From the cover:
More than seven decades after the end of the Second World War, the era of the Nazi hunters is drawing to a close. Their full saga can now be told.
After the Nuremberg trials and the start of the Cold War, the victors in World War II, lost interest in prosecuting Nazi war criminals. Many of the lower-ranking perpetrators blended in with the millions who were seeking to rebuild their lives in a new Europe, while those who felt most at risk fled the continent. The Nazi Hinters focuses on the small band of men and women who refused to allow their crimes to be forgotten and who were determined to track them down to the furthest corners of the earth. At first, the Nazi hunters wanted revenge, but soon their story was transformed into a relentless struggle for justice.
Of course the big name, the headline success, is the tracking down and trial of Adolf Eichmann. And the main reason for tracking down the ex- and not so ex-Nazis, is, I guess, seen by most people in the years since the end of World War II, as because of what they did to facilitate and perpetrate and carry out The Holocaust, either justice or punishment it. Forgetting the crimes that took place before the killing of Jewish people took off. Also, forgetting what the Germans did to Allied forces, and especially, Russian soldiers and especially, the innocent Eastern Europeans and Russians caught in the middle of the rush east. All I’m saying is, there are many more reasons to have hunted Nazis down, than just revenge by the Jews, and later the nation of Israel, for The Holocaust. Though, as the book points out, the ex-Allies, and to a large extent, the Russians, were (maybe) forced to admit to themselves, that realpolitik and the new world that was left after World War II, took, as the years wound on, prominence. That’s not an excuse, it’s human nature. As is wanting to move on, to forget and leave the past behind, in the past. The Jewish Nazi hunters may not have liked this, but then I would say, look at the number of times in books like this, it is mentioned that so-and-so never mentioned his or her experiences. Clearly, human nature is to want to start afresh. The book also points out that the Jews, the state of Israel, moved, maybe reluctantly, from talking about revenge, as it was in the early days, to justice for their suffering at the hands of numerous Nazis. The difference moved with the times, as well as the rest of the world’s wanting to move on. Revenge was understandable and encouraged in the early post-war years, then, as the USA decided that The Soviet Union was the no.1 enemy, the Jewish people had to look on the hunt for Nazis as a search for justice. And education. Keeping the subject high in the public consciousness. The major point is, that which – as I understand it – David Ben-Gurion, who was the primary national founder of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister (sometimes called ‘the father of Israel’), made. That the reason for capturing Eichmann, for instance (rather than killing him where they found him), and bringing him back to Israel for trial, would remind the world of what could happen. And the world does need to be constantly reminded. Of that, unfortunately, there is no doubt.
In this book (I’ve read three on or around the capture of Eichmann recently), is about many, I don’t think it can be all, of the higher profile people – of several religions, not just Jewish – who hunted Nazis. Inspirational people who battled indifference, hatred, ignorance, defiance, and much more, to show us what we needed to see. Their reasons are looked at and explained, the rivalries (can you believe that?) and the failures alongside the successes. It is an objective book, and amongst other things, does raise the question (for a time that has now passed effectively), was it too late to prosecute a frail, ‘sick,’ 90-year-old for crimes he committed over 60 years ago?
I don’t think that needs an answer.
Cover image is of Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld