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Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Naziby Neil Bascomb
Synopses & Reviews
Hunting Eichmann is the first complete narrative of a relentless and harrowing international manhunt.
When the Allies stormed Berlin in the last days of the Third Reich, Adolf Eichmann shed his SS uniform and vanished. Following his escape from two American POW camps, his retreat into the mountains and out of Europe, and his path to an anonymous life in Buenos Aires, his pursuers are 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 (and whose rare surveillance photographs are published here for the first time). The capture of Eichmann and the efforts by Israeli agents to secret him out of Argentina to stand trial is the stunning conclusion to this thrilling historical account, told with the kind of pulse-pounding detail that rivals anything you'd find in great spy fiction.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The Israeli team that abducted Adolf Eichmann from a dark, lonely road outside his Buenos Aires home in 1960 meticulously planned the secret operation. But none of its members anticipated the strange depression that overcame them almost as soon as they captured the fugitive war criminal. They did not foresee, Neal Bascomb writes, "the soul-hollowing effect of inhabiting the same space as" the man who... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) had been the "operational manager of the Nazi genocide." The Nazi hunters were recruited from Mossad and Shin Bet, the Israeli secret services, in part because they had lost their families or had been imprisoned themselves in the death camps Eichmann masterminded. Coolly and professionally, they had studied "Ricardo Klement," Eichmann's alias in Argentina. Yet once they wrestled him into a safe house, this "devil incarnate" turned out to be a surprisingly "pathetic creature," a skinny "runt" obedient and deferential to authority. "Was this the personification of evil?" wondered the head of the Mossad, Isser Harel. "Was this the messenger of death for six million Jews?" Hannah Arendt, reporting later from Jerusalem on Eichmann's trial, gazed coldly at the defendant in his bullet-proof glass booth and was similarly struck by his sheer commonness, which she conveyed in her famous phrase "the banality of evil." Ordinary-looking and lower-middle-class Eichmann may have been, but as Bascomb makes clear in "Hunting Eichmann," banal was a false description of Germany's most notorious and elusive war criminal. In various disguises, sometimes under versions of his own name, in allied POW camps and on the loose, Eichmann dodged his pursuers for 15 years. True, in the atmosphere of the Cold War, U.S. Army counter-intelligence, the OSS and West German police showed little enthusiasm for hunting down Nazis, except to recruit them as anti-Soviet spies. Also weakening the effort was West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's fear that a roundup of Nazi accomplices would bring down too many of his own officials, including his security adviser Hans Globke, who had drafted Hitler's anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws. Eichmann, an undistinguished petty bureaucrat, had so impressed his SS and Gestapo superiors with his "hate-fueled fanaticism" toward Jews that the officers more or less turned over their "Jewish department" to him. He put his heart into the "planned annihilation of the Jewish race," as a cooperating Nazi witness testified at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. He even traveled to pre-war Palestine to study Zionism and learn Hebrew, the better to understand the people he considered "the most dangerous enemy" of the Third Reich. Eichmann was the perfect company man. "I sat at my desk," he said, "and did my work," setting schedules and quotas for Jews to be transported and gassed. But he was clever: He was careful, for example, never to be seen personally shooting a Jew or to allow himself to be photographed. Even with the Allies closing in and bombs exploding around him, he did not want a single Jew to escape. A bully and coward, he urged his aides to fight on, then fled into the Bavarian Alps and disguised himself as a lumberjack with help from SS comrades. Brazenly, he even sold black-market eggs to Jews from the liberated Belsen death camp. Bascomb's pages about Eichmann on the run in the chaos of postwar Germany are among his most exciting. Though he had "little money, no safe house, no forged papers," Eichmann managed to hide his identity and, eventually, to reach Juan Peron's Argentina along the notorious escape route code-named, as in the film, "Odessa." With his wife and three sons, he settled in a shabby neighborhood of Buenos Aires as a workman at a Mercedes-Benz plant. Other exiled Nazis at first helped him but soon shied away from his loud nostalgia for the Hitler days. He even proudly tape recorded his reminiscences, the transcript of which the author freely uses. Bascomb's account of Eichmann's abduction to Israel is detailed and well researched. But he strains to build up tension; his cinematic writing technique fails to work as effectively here as it did in "The Perfect Mile," his book about Roger Bannister's breaking the four-minute mile, and his superb "Red Mutiny," about the 1905 sailors' revolt in Czarist Russia. Maybe it's because "Hunting Eichmann" relies heavily on retired Israeli secret service sources and never quite convinces us that they were in any real danger on Argentine soil. In my reading, Mossad's clandestine op was dictated as much by internal Israeli politics as by a biblical sense of justice. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered Eichmann tried in an Israeli court for motives high and low: partly for pure vengeance, but also to educate a younger generation of Jews about the genocide and to stifle a neo-Nazi wave then rising in Europe. In the end, Eichmann proved a formidable witness in his own defense, refusing to confess even on the gallows as he called out, "Long live Germany!" Because Bascomb summarizes more than humanizes the Israeli agents, the perverse effect is that Eichmann emerges as the true protagonist, and readers may well feel the "soul-hollowing effect" of inhabiting so many pages with him. Clancy Sigal is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. As a GI, he attended the Nuremberg war crimes trial. Reviewed by Clancy Sigal, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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With the intrigue of a detective story, "Hunting Eichmann" follows the Nazi as he escapes two American POW camps, hides in the mountains, and builds an anonymous life in Buenos Aires, before finally being captured and brought to trial.
The first complete narrative of the pursuit and capture of Adolf Eichmann, based on groundbreaking new information and interviews and featuring rare, neverpublished Mossad surveillance photographs When the Allies stormed Berlin in the last days of the Third Reich, the operational manager of the mass murder of Europes 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 POWcamps, 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 bulldogWest 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.
About the Author
NEAL BASCOMB is the critically acclaimed author of The Perfect Mile, a New York Times bestseller, Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky, and Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin, which won the U.S. Maritime Literature Award in 2007. A former editor and journalist, he has appeared in documentaries on A&E and the History Channel.
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