Captors' Hero: Peter J. Malkin's Early Years

"Evil does not exist in isolation. It is a product of amorality by consensus. Could it happen again? Who can say? I only know it is a question we must never stop asking." — Peter Z. Malkin

The cover of Eichmann's memoir.

In Evan M. Wiener's provocative and suspenseful new play Captors, Peter Z. Malkin, a young Israeli agent, captures and guards Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi party's "Final Solution to the Jewish Question." The play itself is based on Malkin's memoir Eichmann in My Hands (now out of print). The agent's surprising capacity for empathy made him the perfect man to crack Eichmann, and a series of formative experiences led him to the moment of opportunity.

Malkin's family moved from Poland to Palestine in 1933 when he was a small child. Because of restrictive immigration policies, his oldest sister Fruma was unable to get a visa and stayed behind with her husband and children. While his parents and older brother worked long hours, a scrappy, adventurous, and unsupervised Malkin grew up in a chaotic and dangerous environment, stealing and street fighting in the blind alleys of Haifa. At 12, Malkin joined the Haganah, an underground army fighting the British for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. His career as a youthful offender prepared him well for his life in the Underground. Instead of candy, he now stole ammunition and could escape any patrol. For Malkin, as much as he believed in the cause, it was also great fun.

Shortly before Malkin graduated from high school, World War II came to a close, and his family learned that Fruma had been killed in the Holocaust. Malkin vowed to his mother that he would kill three Germans, one for each of his sisters. After training in the army as an explosives specialist, Malkin applied to work with the Mossad, stating on his application as his reason for applying, "I like adventure." He was hired to train Israeli Embassy personnel in detecting and disarming letter bombs. Malkin became a trusted agent by the time his superior Uzi informed him that the two would travel to Buenos Aires to capture Adolf Eichmann.

After Eichmann's capture, Malkin's mother suspected he had been involved and pestered him about where he had been. Ever the professional, he insisted he was in Paris. He kepts his secret until he went to see his mother on her deathbed:

I knelt beside her and took her hand. "Mama," I whispered. "Mama, it's me, Peter. Mama, I want to tell you something. What I promised, I have done. I have captured Eichmann." There was no response. "Mama, Fruma was avenged. It was her brother who captured Adolf Eichmann." I repeated it. But suddenly her hand began to squeeze mine. "Do you understand, Mama?" I captured Eichmann." Her eyes were open now. "Yes," she managed in a whisper. "I understand."

Lilia Rubin

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