Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 8 Oct 2010
Full Title: Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
Knowing nearly nothing about the post-war hunt for escaped Nazi war criminals, I knew I wanted to pick up Neal Bascomb's Hunting Eichmann and learn something new when I came across it at my local library. I was not disappointed, to say the least.
Adolf Eichmann was an early member of the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party. He was placed in charge of transporting Jews out of their homelands into transit camps and concentration camps. Although countless millions of Jews died during the Nazi German occupation of Europe, he did not consider any of the blood to be on his hands, claiming that he was simply following orders to transport Jews and had no direct role in the actual extermination. When the war ended, he slipped out of sight, initially in northern Germany and then in Argentina. Meanwhile, the Allies did not even know he existed; his name only came up after he was mentioned by several other captured Nazi German officials. This began a long hunt for him, which Bascomb chronicled from beginning to end. It was apparent that the author conducted careful research, detailing Eichmann's motivation and personality. He also wrote this piece of non-fiction work with as much excitement as a spy novel that was, dare I say, a definite page turner. I found myself disappointed whenever a lead, obviously valuable in retrospect, failed to go anywhere, and I felt my heart beat faster as the Israeli agents waited in their positions as Eichmann walked down Garibaldi Street moments before they lunged at him. Ultimately, Eichmann was captured on Argentinean soil and was smuggled out of the country, nearly causing an international incident. He was tried in Israel and was found guilty of crimes against the Jewish people, becoming the first and only person to be executed by the nation of Israel. From beginning to end, Bascomb told this story in its entirety with mastery, interjecting important facts into the story without slowing its pace. Somewhat in-depth background information on those involved in the mission was a welcomed addition to the book, allowing me to understand that it was not only a job to the agents, but also something of their personal interest and motivation to see "the architect of the Holocaust" brought to justice.
One thing that I had learned from this book, with a bit of surprise, was Simon Wisenthal's degree of involvement in finding Eichmann; or perhaps it should be said as his minimum involvement in this mission. At least according to this author's research, while Wisenthal was indeed an enthusiastic Nazi hunter who had devoted much time and energy to Eichmann, the Israeli success in locating Eichmann was suggested to be of a parallel effort to Wisenthal's work. This came with slight surprise to me and it would surely become something on my list to research further.
The hunt for former Nazi Party leaders after the end of the European War was among the many epilogue chapters of WW2. Although slightly off-topic from my interest and the scope of WW2DB, I felt that such diversions would indeed shed some light on the understanding of events that took place during the war years. If you agree, then I would suggest Hunting Eichmann as an enjoyable start into that area of history.
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal