Arliss Howard as Malkin.

In the late 1950s, Israeli security agents received a tip that Eichmann was living in Argentina under an assumed name. Believing that the Argentine government would never arrest him, the Israeli government sent a team of Mossad agents to the South American country to capture him. Malkin was part of that seven-person team.

After a week of surveillance, on the night of May 11, 1960, Malkin stopped Eichmann on a street in the Buenos Aires suburb of San Fernando. He spoke a few words to him in Spanish before grabbing his arm and wrestling him to the ground. Other agents grabbed Eichmann's legs and stuffed him into a car.

Eichmann was interrogated for 10 days in a safe house. During that time, Malkin said, he had long late-night conversations with the Nazi, assuring him that the Israelis would not harm his family. Eichmann was eventually taken to Israel for trial on charges of crimes against humanity. He was executed in 1962.

While tracking Eichmann and later guarding him, Malkin passed the time by making drawings in a sketchbook. Much of that work was published in 2003 in a two-volume set of images detailing his time on the Eichmann case and memorializing Malkin's family members lost in the Holocaust. As a secret agent for the Mossad, part of his cover was that he was a working artist.

Malkin was born Zvi Malchin in Palestine but spent his early years in Poland. In 1936, his family returned to Palestine to escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. At the age of 12, Malkin was recruited into the Haganah, a clandestine group fighting against the occupying British forces.

In the Haganah, Malkin learned a number of skills that would be useful in his later life as a Mossad agent. He became proficient in building and disassembling bombs. He also became an expert in disguises and martial arts.

After Israel gained independence, Malkin went to work for the Shin Bet, the Israel internal security service, before joining the Mossad.

He continued his counterintelligence work after the Eichmann case and retired in 1976.

In retirement, he pursued his art. His paintings received broad acclaim and were shown in Belgium, Japan, Israel and France. He also wrote five books and did private consulting on methods to combat terrorism.

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