Israel would have preferred Mengele

I have the final word in the exchange with the three respondents to my June Mosaic essay on the capture of Adolf Eichmann. I touch on Hannah Arendt’s failings, the real reason Ben-Gurion wanted a trial, and the need for historical accuracy in Holocaust cinema. And I speculate a bit. For example:

Even as the Eichmann trial took shape, Mossad head Isser Harel redoubled the Mossad’s efforts to find Josef Mengele. . . . In 2007, the Mossad’s history branch compiled its own retrospective account of the search; reaching almost 400 pages, it was released in 2017. The resources expended on the Mengele operation, it concluded, were “beyond calculation.”

Had Mengele been captured, his sensational trial in Israel would have reduced the Eichmann trial to a footnote. But of course it wasn’t to be: Mengele proved more elusive than Eichmann, he had more resources at his disposal, and other urgent priorities derailed the Mossad search. So the primary face of Nazi horror, from 1960 onward, remained a man invariably described as “middle-aged, balding, and bespectacled,” and occupying a middling place on the SS organizational chart.

Read this and other concluding observations, right here at Mosaic, or

Header image: Shemuel Katz, Eichmann’s testimony during his trial,
Yad Vashem Art Museum.