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Friday, February 19, 2016

Nazi War Criminal Exhibition Makes World Premiere at Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 12:16 PM

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In the wake of the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi responsible for the transport of millions of people to Nazi death camps, disappeared. After escaping an American camp he changed his name and fled to Argentina, hoping to avoid any sort of trial or sentencing.

But the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service, thought otherwise. On a tip the group tracked him down and put together a complex plan smuggle him back to Israel to stand trial in 1961. It’s a fascinating story; today, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage opens Operation Finale: The Capture and Trial of Adolf Eichmann, the first comprehensive exhibition in the U.S. about the event.

The 4,000-square-foot multimedia exhibit features spy artifacts from the pursuit of the war criminal never before seen outside of Israel including maps, printed case files and hand forged documents.

Avner Avraham, a former agent and espionage expert, worked for the Mossad for nearly three decades before retiring last year. He curated the artifacts in Operation Finale. He is in Cleveland for the exhibition's opening. He said he began combing through the Mossad's Eichmann archives five years ago for the 50th anniversary of the trial.

“After 50 years, you can share the information [because it’s declassified],” he says yesterday from the Maltz, where he led a group on a tour of the exhibit. “I found lots of stuff and we had all sorts of special items and documents. It was good timing.”

Avraham says he sent a message to retired agents and made an announcement that he was going to put together an exhibit about Eichmann.

“I’m a collector and I collect everything,” he says. “Researching 'Operation Finale'—which was the code name of the Mossad operation—became my life. Even now I get emails with new details with new information.”

Operation Finale also includes an immersive video installation that includes the iconic bullet proof glass booth from which Eichmann testified during his globally broadcast trial. “The booth was built by the Mossad agent,” Avraham says. “After the trial, they gave it as a gift to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, the first Holocaust museum in the world.”

Avraham thinks the exhibition has significance today. “I think it’s one of the more important stories of the Jewish people," he says. “Also, look at what is happening around the world today. Look at what is happening in Syria. People kill each other. When we say ‘Never Again,’ people have to understand [genocide and] what people are talking about.”

The exhibit will be on display through June 12 at the Maltz. It will then travel the country.

“This exhibition is a new way to tell the Holocaust story and it has been put together in the most professional way," says Avraham. “All the design and the videos are great.”

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