A lot of activity has been taking place during the last few days around the issue of the freedom of the Jewish American prisoner Jonathan Pollard. Tens of thousands of Israelis signed a petition calling on President Peres not to accept the Medal of Freedom from President Obama unless Pollard is freed. Yesterday we were told that Gilad Shalit joined those signing the petition, while Pollard himself was taken to hospital due to his deteriorating medical condition.
Jonathan Pollard is only one of a line of foreign citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, who helped Israel in the past by providing classified security information. During the late 1960s, in light of the success of the Mirage III fighter jet in the service of the Israeli air force, the Marcel Dassault company, makers of the aircraft, was working on the development of a new model, the Mirage V, in cooperation with the air force. 50 aircraft of this type were ordered and production began when France’s president Charles de Gaulle placed a weapons’ embargo on Israel. The aircraft were needed to replace the air force losses during the Six Days War and the embargo was a severe blow to the IAF. The decision was taken to produce the aircraft in Israel under the name ‘Nesher’.
In order to enable the production on the aircraft’s ATAR engine, the Mossad made contact with a non-Jewish Swiss engineer named Alfred Frauenknecht who worked in a Swiss aircraft engine factory producing ATAR engines under licence for the Swiss air force. Frauenknecht provided Israel with 200,000 drawings and plans of the engine that were smuggled out of the factory in crates, and received for these a payment of 200,000 US dollars. For these actions Frauenknecht was tried and was sentenced to four and a half years in jail in what was described as Switzerland’s biggest espionage trial since the Second World War. The Israeli military attaché to Switzerland was ordered to leave. During his trial, Frauenknecht said that he wanted to help Israel as the Soviets were helping its enemies and Israel was left exposed to threats as a result of the French embargo.
I don’t know how much recognition and official or other gratitude Alfred Frauenknecht received from Israel after his release. He died of a heart attack in January 1991 at the age of 64.