After the fall of the Third Reich, Eichmann was briefly in American custody. He escaped, lived on a chicken farm for two years, then fled again, eventually making his way to Argentina. In time he obtained a job with Mercedes-Benz — his employee ID card is here, with his assumed name, Ricardo Klement, beneath his chillingly recognizable photograph in thick spectacles. He might have lived out his days there, but in 1956 a German-Jewish émigré grew concerned about a boy his daughter was dating, and determined that the boy’s father was a wanted man. He alerted a German state prosecutor, who soon made contact with Israeli intelligence.
The bulk of “Operation Finale” is devoted to Eichmann’s abduction from Argentina, masterminded by the Mossad and encouraged by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister. Investigators compared Nazi-era portraits to surveillance photographs and confirmed, by the shape of his ears, that Klement was indeed Eichmann. A team of more than two dozen Israeli agents was dispatched, and on May 11, 1960, the team snatched him off Garibaldi Street, bundling him into a car with bogus license plates. We see the keys and cigarette holder he had when he was kidnapped. Here is Eichmann’s false Israeli passport, used to board a delayed El Al flight, and the taped-over goggles he wore all the way to Tel Aviv. There is also newly filmed testimony from Rafi Eitan, an agent in the operation, though the overproduced videos in this show are bombastic and superficial, more appropriate to the History channel than to a rigorous exhibition.
Ben-Gurion’s announcement that Eichmann was in Israeli custody and would be prosecuted under Israeli law shocked the world. The trial was held nine months later, in a converted theater in Jerusalem, and is recreated in the final gallery here via three video projections arrayed around the unnerving, immediately recognizable defendant’s box. The image of Eichmann, impassive, untroubled, his lips pursed, is projected behind the glass booth, while to either side are the judges, the prosecutors, the spectators, and more than a dozen witnesses testifying, one by one, to what they had seen and suffered in the death camps.
Eichmann was convicted, sentenced to death and hanged in 1962: the only civil execution in Israel’s history. (That could…