Operation Finale

 There are two movies about Adolf Eichmann's participation in the planning of the "Final Solution," three movies about his capture, one about his interrogation, and three about his trial. Most of the other movies about the Holocaust are about the genocide he orchestrated.

But his whole story-from before the Shoah (Holocaust) he helped create to his execution in Israel-has never been on display all at once. Until now.

Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann is the new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie. It takes its title from Operation Finale, the name of the Mossad action to capture the fugitive war criminal in Argentina. It will run at the Museum from February to June, augmented by films, lectures, and other events during its stay.

The Operation Finale exhibit features some 60 artifacts from Eichmann's story, including the camera that captured his image while he was under Mossad surveillance in Argentina, the blindfold he wore during his extraction, and items he had on his person when he was apprehended.

Aside from its run in the Chicago area, the exhibit will only run in Cleveland, New York, and Florida. The exhibit is debuting in Cleveland, as Milton Maltz, a founder of Cleveland's Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, assembled the materials. Many-including some only recently declassified-are from the Mossad' s own archival collections regarding Eichmann's capture. Others came from the Yad Vashem archives of his Israeli war-crimes trial, which include a dossier on Eichmann compiled by Simon Wiesenthal.

While Adolf Eichmann's name was changed to Ricardo Klement, his children- including his son, Klaus-continued to use the last name Eichmann. Sylvia Hermann, a Holocaust survivor's daughter, dated Klaus. Her father, Lothar, recognized the last name; he contacted German prosecutor Fritz Bauer, who in turn contacted the Mossad. Lothar's letter to Bauer is on display as well.

One large item is on loan from the Ghetto Fighter's Museum in northern Israel. It is the clear, bulletproof booth Eichmann sat in during his trial; it was important that no one assassinated him before he was legally convicted and all his crimes laid bare. The booth is referred to in the title of one of the films about him, The Man in the Glass Booth . At the exhibit, films taken at Eichmann's trial will be projected into and around the booth, recreating the trial itself.

Another multi-media element is a series of recordings of interviews, done in commemoration of the trial's 50 th anniversary, of those who participated in Eichmann's apprehension and trial. The last part of the exhibit is another set of recordings, of survivors recalling the horrifying impact Eichmann had on their lives, and their reactions to his capture, trial, and execution.

The exhibit opens on Feb. 19 with a talk by former Mossad agent Avner Avraham, Orit Shaham Gover from Tel Aviv's Beit Hatfutsot (also known as the Diaspora Museum), and Ariel Efron, the exhibition's media designer and producer.

Supporting the exhibit will be lectures on current challenges in the field of intelligence and on the investigation of Nazis and other genocidal war criminals. There will also be screenings of movies on the international impact of the trials at the time and on families seeking to bring war criminals to justice, as well as a reading of a play about how "good" people get caught up in fanatical movements.

The first exhibit of the Operation Finale artifacts was at the Knesset in 2011, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the trial. Arielle Weininger, the Illinois museum's Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, was in Israel at the time and saw the exhibit when it moved to Beit Hatfutsot. She met Avraham and began the work of bringing the items to Illinois.

For Weininger, "one of the most powerful" images is a drawing of Eichmann's ear. Like a fingerprint, the shape of a person's ear is unique and remains constant during the aging process. Unlike a fingerprint, it can be photographed at a distance. A comparison of ears showing in WWII-era Eichmann photos with those in surveillance images taken of him in Argentina decades later helped prove his identity to the Mossad agents.

The life's work of Adolf Eichmann was to bring about the end of the Jewish people. Today, we can bear witness to the end of Eichmann. n

Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann runs from Feb. 15-June 18, at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, in Skokie. For more information, visit their website: https://www.ilholocaustmuseum.org .  

 



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