The show, which takes place in 1977 New York City, is based on stories that series creator David Weil was told by his grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor. And while the Nazi hunters in the show are fictional characters, there was at least one real Nazi hunter who spent some of his life on the Lower East Side: Peter Malkin.
Peter Zvi Malkin was the Mossad agent who literally nabbed Adolf Eichmann on a street in Buenos Aires in 1960. Malkin was also a talented artist. During the long hours guarding Eichmann in a safe house before transporting him to Israel, Malkin drew his impressions of Eichmann and the significance of this clandestine mission.
Using what he had on hand – pencil, pen, crayons, paint, and even makeup, Malkin made sketches in a guidebook about South America – one of the props used by the Mossad agents so that they appeared to be tourists.
Shortly after I started working at the Museum, I had the privilege of meeting Omer Malkin, Peter’s son, when he loaned his father’s sketchbook for display in the exhibition Operation Finale: The Capture and Trial of Adolf Eichmann, then on view at the Museum.
Seeing Peter Malkin’s artwork firsthand – Eichmann as an assassin on top of a train with six cars, symbolizing the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust; the sketch of Eichmann over a map of Argentina, the country that gave him refuge after WWII; color portraits of some of the victims of the Holocaust – was something I will never forget. Witnessing a real-life Nazi hunter’s inner feelings was profound. Malkin captured Eichmann in person; he also captured him, and some of the turmoil of the Holocaust, on paper.