On the night of May 11, 1980, Israeli Mossad agent Peter Malkin clamped his hand over Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann’s mouth – silencing the man for whom he said even remorse was not enough.
Malkin, who was responsible for kidnapping Eichmann and bringing him to trial in Israel spoke last night as the concluding lecturer for Hillel’s 23rd Conference on the Holocaust.
“We brought the most important man responsible for sending millions of people to their deaths to stand trial and to tell a story, so the new generation and the whole world could listen to the process and what happened,” he said.
He told the packed East Hall lecture room how he captured Eichmann, disguised him, sat and talked with him and then transported him to Israel where he stood trial. Malkin stressed the importance of telling his story and having Holocaust survivors speaking at the trial.
The capture had personal importance to him as well, as he lost 150 relatives in the Holocaust. His sister and her three children died in Auschwitz.
Though he said Eichmann’s capture was significant because it was of concern to millions of people and was executed well, he says he is merely a man who did his job.
“I never felt like a hero. People don’t have to feel like heroes when they do their job – there’s no one who wouldn’t do it. You fulfill your duty as best you can, that’s a hero,” he said.
“Everyone who seeks justice and was in my position in the secret service – if they were given the chance to do it and had the capacity to do what I did – he would do it.”
Malkin said terror has many faces and that though its origins are being portrayed as having started with the Sept. 11 incident, it started long ago.
“Terror was then and terror is now – the same effect, the same ways. And we have to be careful that it will never happen again,” he said.
LSA senior Steve Rosenberg said he enjoyed hearing Malkin’s firsthand account and hearing an explanation of what actually happened.
“It really just makes it hit home a lot more. It adds a human element to it,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg said he also liked Malkin’s message that people need to be responsible for their actions, and that in Eichmann’s case – even possible goodness within him – could not negate the millions of deaths he orchestrated.
Conference co-chair Eric Frank said he hopes the 10-day conference connected someone who would not have otherwise been connected with the Holocaust an opportunity to gain a greater understanding for what the events that occurred.
Frank, a Business junior, added that Malkin was also invited to speak because of his action on the behalf of Israel to continue to strive to apprehend those responsible for the Holocaust.
“It shows that even after the Holocaust there’s still actions that need to be taken to attempt to right the wrongs perpetrated by the Nazis,” Frank said. “Obviously catching him doesn’t make all the evils of the Holocaust be forgotten, but it brought one person responsible for it to justice.”
Third-year Medical student Matthew Holtzman said he chose to attend last night’s event because it was a rare opportunity.
“It’s the most incredible thing – to hear someone talk who has transformed the concept of international justice,” Holtzman said.
He added that he liked the focus on the emotional content as well as the humor the speaker wove into his words.
“It had all the content of a great spy novel but it was real,” he said.