Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Nazi Hunters, by Neal Bascomb

Adolf Eichmann: prisoner, 1961

“He locked his gaze with Eichmann’s and saw the Nazi’s eyes widen in fear. Eichmann stepped back. He was about to run” (Bascomb 1365).

In his narrative nonfiction book The Nazi Hunters, author Neal Bascomb chronicles the suspenseful tale of the stake-out, capture, trial, and hanging of one of The Holocaust's most notorious murderous agents: Adolf Eichmann.

When most individuals hear about the Holocaust, they, understandably, tend to associate just one Adolf-- Hitler. However, Adolf Eichmann had just as large a role in this massacre. In charge of the deportation of the Jewish people, whom he referenced as a "disease," to ghettos and concentration camps, Eichmann estimated that he had participated in the deaths of five million Jews during The Holocaust.  As we know today, his number is just shy of the six million Jews said to have perished. 

Bascomb's text introduces readers to this callous war criminal who plagued History with one of the most despicable acts of humanity: "The Final Solution."  His novel begins with important background information. It includes details from the war, and the plans, at all stages and steps, to exterminate the Jews. Biographical information is provided for all key players, including the Nazi Hunters, and motives are discussed. And of course, graphic details of ghettos, cattle cars, and concentration camps, from eye witnesses to this tragedy, are illustrated candidly.  Having painted a picture of absolute terror and bewilderment, Bascomb successfully sets up the reader for the rest of his novel. 

At the end of the war in 1945, Adolf Eichmann disappeared, managing to flee punishment for the atrocities that he'd committed.  But sixteen years later, his past caught up with him in the form of a courageous, dogged group of Israeli secret agents called the Mossad, all of whom carried a personal connection to the tragedies of The Holocaust.  In the novel, the covert mission, in all of its complexities, is thoroughly explained, and we witness Eichmann's abduction from Argentina and delivery to Israel, where he would come face to face with the fate that he'd thought he'd escaped.

Adolescents and adults alike will be enthralled by this gripping, well-written novel.  The pages of Bascomb's text evoke from readers emotions ranging from fear, disgust, sympathy, and elation, for he depicts the characters and historical events with such accuracy and poignancy that we can feel the pain of the survivors, feel the urgency of the mission, and feel the relief of a nation oppressed. 

Mentioned multiple times throughout the text, the claim that our world must learn from this atrocity acts as a primary motive for the capture of Adolf Eichmann.  Bascomb inserts the thoughts of Isser Harel, leader of the Mossad operation: 

"If the mission succeeded, Harel knew that not only would the Mossad earn its place among the top intelligence agencies in the world, but also - much more important - the Jewish people would see justice done to one of the leading organizers of the Holocaust.  The world would be forced to remember what had happened, and it would be reminded that such horrors must never be repeated" (730).

Isser Harrel
The echos of Harel's words should reverberate throughout every teacher's mind.  The real voices of Holocaust survivors are fading into darkness at the passing of each year, so it is our duty to pass on the story of this unfathomable act of evil.  Bascomb's The Nazi Hunters would be a wonderful addition to an eighth grade English curriculum, especially if paired with a history class' unit on World War II and The Holocaust.  The text discusses multiple death camps and their locations, the devastation of Kristallnacht, and the events leading up to the end of the war.  A history class' teaching of this information would prove beneficial as the students will access their prior knowledge while reading The Nazi Hunters

Finally, students will love the novel's addition of genuine photographs of the members and initiators of the Mossad team, Eichmann's family, surveillance footage, official documents, and Eichmann in captivity and at trial.  Also included are photographs of drawings created by Mossad member Peter Malkin while he kept watch over Eichmann in custody.  Readers are able to make a more personal connection to the story as the aid of these photographs pave a clearer path of the understanding of the situation relayed through Bascomb's words. 
Drawing of Eichmann by Malkin; 1960

In one of his letters of deportation orders during The Holocaust, Eichmann wrote, "They (the Jews) were stealing the breath of life from us" (Bascomb 177).

How ironic this statement would prove to become.
Below is a video that nicely summarizes Adolf Eichmann's role in the war, his escape, capture, and fate that followed. 

No comments: