But Eichmann's capture needn't have been so long in the making. German newspaper Bild this weekend published a secret service document that revealed West German intelligence officials knew about his Argentine hideout as early as 1952. It appears as though the agency chose not to act on the information.
Argentine journalist Uki Goni -- author of "The Real Odessa," which chronicles the postwar flight of Nazi criminals to South America -- told AOL News that he wasn't surprised West German agents had discovered Eichmann's whereabouts by 1952.
"The idea that the Nazis arrived in Argentina and faded into the jungle somewhere is just not the case," he said. "There was quite a strong German community in Buenos Aires with its own newspapers and restaurants. So when the new arrivals came after the war, everyone knew exactly who they were, and they went to the same restaurants as everybody else."
Goni adds that West Germany's foreign intelligence service, then known as the Gehlen Organization, had nothing to gain by nabbing Eichmann.
"The agency was run by former Nazi officer Reinhard Gehlen, and it was packed with former SS officers and former Nazis," he said. "So nobody had any interest in finding these Nazis and bringing them to trial. On the contrary, they would have been more likely to help them escape justice."
Many senior figures in the new West German state also lacked the will to see Eichmann extradited back home and put on trial. Government ministries and private corporations were stuffed with ex-Nazis; some had been heavily involved in the Holocaust and were worried about what the former SS officer might say in the dock.
However, David Cesarani -- a history professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, and author of "Eichmann: His Life and Crimes" -- doubts whether any Western intelligence agency would have acted differently from the Gehlen Organization.
"The CIA, British intelligence and West German intelligence knew of hundreds of former Nazis all over the place," he told AOL News. "But they didn't have a mandate to investigate, apprehend and try these people."
Israel was also unsure about how to deal with fugitive Nazis. Cesarani notes that when Mossad was tipped off about Eichmann's presence in Argentina in 1957 by Fritz Bauer -- the German-Jewish district attorney of the German state of Hesse -- "their first response was more or less, 'So what?' They didn't have the brief to hunt Nazis and put them on trial."
Mossad spent another three years mulling over what to do with Eichmann. "If the Israelis weren't exactly raring to go, I'm not sure why we should have expected the West Germans to have had a different attitude," said Cesarani.
Although Goni is critical of the Gehlen Organization, he is far angrier about attempts by its modern-day successor, the BND (Federal Intelligence Service), to keep thousands of archive files on Eichmann classified.
Last year, a Leipzig judge decided that the blanket ban was illegal, but it's still difficult for researchers to get hold of the documents, as every paper request is judged on a case-by-case basis. Der Spiegel suggests that Bild only got hold of the 1952 card because it hired an expensive lawyer to negotiate with the archive's gatekeepers.
"It's shocking that the BND still wants to hide this information today," said Goni. "The agency is probably ashamed of its behavior back in the '50s and doesn't want to be called to account. But nobody today can hold Germany to account for what happened 50 years ago."
But British historian Cesarani doesn't believe the BND is attempting to gloss over postwar years.
It may seem like a paradox, he says, but the privacy laws that now make it hard to delve into Germany's Nazi past were in fact implemented as "a reaction to the Nazi era, and a determination not to allow people's private lives to be intruded upon by the state or other agencies."
The question now is whether Germany can balance its desire to avoid those past mistakes with the need to let its citizens learn about them.