The Nazi Hunters by Andrew Nagorski will be released in May. I had the opportunity, through NetGalley, to read an advance copy. It was fascinating and disturbing. Two themes run through the book, understanding and justice. The need to understand why people acted in the way they did and then refused to take responsibility for their actions. The need for justice as opposed to revenge. One of the Nazi Hunters profiled in the book, Serge Klarsfelds, stated, “Justice, in its essence, is not effective: it cannot resuscitate people who were killed. So it’s symbolic.”
The Nuremberg Trials focused the world on the war crimes committed by the Nazi regime. The big trial was originally slated to have twelve defendants but one eluded capture. Adolf Eichmann was responsible for the deportation of the Jewish populations. It was in 1960 that Eichmann was finally captured in a secret operation by the Israeli Mossad. One of the Mossad agents who helped capture Eichmann is quoted as saying “What makes such a creature, created in the likeness of man, into a monster?” The author explains how political theorist Hannah Arendt objected to labeling Eichmann a monster. As the author stated, “He committed ‘monstrous acts in the name of a monstrous system, but labeling him a monster lets too many others off the hook and ignores how easily tyrannical regimes can enlist average citizens in their criminal behavior.”
Once the trials were over, the world moved on to the quickly escalating Cold War. The number of guilty parties brought to trial was very small. For the most part, they were the leaders. The lower level functionaries, brutal camp guards and others whose savagery was documented were left to leave their lives in peace. It was due to the relentless hard work of the individuals who were committed to bringing the Nazi’s to justice for all the victims who could not seek it for themselves. The author does an excellent job of detailing each hunter's personal reason for pursuing this difficult path. The intensive investigations required to track down each criminal was also detailed.
So much of this book is relevant to our world today. The author, discussing Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, stated “the greatest danger facing mankind is not represented by monsters but by those who blindly obey their monstrous orders.” This is exactly what we are facing with terrorism.
I received a free copy of The Nazi Hunters from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.