Adolf Eichmann was one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals. From the innocuous sounding post of “Transport Administrator”, the SS bureaucrat organised for millions of Jews to be sent to extermination camps. At the end of WWII, like many Nazis he slipped away to Argentina. There he stayed until 1960, when a group of agents from the Israeli intelligence service Mossad engaged in an early example of extraordinary rendition. Following his abduction he was taken to Israel for the trial that would lead to his execution two years later.
One of the key events in this story came about from an activity that seems as far removed from the world of swashbuckling espionage as it is possible to get: stamp collecting.
The celebrated Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was also an enthusiast for philately. This hobby led to him meeting “a fellow stamp enthusiast, an Austrian baron. After the two men looked through the baron’s collection, they began discussing the fate of former Nazis. The baron read aloud from a letter from Argentina. “Imagine whom else I saw,” ran one passage. “That awful swine Eichmann who commanded the Jews. He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company.”” Wiesenthal passed this information onto Mossad, who were eventually able to use it and other pieces of information to track down Eichmann.
I suppose most people think our hobbies can make us better at our jobs – that’s why we write them on our CV – and that seems to work even if your job is hunting down mass murders.
Caveat: it should be pointed out that not everyone believes that Wiesenthal played the role he claimed in the hunt for Eichmann.
Hat tip: Alan Levy’s Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File