Monday, September 16, 2013

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Nazi Hunters was a book that was promoted at BEA this year, so naturally I was very curious to read this account of the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960.   The author, Neal Bascomb, had already written a book about the group of Holocaust survivors who pulled off Eichmann's capture for adults called  Hunting Eichmann and now he has revised it for younger readers.

Eichmann was the very high ranking Nazi who had been responsible first for the emigration of Jews to Palestine and later for implementing the Final Solution beginning in 1942 to meet Hitler's goal of making Europe "Jew free."  But in April 1945, as the Allies attacked Berlin and with the deaths of 6 million Jews on his hands, it was time for Eichmann to get out of Europe.  For 16 years, no one heard anything about him.  It was as if he simply disappeared off the face of the earth.

Amazingly, despite efforts to find Eichmann and bring him to justice, he was never found until a teenage girl named Sylvia Hermann, living in Buenos Aires, South America in 1956, started dating a young man named Nick Eichmann.  Invited to dinner at the Hermann home, Nick, like his father, was also anti-Semitic and couldn't resist commenting at table that his father had been a high ranking Nazi officer and it would have been better if Germany had finished what it started as respects the Jews in Europe.

It seems amazing that the capture of such a notorious criminal began with two young people dating for a brief time, but eventually a group of survivors of Eichmann's concentration camps came together based on this and additional information.  But it didn't happen immediately.  In fact, interest in what the Hermann's reported to Israeli intelligence died and it wasn't until a few years later that Eichmann was again identified and a group of highly trained Mossad spies and Holocaust survivors set the plan to capture him in motion.

The Nazi Hunters is a hard book to put down, but it is also a fast read, in part because it is so well researched and so excellently written.  It is as exciting and tense as any spy thriller you might read with one difference - it all really happened.

Lest you forget that what you are reading is nonfiction, there is also an abundance of photographs of the people, the places invloved and the documents used, some forged, to help the reader formulate a well rounded picture of the whole very clandestine operation from start to finish.  And because most of the names will not be familiar to readers today, and because there were so many of them, there is also an in-depth list of all the people who participated on some level or other in the plan to capture Eichmann.  Bascomb has really done such a good job of presenting the whole story factually and appropriately for young readers, without simply dumbing down his original adult work, and he includes plenty of back matter for further information and/or inquiry. 

I have read Hannah Arendt's account of Eichmann's trial in Israel, Eichmann in Jerusalem, a number of times, but have never read an account of how he got there.  Bascomb does cover the trial briefly, but his main focus is really the capture of Eichmann.  And I can say unequivocally, that from the beginning to the end, Bascomb will keep you on the edge of your seat as Eichmann's fate unfolds.  The Nazi Hunters is a book I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the Holocaust and its perpetrators.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an E-ARC from NetGalley


  1. A fascinating story, I have read, heard and saw several accounts of this capture. Once my kids get old enough, they'll certainly read this book.

    1. Yes, you and your kids probably will read this account. Bascomb really has done a great job making this appropriate for young readers and it reads like a novel but you never forget it really happened. The most amazing part is Eichmann's reaction to being captured.

  2. I have never read anything about this capture- and this sounds like a great book for me to start with. I have a student in my class who devours WWII non-fiction texts so I might be able to share it with him after I read it (or I can share it with his parents).

    I always love the books you recommend to me. :)