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Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi

4.7 out of 5 stars 274 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0618858675
ISBN-10: 0618858679
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Product Description
The first complete narrative of the pursuit and capture of Adolf Eichmann, based on groundbreaking new information and interviews and featuring rare, never-published Mossad surveillance photographs. When the Allies stormed Berlin in the last days of the Third Reich, the operational manager of the mass murder of Europe's Jews shed his SS uniform and vanished.

Bringing Adolf Eichmann to justice would require a harrowing fifteen-year chase stretching from war-ravaged Europe to the shores of Argentina.

Alternating from a criminal on the run to his pursuers closing in on his trail, Hunting Eichmann follows the Nazi as he escapes two American POW camps, hides in the mountains, slips out of Europe on the ratlines, and builds an anonymous life in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, a persistent search for Eichmann gradually evolves into an international manhunt that includes a bulldog West German prosecutor, a blind Argentinean Jew and his beautiful daughter, and a budding, ragtag spy agency called the Mossad, whose operatives have their own scores to settle. Presented in a pulse-pounding, hour-by-hour account, the capture of Eichmann and the efforts by Israeli agents to secret him out of Argentina and fly him to Israel to stand trial bring the narrative to a stunning conclusion.

Hunting Eichmann is a fully documented, finely nuanced history that offers the intrigue of a detective story and the thrill of great spy fiction.

A Q&A with Neal Bascomb, Author of Hunting Eichmann

Q: What brought you to write Hunting Eichmann?

A: During my research, people asked me this countless times, and usually they prefaced it with the question of whether or not I was Jewish. When I answered the Jewish question in the negative, the overwhelming response was "Good, then you'll be seen as objective."

About why I wrote the book: that answer is connected to the first one. You do not have to be Jewish to understand the incredible significance of the operation to catch Eichmann. Without it, our knowledge and perception of the Holocaust would be much more limited. Before the Eichmann trial, the Nazi atrocities were largely being swept under the rug, not spoken about.

Only after the capture was there an extensive reexamination of the genocide; only then did it become rooted in our collective consciousness. In this respect, the operation is one of the most important, influential spy missions in history, period. Beyond a documentary over a decade ago, it has been almost fifty years since a journalist has taken a thorough look at what unfolded.

Q: How did you find Eichmann's passport?

A: Definitely one of the highlights of my research, because the document is tangible proof of how Eichmann escaped Europe. In late 2006, I was looking through old Buenos Aires newspapers when I came across a story about a lawsuit filed by Vera Eichmann against the Israelis. Court records are always one of my favorite places to research because they're often overlooked, but courts always keep meticulous records. Through one of my researchers, I petitioned the courts to see the lawsuit files. No response. I tried again. Come back in six weeks, they said, fill out this paperwork and that. Then again. You need a lawyer, they said. Then again. Finally we were given the records, which had never been accessed before.

In the file was a long report about the Argentinean investigation into the capture, which was fascinating. But no passport! A few weeks later, we heard that the judge who approved our seeing the records had gone through the file before agreeing to its release and given the passport to the Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires. Fortunately, the judge credited my researcher with the discovery, and we were given full access to the passport.

Q: What was the great challenge in writing the book?

A: No debate. It was writing the narrative sections on Eichmann during the war, how he escaped, and how he lived while on the run. When I set out to write this history, I thought I would focus almost exclusively on the hunters, not the hunted. But after discovering a memoir by Eichmann on his postwar years, not to mention reading two well-known autobiographies, I really felt that I could accurately portray his actions and mindset.

This got me into his head, so to speak--and this was an extremely uncomfortable place to be. For a while I had a bad case of insomnia, and when sleep did come, I had nightmares about his actions against the Jews. Although I knew I'd be affected by the subject matter, its level of intensity was surprising.

Q: How active is the search for surviving Nazi war criminals today?

A: A significant effect of the Eichmann case was the drive to bring the killers to justice, not only in the early 1960s, but half a century later. Before Eichmann, governments, including those of the United States, Germany, and even Israel, were doing very little. That was also the case with Simon Wiesenthal, who by 1960 had also largely given up his efforts. Today the Wiesenthal Center, led by its intrepid Nazi hunter Ephraim Zuroff, has launched a campaign to catch the last surviving Nazi war criminals.

Beyond the Nazis, sadly, there are recent war criminals from conflicts in Darfur, the Balkans, and elsewhere. I believe that the drive to bring these individuals to account is, at least in part, a legacy of Eichmann, whose trial showed that perpetrators of genocide must pay for their crimes, and their acts must be made known to the world so that they can be prevented in the future.

(Photo © Jillian Mcalley)

From Publishers Weekly

After WWII, notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann lived comfortably in Buenos Aires under an alias. Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal sought Eichmann fruitlessly until 1956, when Eichmann's son bragged about his father's war exploits to his girlfriend's father, a half-Jew who had been blinded by the Gestapo and who alerted a Jewish attorney general of Hesse in Germany known for his prosecution of Nazis. Bascomb (The Perfect Mile) details Eichmann's wartime atrocities and postwar escapes, and how, in 1960, the Israelis decided to have secret service operatives (one of whom, Isser Harel, recounted these events in 1975's The House on Garibaldi Street)—mostly Holocaust survivors—secretly kidnap Eichmann and fly him to Israel on El Al, disguised as an airline employee. Tried in Israel in 1961, Eichmann was executed in 1962. These were early days for Israel's now-legendary intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet, and it's fascinating how they accomplished their goal without the technical and monetary support that's now standard. Although Bascomb's prose is awkward, his work is well researched, including interviews with former Israeli operatives and El Al staff who participated in the capture, as well as Argentine fascists. This is a gripping read. Illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618858679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618858675
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Connelly on March 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Bascomb's "Hunting Eichmann" is a revelation, a light shone in dark and hidden corners, for those of us who were electrified by the news of his capture back in 1960. Israel was little more than a decade old at that point, and the stunning victory of June 1967 remained in the future. Bascomb's access to the dwindling band of operatives who planned and executed this master stroke of international justice is a real service to modern history. These actors were both dedicated and self-effacing in their service to justice for the slaughtered millions. It is good to know their names and see their faces.

Their persistence in the face of many false trails and of skepticism that justice would or could ever be done, their self-control in bringing Eichmann to trial, the loathing and dread they felt in his presence, banal as that presence was (whether taking his picture in close-up surveillance or sitting next to him on the El Al escape flight) -- these and much more are compellingly conveyed by Bascomb. I was particularly struck by Bascomb's ability to hold so many narrative threads in his hand and to play them out so clearly and in a way that left the reader engaged.
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I very much enjoyed reading Mr. Bascomb's book. True to it's title, "Hunting Eichmann" offers a detailed accounting of the efforts of Mossad in tracking down, capturing, and bringing to justice the world's most wanted criminal at that time. The book is easily read, offers little known and detailed information and perspectives from the participants involved, and holds the reader's attention.

I was surprised that my perception of the Adolf Eichmann I thought I knew changed after reading this book. Since my teens in the late 1960's, I have read numerous books on the Third Reich and the Holocaust, including the great works of Sir Martin Gilbert, William Shirer, and Nazi insider Albert Speer. As a result, I saw Adolf Eichmann through a concrete looking glass... a 20th century boogey man; a black and white, one dimensional monster of epic proportions whose organizational skills, robotic ability to follow orders, and sociopathy made him a perfect choice for the tasks he eagerly carried out and was to eventually answer for.

Although the focus of this book was obviously the manhunt, Bascomb managed to humanize Eichmann through short biographical flashes, at least as much as one can humanize the inhumane. He did so by offering insight into the flawed man that Eichmann was... a true case study in contradictions: a ne'er do well who found ambition and drive at the worst possible moment. A philandering husband revered by his long-suffering wife. A stern father, both loved and respected by his sons. A man able to extinguish a million lives with the mere stroke of a pen, yet who shuddered at the prospect of his own execution.
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I loved Hunting Eichmann. Bascomb has taken a subject that itself is both universally recognizable and relatively interesting, but has taken it to the next level by crafting a narrative that jumps off the page and keeps you up reading in a way that rivals the best spy thrillers. He has also researched the heck out of this - talking with people in four languages on three continents and getting the fascinating first-hand details that make a very good book into an unquestionably great one. One of the two or three best books I've read in the last year. Highly recommend.
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"THE ACCUSED, DURING THE PERIOD FROM 1939 TO 1945, TOGETHER WITH OTHERS, CAUSED THE DEATHS OF MILLIONS OF JEWS AS THE PERSONS WHO WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN OF THE NAZIS FOR THE EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWS, A PLAN KNOWN BY ITS TITLE *"THE FINAL SOLUTION OF THE JEWISH QUESTION.*"... this was part of the indictment brought by the State Of Israel against Adolf Eichmann on April 11, 1961 at 8:55 A.M. This intricately... historically detailed book tracks Eichmann from his days during the Holocaust as he despicably and callously... and with great personal pride... sets forth to wipe out every Jew in Europe. In a Hungarian ghetto Eichmann announced to Jewish prisoners: "JEWS: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. WE WANT ONLY THE BEST FOR YOU. YOU'LL LEAVE HERE SHORTLY AND BE SENT TO VERY FINE PLACES INDEED." Those Jews were then forced into freight cars in which one entire village of one-hundred-three Jews were crammed into a single car that would have fit eight cows." The train of course led to one of many concentration camps where families were separated... and most... never saw each other again... as the chimneys of the crematoriums belched the smoke of Jewish death.

At the war's end Eichmann and many other Nazi's escaped from Germany and some were helped on their escape route by the Vatican. The author comprehensively re-creates the many twists and turns that lead to Eichmann's numerous living arrangements... under many different aliases... that eventually culminate in Argentina under the name of Ricardo Klement. During this time period the Nuremberg Trials take place... and there is a great deal of damning testimony regarding Eichmann that will be used against him down the road...
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