The Man Who Exposed Adolf Eichmann

For years, the Nazi bureaucrat who coordinated the slaughter of the Jews lived a normal life in Argentina. The Mossad first succeeded in tracking him down in 1960, thanks to a decisive tip. The informant remained anonymous – until now.

By Bettina Stangneth and Willi Winkler

August 20, 2021 - 30 min. reading time
On May 22, 1960, Justice Haim Cohn pulled out a sheet of Israeli Supreme Court letterhead to write, in his precise penmanship, a letter to his “Dear Colleague” in Germany, the Frankfurt Attorney General Fritz Bauer.

“It is a source of great satisfaction for all of us that we have finally achieved that which has for so many years been the focus of our plans and efforts. I don’t need to tell you – and couldn’t do it in a letter anyway – how deep are the bonds between us, not just in gratitude, but also in awareness of our shared goals and success.”

“It is a source of great satisfaction for all of us that we have finally achieved that which has for so many years been the focus of our plans and efforts. I don’t need to tell you – and couldn’t do it in a letter anyway – how deep are the bonds between us, not just in gratitude, but also in awareness of our shared goals and success.”

The next day, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion announced the success to the Israeli parliament: “I must inform the Knesset that not long ago the security services found one of the great Nazi war criminals – Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible along with other Nazi leaders for what they called the final solution to the Jewish problem, that is, the extermination of the 6 million Jews of Europe.”

That, though, was not entirely accurate. It was an important deception for the young nation of Israel, but it was misleading, nevertheless. It wasn’t the legendary Mossad that had been able to track down Eichmann in Argentina, rather it was a discovery facilitated by Fritz Bauer, who continually had to pressure Haim Cohn and Mossad Director Isser Harel to finally capture the desk murderer.

For the success of the project, which Cohn did not name in the letter so as to protect its recipient, another German man was necessary in addition to Fritz Bauer – a man who used to work with Adolf Eichmann, though he was not involved in his crimes. It was this man who provided the decisive tip.

The informant’s family and helpers have assiduously kept his identity secret until today. Following interviews with the children and grandchildren of those aware of the man’s identity, extensive examination of diaries, letters and documents along with considerable research in state and church archives, however, the Süddeutsche Zeitung is now, for the first time, able to verify that the help of a little-known scholar from Göttingen was instrumental in exposing Eichmann, making his trial in Jerusalem possible.

On Sunday, Oct. 18, 1959, Rosemarie, 38, and Giselher Pohl, 33, set off on the short drive from Unna to Duisburg in their VW.

The purpose of their journey was a visit with Gerhard Klammer and his wife Ilse, both 38.

On Sunday, Oct. 18, 1959, Rosemarie, 38, and Giselher Pohl, 33, set off on the short drive from Unna to Duisburg in their VW.

The purpose of their journey was a visit with Gerhard Klammer and his wife Ilse, both 38.

The two couples had been friends for years, having met right after the war in Göttingen, where all four attended university. Pohl majored in theology, while Klammer studied geology, history and philosophy.

As a student, Klammer had seen footage in the cinema of the mountains of corpses that the Nazis had produced in the concentration camps. His daughter would later recall that, years later, he would still speak of the deep shock he felt at seeing those images. As a former soldier, he was aware how lucky he had been. As was not uncommon for young men of his generation, he had applied to join the SS in 1939. At least he made mention of an application for which he was required to submit proof of Aryan heritage. Records from the Race and Settlement Main Office, however, make no mention of the application and there is also no proof of Aryan heritage in Klammer’s file. In his “Sippenakte” – the colloquial term for files kept by the Nazis to document a person’s racial purity and health – there is merely a note that his father had suffered from tuberculosis, which was reason enough for the SS to reject Klammer. As such, he was never in a position to assist in the slaughter of the Jews.

After seeing the images from the concentration camps, Klammer wanted to leave. He wanted to get out of Germany and leave Europe behind. He wanted out.

It was only years later, though, once he became an internationally renowned geologist, that Klammer was finally able to see the world.

It was only years later, though, once he became an internationally renowned geologist, that Klammer was finally able to see the world.

And he always returned from his trips with tales of adventure and would surprise his children with exotic souvenirs. This time, though, when the Pohls arrived for their visit, the children were sent out to play in the yard. This time, he brought back a secret from abroad, a sensation. “They still haven’t found Eichmann,” he told the Pohls over coffee. “I know where Eichmann lives.”

Soon after his arrival in Argentina, Klammer told the Pohls, he got to know a somewhat slovenly colleague – not exactly an authority, more of a dilettante, really. The colleague had introduced himself as Ricardo Klement, but everyone in the group knew that he was none other than Adolf Eichmann, the focus of a global search. After spending several years in hiding in Germany, Eichmann had been able to escape in 1950 via the Ratline used by many high-ranking Nazis to flee to Argentina.

“I shy away from no work. It must only make sense,” the adventure-seeker Klammer had written to his in-laws when he left his wife and child in September 1949 for a journey into the unknown.

“I shy away from no work. It must only make sense,” the adventure-seeker Klammer had written to his in-laws when he left his wife and child in September 1949 for a journey into the unknown.

Ilse Klammer was pregnant with their second child at the time, but not even that could hold him back. “Precisely because I have a family, I must take this step, which I am convinced is best for all of us. I am no vagrant pursuing a desire to traipse through global history.”

Though he had obtained his Ph.D. (with a dissertation on “Industrial Development and the Cultural Landscape of the Upper Leine Valley”), the young Doctor Klammer had had trouble finding work in Germany. He tried his luck for a time as a local reporter for the Göttinger Presse before a friend convinced Klammer to join him in Switzerland – where nobody else seemed to be expecting him. He traveled onward to Genoa, where on Dec. 16, 1949, he was able to stow away on a ship heading west. He reached Buenos Aires on Jan. 4, 1950.

A better-known traveler like Adolf Eichmann, by contrast, who left Europe six months after Klammer, could board the Giovanna C. in Genoa in full confidence that he would be welcomed with open arms in Argentina. His voyage was completely on the up-and-up, with fraudulent, but valid travel documents. The specialist for Jewish “emigration” was led from the port of Buenos Aires to his initial accommodations, with the Nazi network in the country organizing his onward journey within a few weeks to the remote province of Tucumán, where he received a position at CAPRI. The name sounds more romantic than it was.

An acronym, CAPRI stood for Compañía Argentina para Proyectos y Realizaciones Industriales – Fuldner y Cía, a construction company that specialized in the erection of industrial facilities. At company headquarters located at Avenida de Córdoba 374 in Buenos Aires, Eichmann once again found himself behind a desk.

Klammer, by contrast, had the bad luck of not being a wanted Nazi official. Nobody was waiting to help him upon arrival, there was no network available to him, nothing. Still, Klammer was right when he told his father-in-law that he didn’t shy away from work, no matter what it was. His first job was pouring beer, which earned him 420 pesos per month, not even 140 marks. It wasn’t significantly less than a worker’s wages in West Germany, but it was nevertheless insufficient to feed a family. His father-in-law had to help out with a loan.

In a fanciful letter he wrote to his former colleagues at the Göttinger Presse, Klammer imagined becoming “a great gastronome in the country of Peron – or a beggar.” Instead, though, the trained geologist was chosen to take part in a scientific expedition led by the Austrian hydrobiologist Otto Feninger, who had emigrated in 1938.

On August 17, 1950, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine newspaper published an illustrated article about the émigré, who, as the newspaper swooned, had become something of a local celebrity in the papers of Buenos Aires “after traveling several thousand kilometers through the thorny shrublands of southern Patagonia” – from local reporter to a modern-day Alexander von Humboldt in less than 12 months.

His wife, bursting with pride, consented to an interview. “Usually, the papers are full of people who have failed. But we are the lucky ones.” She told the paper how she was looking forward to taking the children to reunite with him. The Argentinian historian Uki Goñi examined passenger lists to check and found that Ilse Klammer and her daughters arrived from Hamburg on Dec. 30, 1950, on board the Corrientes. It was the first time that Klammer had seen his youngest daughter and the family was together again.

Following the successful expedition, Klammer had no shortage of offers. But the offer from Carlos Fuldner to join CAPRI sounded the most interesting. A former officer in the SS, Fuldner had founded CAPRI and had been tasked as a subcontractor with overseeing construction work on the Presidential Palace. Argentinian President Juan Perón was aware of the German engineer’s background, but Germany’s capitulation in World War II presented an opportunity for Argentina to lure away skilled workers and experts to help lead the country into the future. Nazis were more than welcome.

For business, though, the big names from the top echelons of the Nazi party weren’t particularly helpful. Fuldner wanted someone with professional qualifications and a Ph.D. to boost both his company’s performance and its reputation. Experts were needed to bring the country forward, since everything depended on sufficient energy supplies. And for that, the geologic structures of the country had to be investigated and the waterways assessed.

In numerous letters sent back home, Gerhard Klammer and his wife painted a detailed picture of life in Argentina: the weather, the children, their new house, the interesting work and the lovely co-workers. Post for Gerardo Klammer had to be addressed to Casilla de Correo 17, Tucumán, the “not entirely secure post office box belonging to CAPRI,” as Klammer warned his in-laws. The CAPRI secretary Ingrid Elisabeth Silbermann oversaw the post office box for everybody: For Ricardo Klement (Adolf Eichmann, head of Jewish Affairs. The red circle on the picture shows Eichmann around 1952 in Tucumán, next to him Gerhard Klammer.)

And also for Juan Richwitz (Berthold Heilig, head of the Nazi party in Braunschweig), Pedro Geller (Herbert Kuhlmann, commander of the 12th SS division “Hitler Youth”), and several more, many of whom are still only known by their aliases. Siegfried Uiberreither, formerly the Gauleiter in the Austrian state of Styria, and SS engineer Armin Schoklitsch were also on the CAPRI payroll, which ultimately included around 300 people.

“They’re all fools!” wrote Ilse Kammer on Dec. 17, 1952, in a letter to her parents. “As such, we’re basically quite happy that we soon won’t have anything more to do with all the idiots and Nazis.”

In comparison with Doctor Klammer, the “technician” Eichmann had fantastic contacts, but his training as an SS officer hadn’t exactly prepared him for practical work. The members of the Nazi generation who failed in their attempts to take over the world now found themselves answering to a man 15 years their junior because he had received a solid scientific education. The more CAPRI became a refuge for ex-Nazis, the less productive they became for the company. Furthermore, as Klammer would soon realize, they got on extremely well with each other, such that they would spend weekends together “at the Eichmanns” making orange marmalade, as the daughter of the Heiligs would note in her diary. Eichmann, too, had since been joined by his family and his children were not given aliases. “Ricardo Klement” lived with them as their alleged “uncle.” And the uncle worked for a surveying team that collected data for Klammer. There are images of Klement on horseback in the field with other men, apparently quite taken with the gaucho pose.

CAPRI was constantly running into difficulties and geologist Klammer grew increasingly unhappy with his work. But then things seemed to improve slightly. On March 18, 1953, he wrote in a letter to his father-in-law: “CAPRI has got back on track and offered to keep me on, apparently under better conditions, which will be the result of getting rid of all personnel that are insufficiently skilled.” At the same time, his professor was trying to lure him back to Germany. The professor kept a tenure-track assistant job open for him until the winter semester of 1953 at the University of Braunschweig. But that would have been a desk job in Germany, not at all comparable with the opportunity to help with the development of entire countries.

The Klammers had lived through the war and were afraid that it might return. Ilse even tried to convince her parents to emigrate to Argentina. “If Eisenhower wins,” she wrote, referring to the U.S. general who had been instrumental in defeating Germany and who was now running for president, “you won’t have much chance of avoiding a war.” They felt safer in Argentina, and more than anything, there was plenty of space.

They would send letters back home, and photos of the Andes.

They would send letters back home, and photos of the Andes.

Klammer, meanwhile, also found the time for science in addition to his job. For a publication honoring his Ph.D. supervisor, he contributed an article on “The Cascade Levels of Rivers in the Eastern Foothills of the Aconcagua Mountains in Tucumán.”

For Eichmann, who still had to use his alias Ricardo Klement, there wasn’t much left to do at CAPRI. His incessant urge for power led him to Buenos Aires, where he remained dependent on his comrades.

Gerardo Klammer, by contrast, was a free man who didn’t have to worry about where his next offer was coming from. First, he went to São Paulo, where he learned Portuguese in addition to the Spanish he had learned in Argentina. He would only return to Germany in 1957, when he was recruited by DEMAG, an internationally active producer of military and industrial equipment. He built a house for his family in Duisburg even as he himself would often travel the world for nine months at a time.

Photos from the period show him in Syria, Egypt and on the Caspian Sea. He had his passport renewed in South Korea.

The former teacher Martin Lichte, who met Klammer when he was on a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) stipend in Brazil, describes Klammer as a sophisticated globetrotter and man of the world, somebody who “was tired of the confines and limitations of Europe.” An adventurer, but one “with both feet on the ground.”

At the age of 92, shortly before her death, Rosemarie Pohl made a recording for her daughter, in which she described what Klammer, freshly back from a trip to Syria, told them in the fall of 1959 “in the strictest secrecy.”

That day in October 1959, he told the Pohls that he had recently seen his old colleague get off a bus in Buenos Aires.

Klammer said he then followed Eichmann and learned that he lived at 4261 Calle Chacabuco, Olivos. He also spoke with the neighbors to be certain that Eichmann lived there. The building is still standing today.

Klammer said he then followed Eichmann and learned that he lived at 4261 Calle Chacabuco, Olivos. He also spoke with the neighbors to be certain that Eichmann lived there. The building is still standing today.

The friends that day immediately agreed: “That information must be passed on!”

The four had spent defining years of their lives together, heavily influenced by the time they shared at the University of Göttingen. Pohl and Klammer had been in the war, with Pohl having been wounded shortly before it came to an end. Like so many other junior officers in the Wehrmacht, as Germany’s Nazi-era military was called, university studies were to offer them a second chance. They were there at the same time as Richard von Weizsäcker, who would go on to become president of West Germany, and Hartmut von Hentig, who became a famous pedagogue. Axel von dem Bussche, whose attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler had been foiled, was also there, living just four doors down from Gerhard and Ilse Klammer in Göttingen. Giselher Pohl’s father had been a pastor in Horschowitz in the German Sudetenland (now called Hořovičky in the present-day Czech Republic) and his son also studied theology and began his career as an assistant pastor for his future father-in-law. It was an era of postwar guilt and religious repentance in Germany and the churches were full. In her memoirs, the Göttingen-based historian recalls “a spiritual and moral euphoria of the kind experienced only rarely.”

In the early 1950s, Gerhard Klammer had already shared what he knew about Adolf Eichmann’s whereabouts with the German authorities, but according to his daughter, everybody was too focused on reconstruction to take much of an interest in his information.

Generally, Klammer didn’t have much use for the church – he hated large groups. But on this issue, it would prove useful. “I want Eichmann to be found, captured and punished,” was his position, as recalled by his family. But Klammer also had to be concerned about his future career prospects should he provide further clues about Adolf Eichmann’s location. For that reason, the responsibility for passing along the information was given to the Pohls. “As a private person, I just can’t go public with a thing like that,” said Klammer, who was still professionally active in South America.

By that time in West Germany, to be sure, the landmark Einsatzgruppen trial – which charged 10 Germans for war crimes committed in Lithuania – had taken place in Ulm, and in that same year of 1958, the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes had been established in Ludwigsburg, but there still wasn’t an overabundant amount of enthusiasm for dragging Nazis into court. In the German parliament, the Bundestag, an issue was under discussion that went by the somewhat delicate name of “Final Solution to the war criminal question” – the attempt, essentially, to integrate Nazi criminals into postwar society with as little punishment as possible. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, meanwhile, employed at the Chancellery one of the most influential bureaucrats of the Third Reich in the form of Hans Globke. The chancellor kept him on staff even though it was well known that the Catholic Globke had written a legal annotation to the Nuremberg Race Laws that expressed no objection to the discrimination, essentially paving the bureaucratic way for the persecution of the Jews.

The interest in capturing Eichmann was also rather low because nobody knew what he might say and whose names he might mention if he were allowed to testify in court. Starting with the Wannsee Conference held in January 1942, Eichmann had been a key interdepartmental contact for Heydrich and Himmler when it came to the slaughter of the Jews. And the entire West German judiciary, the Federal Criminal Police Office and the German foreign intelligence agency were saturated with former SS men – Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann’s former comrades.

With the worldly path having failed to act on Klammer’s information, he turned to the church. And his friend Pohl had, in 1956, become one of the first military chaplains for the country’s newly formed military, the Bundeswehr. Recounting the conversation later, Rosemarie Pohl recalls Klammer telling her husband that it could work “if you speak with your boss in Bonn so that he passes it on.” Pohl’s superior was Bishop Hermann Kunst, and Kunst, they believed, would know how to proceed.

As a representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Kunst had become the first military bishop in 1957. He didn’t just see his post as a religious function, but also knew how to take advantage of its political possibilities, as a non-elected and thus largely independent diplomat. Historian Dagmar Pöpping believes that Kunst saw himself as having been granted “true authority” by both the EKD and by the German government. “Kunst spoke with everybody, from German domestic intelligence officials to the German Communist Party. For him, it wasn’t a contradiction to seek shorter prison terms for German war criminals while also seeking reconciliation with Poland or promoting the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace.” He was, however, rather critical of Israel as a nation, and within his church, he even tried to delay diplomatic recognition of the country.

Giselher Pohl was a favorite of the bishop. Kunst had arranged for Pohl to get a home of his own, an assistant pastor and a car. Pohl was particularly proud of the pastor’s gown Kunst had given him.

As the Pohl family photo albums attest, Kunst was a frequent visitor at family gatherings and otherwise took a keen interest in the Pohls’ wellbeing. On their anniversary on Nov. 5, 1959, Pohl received a gift from Kunst of 500 deutsche marks. “So much generosity,” Rosemarie Pohl wrote in her diary. “Very touching.”

Five days later, on Nov. 10, the diary includes the entry: “Gisel in Bonn to the Bishop.” Kunst acted quickly: On Nov. 25, just two weeks later, came the entry: “Visit from Attorney General Bauer. Nice.”

Historian Kristian Buchna says that Kunst had a tendency toward pompousness. “Kunst saw in his role in the West German capital the clear, if sometimes slightly awkward tradition of Luther’s adviser function.” On the 60th birthday of his colleague Hans Joachim Iwand – who himself had contributed an expert opinion to a case begin prosecuted by Prosecutor General Fritz Bauer – Kunst appeared on July 11, 1959, wearing a Luther gown despite the summer heat, an outfit that earned him a bit of ribbing from the others. He enjoyed close ties with Adenauer’s questionable confidant Globke. Indeed, Kunst had Globke to thank for a special budget that he didn’t just use to help out pastors in need. The quarterly payment from a secret Chancellery slush fund served “social-political purposes” or for “state-political education work,” which allowed Kunst to broaden his political influence.

Why, though, should the doubtlessly conservative Hermann Kunst take the Eichmann revelation to Fritz Bauer, the Jewish Social Democrat who had emigrated from Nazi Germany and then returned after the war?

At first glance, there seemed little in common between Kunst, the man who not long earlier had deployed his oratorical skills on behalf of the Führer and his war effort, and Fritz Bauer, who had only survived Hitler’s rule because he fled the country, a man who had made it his life’s mission to prosecute the war criminals of the Nazi era.

Furthermore, Kunst had ties with West Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND, where he even had a code name – a not very original one, at that, Künstler, the German word for artist. Would it not have made more sense for him to turn to Globke with his sensitive information, or to BND head Reinhard Gehlen? Globke seems all the more likely since the two were practically neighbors in Bonn. But Kunst’s name makes no appearance in Globke’s appointment diary from this period in 1959; indeed, Globke was apparently busy accepting honorary medals from Portugal, Spain, Chile and Nicaragua at the time.

Klammer and Pohl, as it turned out, had not made a mistake by going to Kunst and he acted just as they had hoped. The military bishop decided to turn quietly to the judiciary, consistent with his understanding of how the state should function. Turning to Globke would have been a betrayal of Pohl, a betrayal of a fellow Christian, a betrayal of a fellow soldier.

He must have known that in this particular situation, Globke was the wrong person to turn to. There is much to indicate that Globke was quite happy to have Eichmann remain in hiding in Argentina. After all, German intelligence and political leaders had known since 1952 that Eichmann was there. Had there been a desire to do so, finding him wouldn’t have been difficult. A warrant for Eichmann’s arrest had been issued in 1956, but nobody seemed to care much. Furthermore, with their willful blindness, Globke and Adenauer were essentially just fulfilling the wishes of the voters, most of whom wanted to hear nothing more of the Nazis.

“We weren’t aware of the huge implications,” Rosemarie Pohl told her daughter in recalling the events of autumn 1959. What began as a conversation between two close friends would have been swallowed up like everything else in West Germany’s postwar suppression machinery had Kunst not known that this case was unfit for the standard hierarchy. It was, rather, one for power players like himself and Fritz Bauer.

Working with Bauer rather than Globke held the promise of doing a great deed – for Klammer, for Pohl and, especially, for Kunst.

Fritz Bauer was the only person in West Germany who really wanted to see Eichmann in court and who had the power to put him there.

Fritz Bauer was the only person in West Germany who really wanted to see Eichmann in court and who had the power to put him there.

According to a decision from the Federal Court of Justice, Federal Prosecutor General Bauer was responsible for the search for Eichmann. In a perfect world, in other words, the only possible decision would have been turning to him. But the world wasn’t perfect – it was West Germany and it was 1959.

Still, not even Kunst could have known how far Fritz Bauer had already gone in his search for Eichmann, and that he was joining an international game.

Like Kunst, Bauer was also able to pull his own political strings, thanks to support from Hessian Governor Georg-August Zinn, also a Social Democrat. It was Zinn who had brought Bauer to Frankfurt in the first place. Otherwise, though, Bauer was largely on his own. His remark, that he enters enemy territory whenever he walks out of his office, has been quoted many times.

Bauer had been the focus of skepticism since returning from exile abroad in 1949. He was a mischief-maker who didn’t just spread disquiet but could also put people behind bars. In 1952, he had dragged Otto Ernst Remer into court because he still considered resistance to Hitler to be treason. Since then, everybody had known that Bauer wasn’t prepared to let sleeping dogs from the past lie. It wasn’t a popular approach, but Bauer put his faith in the younger generation of the Klammers and the Pohls, which was “ready to learn the whole story, the whole truth – one with which their parents sometimes find it difficult to cope.”

In 1957, just a few months after taking up his official duties in Frankfurt, Prosecutor General Bauer is said to have received a letter from Argentina from Lothar Hermann, a German Jew who had fled the Nazis and was now living in Coronel Suárez. Hermann wanted his homeland to know that Adolf Eichmann was living with his family in Buenos Aires.

In other words, even a Jewish émigré living in a small city in Argentina knew in 1957 that such information belonged in Frankfurt. Bauer was convinced the tip was accurate, since it wasn’t the first indication he had received that Eichmann was in Argentina. But to his frustration, there wasn’t anything that could be done about it. He had long since lost his faith in the West German judiciary and had thus consciously chosen to skirt the law. Taking his knowledge out of the country was not consistent with the oath of office he had given as a public prosecutor – it was, in short, treason. Bauer, though, traveled to Jerusalem several times to share his information, but he didn’t even get particularly far with Isser Harel, director of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Lother Hermann’s letter, after all, was unconvincing on two counts: Hermann had confused Eichmann’s alias with that of his landlord, Francisco Schmidt, and he had failed to mention that he himself suffered from extremely poor eyesight. When Harel’s people tried to verify the information in Argentina, they found the wrong man and a blind witness. By the time Bauer made his visit to the Pohls in Unna, he had long since exhausted the patience of the Israeli officials. He couldn’t count on support in West Germany; while in Israel, he would only be able to get anywhere if he had additional, incontrovertible, proof.

“People knew Bauer from his demeanor, and he was known as an extremely upstanding and courageous man.” Rosemarie Pohl still remembered her Nov. 25, 1959, encounter with Bauer as an elderly woman. When the prosecutor general showed up at their home, the Pohls knew that the information provided by their friend Klammer had ended up in the right hands. Bauer arrived with a chauffer “in a nice car.” He wasn’t in a hurry at all, Rosemarie Pohl recalled, and “insisted that I be there as a silent witness. He took no notes, keeping everything in his memory.” But Mrs. Pohl also recalled how mistrustful Bauer was. He carefully felt out Pohl, saying: “As a man of God, you will receive no reward money. You are only acting on behalf of God. A murderer must be punished.” Her husband immediately responded: “I’m not even considering that money could be involved. I see it as my duty.” The meeting ended in mutual understanding.

Eight days later, Bauer was in Israel. And this time, he wasn’t empty handed. He could present Eichmann to Cohn and Harel on a silver platter. “12/3/59 meeting with Dr. Fritz Bauer,” begins the sober meeting notes that found their way into the Mossad archive. Bauer could now give them everything necessary for Eichmann’s arrest. With Klammer’s knowledge of Eichmann in Argentina, he could put all of the puzzle pieces together: The information provided by Lothar Hermann; the unsuccessful investigations by the Mossad; and the numerous smaller tips that he had received over the years. What the minutes don’t indicate, however, is that Bauer raised his voice, as meeting participants would relate much later. What else did they want, Bauer demanded, now that enough evidence was on the table that even a neophyte detective in training could solve the case? With the help of Klammer’s chance encounter a few months previously, Bauer wasn’t just able to confirm Eichmann’s address of Calle Chacabuco 4261. Klammer had known Eichmann since his arrival in Argentina, he knew how he lived, his family, their shared employer, their co-workers.

And, Bauer had a trump card: a photo.

And, Bauer had a trump card: a photo.

“The image is part of a photo showing CAPRI employees,” the minutes read. It was taken, Bauer told the Israelis, by Fuldner y Compañia in Tucumán in the early 1950s. Klammer had made another trip to Unna on Oct. 30, 1959, to speak once more with Pohl before his meeting with the military bishop Kunst. Mrs. Pohl only made a brief note of the short meeting, but during the visit, Klammer likely handed over evidence to Pohl. The photo that Bauer presented in Israel had clearly been torn in two. “The missing half,” according to the minutes of the meeting in Israel, “was removed by Dr. B. because his source can be seen” – to whom he had promised complete discretion, which he then demanded of the Israeli officials as well. In his memoirs, Iser Harel wrote that Bauer could not be moved in the ensuing months either to provide more information about his source. All those involved maintained their silence to the present day: the prosecutor general, the military bishop and, hardly surprising, the Mossad.

In spring 2011, Gerhard Klammer’s children and grandchildren discovered him standing next to Eichmann in a photo illustrating a story about the trial in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. They knew nothing about the image – it was the first time the complete photo had been published, though Der Spiegel didn’t identify Klammer in the caption.

And it remained completely unknown until today that the tall man in the group photo, who is clearly trying to put as much space between himself and Eichmann as possible, played a decisive role in his capture. Without Klammer, Bauer would have had to give up; without Klammer’s photo, he never would have been able to push the hesitant Israeli officials to once again send agents to Argentina. But three days after Bauer’s meeting in Israel, Ben Gurion issued the order to capture “Attila,” as Eichmann would be called from that moment forward. Bauer also had a cover name: “Tolstoy.”

Half a year later, Ben Gurion was able to announce the Mossad’s greatest success to the public.

Half a year later, Ben Gurion was able to announce the Mossad’s greatest success to the public.

The reaction among West German government officials to Ben Gurion’s announcement was pure panic, followed by hectic activity. Experts were gathered and a commission was established to prepare Germany for the coming trial and to ensure that the German people, meaning Adenauer and Globke, were protected from potential harm. The two were just as unprepared for the bombshell announcement from Israel as was the West German intelligence community – as were their counterparts at the CIA.

In January 1961, the American intelligence agency sent a delegate to meet with Fritz Bauer in the search for information. Bauer, read the minutes of that meeting, which are to be found in the CIA file on Hans Globke, was quite accommodating and in no way shied away from sharing his views on the political situation, but when it came to “the issue of Eichmann’s abduction and his role,” he completely clammed up. They were, Bauer told the CIA liaison, “meaningless historical questions.” The CIA agent couldn’t prove it, the minutes read toward the end, but he was convinced that Bauer was in some way tied up with senior members of Israeli intelligence. The agent didn’t know how right he was. Bauer, who didn’t have sufficient power on his own, used the Mossad as the executive arm of the Attorney General’s Office in Frankfurt.

Hermann Kunst was also confronted with the consequences of his actions. Following Eichmann’s capture, Superintendent Wilhelm Mensing-Braun, head of the Evangelical diocese in Linz, where Kunst’s family was from, contacted Kunst and interceded on behalf of the poor prisoner in Israel. “Like each of his brothers, his character is extremely respectable, and he is a man with a good heart and a great deal of readiness to help others,” the pastor insisted. “I can’t imagine that he would ever have been capable of cruelty or criminal acts.” The entire family, the pastor concluded, is devout.

Hermann Kunst, the addressee of this missive, reacted differently than one might expect. A friendly yet clear reply was received by the “Dear Esteemed Colleague,” a copy of which can be found in the Evangelical Central Archives in Berlin. “Adolf Eichmann wouldn’t be the only one from an impeccable parental home to lead an irreproachable youth only to be unable to escape the maelstrom of crime under Hitler.”

Kunst was clever enough to keep his cooperation with Bauer secret from Globke, who was also responsible for West Germany’s intelligence agencies. Indeed, the entire episode had no effect on the friendship between Kunst and Globke. When the controversial Chancellery adviser lost his job together with Adenauer in fall 1963, Kunst paid him a final compliment. He praised his work in a manner which today, knowing the full story, reads like unadulterated mockery. The man who liked to flex his muscles away from the public eye and who believed he knew all that was worth knowing because of the regular intelligence reports he received hadn’t got but even a whiff of what was going on right under his nose. Globke’s work, Kunst wrote, “had to take place in silence, but it will bestow honor on you and your entire family that you, in a period of terrible devastation, a time of exhaustion and resignation, were able to make such an important contribution to the realignment of our people.”

The abduction of Eichmann also led to a certain amount of commotion in South America, as well. Travelers were examined more closely to ensure that yet another Nazi wasn’t able to slip across the border undetected. In Unna, a letter from Klammer arrived in October 1960 in which he made light of all the excitement. “Dear Pohls! I’m back at the scene of the crime. The night before last at the airport, I was almost arrested as Kaltenbrunner. They had had to release a fake Bormann a couple of days previously.” Klammer, who had just arrived from Brazil, seemed particularly suspicious. “In any case, they read my passport from the front to the back, their faces growing more and more serious. Obviously a wandering war criminal-contact! Why had I lived in Tucumán, when, for what purpose? Why had I traveled in and out so often? Where were my Argentinian papers? You got rid of them, right?” The Argentinian border officials knew no more about who they had in front of them than did the Germans or the Israelis. “I should have told them that Eichmann used to be my assistant, they wouldn’t have been surprised at all.” Klammer, though, was at pains to avoid calling attention to himself. The Pohls knew the whole story, but he didn’t want anyone else to know. “He never said anything about having been involved in this story in any way,” says Gerhard Klammer’s daughter. She only learned about it from her mother after he had died.

The trial against Otto Adolf Eichmann began in April 1961, with the entire world watching.

The trial against Otto Adolf Eichmann began in April 1961, with the entire world watching.

On Saturday, July 1, 1961, Fritz Bauer made a second visit to the pastor’s home in Unna. He wasn’t just there to express his gratitude: The German helpers, he told the Pohls, had been invited to visit Israel, the Holy Land.

The Pohls took advantage of the generous offer.

They, too, could finally go on a trip. Their entire journey is documented in a photo album: the expensive plane tickets, the nice hotels, the landscapes, the concerts (Sergiu Celibidache!) and unexpected encounters: In Caesarea, they met Marc Chagall. And then, from the VIP stand at a parade, as documented in their diary, “we saw Ben Gurion!” – though he can hardly be seen in the photo. Rosemarie Pohl took pictures of her husband gazing contemplatively into the desert. They were, she wrote, “blissful” as they sang spirituals, and they were excited to be at the Mediterranean. “Went swimming on February 11!” It was a trip that hardly anybody in Germany could have afforded. “We were received like guests of the state.” The best souvenir from their three-week trip arrived just in time for Christmas at the end of the year: A large box full of Jaffa oranges for the entire family.

Klammer chose not to go to Israel. An official trip could have exposed him, and the name of the man who had put Eichmann in court would have then been public knowledge. As important as his role was, he wanted to remain in the background. Furthermore, because he was professionally active in the Middle East, an Israeli visa in his passport could have been bad for business. The invitation remained open, but Klammer never visited Israel.

But he did want to see the Pohls before their trip. “Celebrated with the Klammers in Duisburg!” is the first entry in Rosemarie Pohl’s diary from 1962. Three weeks before setting off on their trip of appreciation, the friends celebrated New Year’s Eve together.

The Mossad found its own, unusual way to honor their secret assistants. The exhibition “Operation Finale. The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann” – labeled “Mossad sponsored – set off from Tel Aviv in 2011 on a journey around the world. It tells the entire story on a single panel without divulging anything about the Pohls or the Klammers. The collage, made up of “declassified documents and photos” is only really understandable for those in the know. The decisive portion of the photo, which Fritz Bauer brought to Israel half a century earlier, is shown on the panel twice, right next to the attorney general himself.

Klammer would continue traveling throughout his life and passed away in 1982. In 2003, the university library in Göttingen was surprised to receive a gift in grateful memory of his studies there, which had opened up the world to him: an extensive collection of travel literature, with a focus on the works of Alexander von Humboldt in several languages.

His loyal friend Pohl remained a military pastor until 1967, including several years in El Paso, Texas, before once again taking charge of a parish. His last post was in the town of Welver, in North Rhine-Westphalia, where he led renovation work on the church. In his 1996 obituary, it read that he had been called “to the great army.”

The vow of secrecy that the two families swore to in 1959 remains in force today. The children and grandchildren allowed access to their families’ documents only on condition that they not be identified.


Editors Martin Wittmann, Pia Ratzesberger, Thorsten Schmitz
Digital Storytelling Thorsten Schmitz
Digital Design Felix Hunger
Photo Editor Julia Hecht
Translation Charles Hawley