Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Israel's former prime minister Menachem Begin was involved in a plot to blow up West Germany's first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer

Luke Harding:

The respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed that the Zionist leader approved and helped organise the assassination attempt using a bomb hidden in an encyclopaedia, even offering to sell his gold watch as the conspirators ran out of money.

The bomb, arranged in March 1952, was detected before it reached Adenauer, but exploded killing a disposal expert and injuring two of his colleagues. French detectives arrested five Israeli people in Paris, all of whom were members of the Zionist group Irgun Tsvai Leumi, which Begin was linked to.

One of the alleged conspirators, Elieser Sudit, now 82, implicated Begin in a memoir written 40 years after the bomb went off. Begin, who was to become Israel's prime minister between 1977 and 1983, was, after the war, incensed by Adenauer's offer to pay Israel compensation for the Holocaust. He clashed bitterly with Israel's Labour leader David Ben-Gurion, rejecting his talks with Germany for compensation for the Nazis' crimes against the Jews.

Mr Sudit said he was summoned to a meeting at Begin's Tel Aviv home. "I remember that at the beginning of the meeting Begin said that something had to be done against Adenauer and the reparations. I didn't know even who Adenauer was, but I agreed with Begin that this agreement should not be accepted.

"We thought the Germans should pay directly to the survivors of the Holocaust and that the government of Israel should not take the money from them in the name of the Jewish people and buy tractors with it for the kibbutzim."

Henning Sietz, a journalist who has written a book about the plot, told the Guardian yesterday: "Begin approved the assassination attempt. He obtained the money. He even took part in the planning right up until the last minute. Without him it wouldn't have happened. Begin was a very charismatic figure - at the same time he was also highly impulsive and irrational."

Although the plot was "dilettantish", the bomb sent to Adenauer was "extremely sophisticated", Sietz said: "Sudit was an expert bomb maker. The bomb proved impossible to defuse."

Excerpts from Mr Sudit's privately printed memoir, including his own version of events written after Begin's death in 1992 - which were passed to the Israeli daily paper Haaretz, reveal that Begin knew of the plans to assassinate Adenauer and that he had even initiated meetings to promote the operation.

Menachem Begin and Me

Report Says Begin Was Behind Adenauer Letter Bomb

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