In May 1960, a covert team of Israeli spies captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the most wantedescaped Nazis following WWII. Called the Architect of the Holocaust and the man behind the Nazi strategy and operational invocation of the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem, Eichmann’s capture, transportation to Israel, and ensuing trial represent a transformative moment in Jewish history. In The Nazi Hunters, Neal Bascomb tells the thrilling story of the people who found and captured Eichmann, and how they were able to bring him to Israel to face justice. Complete with maps, and images of secret documents and similarity , Bascomb relates the painful discovery, capture, and punishment in a fast-paced, almost movie like fashion.
I’m in two minds when it comes to The Nazi Hunters. First, the good: it is a fantastic, tautly written spy thriller, complete with details about secret car compartments and license plate changing mechanisms, airplane routes and travel plans, as well as a deep dive into the context of the Holocaust and Argentina’s role in offering shelter for former Nazis following World War II. It enumerates the tiring road that led to Adolf Eichmann’s discovery – a fifteen year process involving civilians (including a blind man and his young daughter) as well as a group of highly trained spies, and the steps of those involved in secretly extracting Eichmann from his vigilant sons and unknown to the Argentine government. The Nazi Hunters‘ greatest success, though, is in the way it hammers home the significance of Eichmann’s capture and trial. As repeated many times throughout the book:
“For the first time in history the Jews will judge their assassins and for the first time the world will hear the full story of the edict of annihilation against an entire people.”
The Eichmann trial in 1961 was a controversial and transformative moment in the histokry of the Jewish people, and for the new state of Israel. The internationally broadcasted trial was a spark that accomplished what Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion sought to achieve – it forced the world to acknowledge and understand the true nature of the Holocaust, and it provided the Holocaust’s survivors a chance to share their experiences, openly and for the world to hear, for the first time. In Bascomb’s words:
The Shoah (A movie abut the Holocaust), as it was also known, was not to be forgotten, and an outpouring of survivor memoirs, plays novels, documentaries, paintings, museum exhibits, and films followed in the wake of the trial and still continues today. This consciousness, in Israel and throughout the world, is the enduring legacy of the operation to capture Adolf Eichmann.
Beyond the cultural and historical significance of the book’s subject, I’m also impressed by the amount of research that must have gone into writing this book. We learn of the documents that needed to be forged as well as the airline and flight plan that had to be arranged at the highest levels to avoid suspicion. There are pictures of Eichmann in captivity, wearing blacked out goggles to disorient and imprison him; there are images of artwork created by one of the men on the team who captured Eichmann in Argentina.
In all, this is an impressive work.
That said, I do have a few reservations that I will try to explain, hopefully in a way that is respectful of the source material,…