Arnon Grunberg



On a modest spy – Yossi Melman in Haaretz:

‘Eli Cohen, who was caught, tortured and put to death by hanging in Damascus on May 18, 1965, was the most famous of them. Baruch Mizrachi was one of the last of them. For a decade, Mizrachi was sent on special missions throughout the Middle East, entering and exiting enemy countries as if he were at home there, donning and stripping off identities. Once he was Jamil Yunis, at other times Ahmed al-Sabah – in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and even Iran, as well as in South America and Europe. His impressive career, which was launched some six decades ago and throughout which he displayed equanimity, daring, courage and dedication, was brought to an end far too soon.

“Baruch Mizrachi was one of the best, most talented and most modest of them,” a senior official from “Caesarea,” the operational arm of the Mossad, who requested not to be named, told Haaretz. “He was an intelligent and very disciplined fighter who delivered the goods.” The modesty Mizrachi displayed throughout his life prevented him and his family from telling his story until now.
“He belongs to a generation that was educated to keep quiet, to not draw attention to oneself or look back in nostalgia or anger,” the official added.’


‘Baruch Mizrachi, son of Jackie and Regina, was born in Cairo in 1926. In 1948 he completed his studies at the Cairo University faculty of commerce. Like many members of educated and wealthy Jewish families in Cairo and Alexandria, Mizrachi lived between two worlds: East and West. He was fluent in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Hebrew, and taught languages and history at a Coptic school in Cairo.’


‘Despite his successes and the temptation to use Mizrachi for additional special missions, the Mossad decided for the time being not to endanger him by sending him on an additional foray to a Middle Eastern target country. Instead, in 1966 he was sent to a less dangerous destination: Latin America. There, he was tasked with locating a former Gestapo commander named Heinrich Müller, who had participated in the 1941 Wannsee conference, where the decision was made to embark on the Final Solution, the annihilation of European Jewry. Müller was one of the 10 top Nazis whom the Mossad was then seeking, with the aim of bringing them to justice – either by bringing them to trial or by assassinating them.

In May 1965, two non-Jewish young Panamanians had approached the Israeli ambassador to that country and told him they had seen an old picture of Müller in a newspaper. They were convinced he was a man they had previously met, who sold office equipment.
Back in Israel, the Mossad’s Caesarea unit decided to send a number of operatives, among them Mizrachi, to locate the suspect. It turned out he was called Keith and he owned a printing house in Panama. According to a Mossad report, Mizrachi carried out surveillance on him for months “and even established a relationship with the suspect, but ultimately it became clear that he was not Müller and Mizrachi returned to Israel.” In 2013, a German researcher published a study claiming that Müller had actually died before the end of World War II and had been buried in the old Jewish cemeteryin Berlin.’


‘He refused to accept any citations for heroism and medals, and forbade members of his family from giving interviews and talking about the little they knew of his past.’

Read the article here.

There are some hints in this article what it takes to be a good spy, or at least a decent spy.

The months spent in Panama, searching for Müller, who probably was already buried on the Jewish cemetery in Berlin stirred my imagination.

Spying is a slower process than writing, often even less fruitful. For a writer can also write about the man who isn’t Müller.

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