For decades, Israel’s espionage agency, the Mossad, kept a file on Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor responsible for, among other atrocities, selecting which new inmates at Auschwitz would die immediately in the gas chambers and which would be put to work first or subjected to his horrible “medical” experiments.
The file is thousands of pages long and documents the Mossad’s efforts to capture or assassinate the war criminal: countless hours of labor, huge sums of money, scores of agents and sources, wiretaps, break-ins, secret photographs and just about every other ploy in the espionage tool kit, including recruiting Nazis and journalists.
It all amounted to nothing. Mengele never saw justice.
For the first time, it’s possible to say why the Mossad failed to apprehend the man who was perhaps the most wanted Nazi to survive World War II. Documents and interviews reveal that contrary to popular belief, for most of the time that Mengele was in hiding, the Mossad wasn’t looking for him at all — or placed finding him far down its to-do list. My new research sheds light on a time when realism and maturity shaped the agency’s priorities, rather than an understandable desire to spill Nazi blood.