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  • NAZI HUNTERS

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It's one of the greatest, true detective stories ever. Featuring eight spellbinding missions, Nazi Hunters tells how a select band of secret agents and avengers hunted down some of the most evil men in history...And finally brought them to justice.
 
Intense, visceral, and narrated by real-life Nazi hunters, every episode tells the story of one electrifying mission. And, from Klaus Barbie's dramatic pursuit in Bolivia, to the audacious Mossad operation to kidnap Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, recounts how the Nazis finally met their nemesis.

Nazi Hunters BIOS

Mossad

The immediate post-war years were a time of chaos and horror as Allied forces attempted to round up and capture German soldiers and Nazi Party members across war-ravaged Europe. It was in this confused and often lawless environment that surviving Jews first began to exact their revenge on the Nazis.

In Italy, France and Belgium, Jewish soldiers who had fought alongside the British in the Eighth Army’s Jewish Brigade banded together to form an informal network later termed the 'nokim', Hebrew for 'avengers'.

In Germany and Eastern Europe, the nokim's ranks swelled with survivors of the ghettos and camps, many of whom had been members of the Jewish resistance even as their friends and families were being exterminated by the German killing machine. During the chaotic post-war period, their thirst for vengeance only increased in seeing how many Nazis were escaping or being released by the Allies.

The nokim soon set up their own underground execution squads, tracking down senior members of the Nazi regime with information from survivors and members of the Jewish underground, and using logistical support quietly provided by their British colleagues.

Although their ultimate aim was to kill, they also operated their own form of justice, reading out charges and acting as judge, jury and executioner. Their preferred method of killing was strangulation, a 'dry' method that left no blood or other traces. Other Nazis met their death in car 'accidents' or were 'helped' to commit suicide. It is believed over 1,000 Nazi officers were dealt with in this way.

In the next few years, the avengers traveled further afield in their efforts to track down fugitive Nazis – to Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, South America, and even Canada. But the summary executions possible in the free-for-all of the immediate post-war years could not continue forever.

Focused on helping Jewish refugees flee to Palestine, the leading figures in the movement to create an independent Jewish state increasingly felt the executions could harm their cause. It would take several more years before the official state-sanctioned successor to the avenging executioners emerged – manned by many of the same individuals – in the form of the overseas arm of Israeli intelligence, or Mossad.

Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion set up Mossad in 1951. But with the immediate claims of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it was 1958 before he issued the order to hunt down senior Nazis and bring them to justice. A hit list was compiled, and in 1960 Adolf Eichmann was kidnapped in an operation that caused an international sensation. The ensuing trial convinced Israelis that their new country was both determined and capable of ensuring Jews would never again be threatened in such a way.

After Eichmann was caught, Mossad considered expanding its activities targeting Nazis.  But with limited resources, Eichmann remained just one of the two significant successes of the Israeli secret service, alongside former Latvian death squad commander Herbert Cukurs.


Simon Wiesenthal

One of the most famous survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, Simon Wiesenthal has come to personify the post-war efforts to hunt down Nazi war criminals. Dubbed the 'Avenging Archangel of the Holocaust', Wiesenthal worked tirelessly up until his death in 2005 at age 96, and the Los Angeles Center to which he gave his name in 1977 continues his Nazi-hunting legacy to this day.

Born into a family of Orthodox Jews in Buczacz, Western Ukraine (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Simon Wiesenthal survived the Soviet invasion of the late 1930s, and after the arrival of the Nazis in 1941, watched helplessly as his mother was deported for execution.  The young architect also believed his wife Cyla had been executed until the two were miraculously reunited after the war.

Wiesenthal was first imprisoned in Janowska concentration camp and was later transferred to a small forced labour camp where conditions proved more tolerable.  Because of his professional skills, Wiesenthal was singled out and assigned design work and, through contacts with Polish contractors eventually established links with the underground and escaped with their help in October 1943.  He was recaptured by the SS the following year and, convinced he faced torture and certain extermination in the death camps, made three failed suicide attempts in quick succession.

After that, Wiesenthal was transferred from one concentration camp to another: first back to Janowska, then Plaszow, then to Auschwitz where the crematoria were working to full capacity and unable to cope with the influx of yet more victims, and finally on to Buchenwald. By February 1945, Wiesenthal had experienced eleven concentration camps before spending six days in the freezing confines of a packed, open freight train destined for Austria's notorious Mauthausen camp.

Upon his arrival there, Wiesenthal's condition was so poor he was put into a hut reserved for those on the verge of death.  Amazingly, he clung to life and was little more than a tottering bundle of bones by the time the Americans liberated the camp in May 1945.  Wiesenthal's first act as a free man was to dictate a list of 91 names of camp officials.  Consumed by the desire for justice, he later tracked down more than 70 of them.

In 1947, Wiesenthal established a centre in Linz, Austria, to collect information for use in future war crimes trials, and despite the convictions at Nuremberg, many of the most notorious Nazis remained at large.  As the Cold War set in, Nazi hunting fell from the political agenda and a dispirited Wiesenthal closed the Linz office in 1954.

Wiesenthal's enthusiasm was rekindled in 1960 when Mossad agents captured Adolf Eichmann who was later tried and executed.   Wiesenthal opened the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna where, collating sightings and tip-offs from a worldwide network of sympathizers, human rights activists and even former Nazis, he pursued the 90,000 people named in the German war crimes files.

Among his greatest Nazi-hunting successes were the capture of Franz Stangl, Commandant of the Sobibor death camp, Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, and Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan, a guard at the notorious Majdanek concentration camp, who became the first female war criminal to be extradited from America, and who was the inspiration for Kate Winslet's character in the film The Reader.

In 1977, Rabbi Marvin Hier established the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. A multi-faceted Jewish defense, education, and human rights agency, Wiesenthal allowed the center to bear his name on the condition that it not confine itself to the commemoration of the Holocaust, but pursue instead an activist agenda of Holocaust-related issues.

Serge & Beate Klarsfeld

Arguably the most successful and most daring European Nazi-hunters, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld came from very different backgrounds to forge a partnership that would bring to justice some of the most notorious Nazi war criminals of all including, most famously, the 'Butcher of Lyons', Klaus Barbie.

Born to a Protestant family in Berlin in 1939, Beate was the daughter of a Wehrmacht pilot who fought for the Third Reich during the war. Growing up in post-war Germany, she learned almost nothing about the Holocaust and it wasn't until she moved to Paris in 1960 and met Serge that she began to understand the atrocities that had been perpetrated in her own country.  Beate has stated many times since that all her actions have stemmed from her moral outrage as a German.

Serge Klarsfeld is a French Jew who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust first hand. When the Gestapo arrived to take the family into custody for deportation, his father told them his wife and children were at the baths being disinfected when, in fact, they were huddled in a closet behind a fake wall.

The Nazis arrested his father and Serge was never to see him again. He later discovered he perished at Auschwitz. It was this formative loss that prompted Serge's subsequent lengthy and painstaking campaign to document every French Jew who died at the hands of the Nazis.

The couple's Nazi-hunting career was prompted by their realization throughout the 1960s that former Nazis were leading respectable lives in German society as judges, politicians and businessmen — something which seemed intolerable to them. Their indignation reached its apex in 1966 when former Nazi propagandist Kurt Kiesinger was elected chancellor of Germany.

Beate assembled a dossier of Kiesinger's wartime activities and presented it to the French and German press, but she didn't stop there. In 1968, she pushed her way through a crowd to get close to him and publicly slapped Kiesinger in the face.  It was a blow that resonated around Europe and is still discussed in German schools today.

Beate's action resulted in a jail sentence but she and Serge shrewdly turned her appeal into a trial of Kiesinger. The following year, Beate campaigned against him, helping Willy Brandt win the chancellery.

Using both legal and illegal means to pursue and prosecute ex-Nazis comfortably ensconced in Europe and South America, Beate and Serge repeatedly applied their persistence and cunning. They prefer not to use the term 'Nazi-hunting' since so many of those they tracked weren't hiding but living quite openly.

Their life's work has been difficult and often dangerous. Both of them have served jail time and have endured numerous death threats and attempts on their lives, but no one has done more to force France to face up to its collaborationist past and bring the war criminals living among them to justice.

EPISODE GUIDE

  • Nazi Hunters: Herbert Cukurs
    Herbert Cukurs is an officer in the Latvian Air Force and his country’s most celebrated pilot, but after the Nazi invasion, he earns the nickname The Hangman of Riga after joining forces with the fascists, and is responsible for the extermination of 30,000 Latvian Jews. Twenty years later, Cukurs is living quietly in Sao Paolo, Brazil. That is, until the Nazi-hunting unit of the Israeli secret service tracks him down.
  • Nazi Hunters: Adolf Eichmann
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  • Nazi Hunters: Klaus Barbie
    As the Gestapo chief in Lyon, Klaus Barbie has the blood of 10,000 French Jews on his hands. But rather than being imprisoned after the war, he’s instead hired by the CIA as an anti-communist agent, and eventually escapes to Latin America where he lives undetected for decades.
  • Nazi Hunters: Erich Priebke
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Herbert Cukurs
    Herbert Cukurs is an officer in the Latvian Air Force and his country's most celebrated pilot. But after the Nazi invasion, he joins forces with the fascists, earning the nickname The Hangman of Riga. The sadistic Cukurs snatches babies from their mothers, burns a synagogue full of people, and is responsible for the extermination of 30,000 Latvian Jews.

    Twenty years later, Cukurs is living quietly in Sao Paolo, Brazil. That is, until the Nazi-hunting unit of the Israeli secret service tracks him down. Kicking off one of the most daring missions in its history, Mossad agents decide to execute Cukurs without a public trial, and send a message to Nazi war criminals the world over to fear for their lives.

    Posing as a successful Austrian businessman and former Nazi lieutenant named 'Anton Kuenzle', an undercover Mossad spy makes contact with Cukurs and the master plan begins to unfold. Impressed by Kuenzle's apparent wealth and success, Cukurs readily admits he's a war criminal. But earning his trust and luring him out of the country prove more challenging. Can the cunning spy win over the greedy and paranoid Cukurs? And can he kill Cukurs before Cukurs sees through his disguise?
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Adolf Eichmann
    By 1960, one of the world's most notorious Nazi war criminals, Adolf Eichmann, is living incognito with his family on the outskirts of Buenos Aires under the alias Riccardo Klement. Known as the architect of Hitler's 'final solution' and directly culpable for the murder of six million Jews, the former Lieutenant Colonel of the SS is now himself a hunted man.

    After receiving a tip that Eichmann has been spotted in Argentina, the Israeli secret service dispatches an agent to secretly take his photo. And after confirming his identity, Mossad hatches an elaborate plan to kidnap Eichmann and smuggle him back to Israel to stand trial.

    Two weeks later, a team of undercover agents arrives in Argentina. They stake out Eichmann and his neighbourhood for days before coming up with a strategy...But capturing him alive is only the first step. Surrounded by Nazi sympathizers, they must somehow get him out of the country. Can they pull off the extraordinary mission?
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Klaus Barbie
    As the Gestapo chief in Lyon, Klaus Barbie has the blood of 10,000 French Jews on his hands. But rather than being imprisoned after the war, he's instead hired by the CIA as an anti-communist agent. Eventually Barbie escapes to Latin America where he works for dictators and drug barons and lives undetected for decades.

    That is, until a middle class German housewife and mother vows to track him down. Married to a French Jew and living in Paris, Beate Klarsfeld and her husband Serge have dedicated their lives to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice. And, after successfully lobbying the German courts to reopen the case against Barbie, they mount a successful media campaign and track him down in Lima.

    Hoping to convince local authorities to extradite him to Europe, Klarsfeld flies first to Peru, and when Barbie escapes to Bolivia, follows him to La Paz. She leads a series of powerful demonstrations, is herself imprisoned and eventually makes headlines around the world. But it will take another decade, a failed kidnapping plot and sweeping political change in Bolivia to bring the man known as the Butcher of Lyon to justice.
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Erich Priebke
    As one of the highest-ranking Gestapo officers in Rome during the war, Erich Priebke is responsible for one of Italy's worst atrocities — the Ardeatine Cave massacres. On a direct order from Adolf Hitler, Priebke orchestrates the assassination of 335 Italian civilians. And, after escaping to Argentina, eludes justice for fifty years until a high-profile team of American TV journalists stumbles onto his trail.

    Researching how Nazi war criminals fled to post-war Argentina, the ABC news crew pores over the government's recently released archives in Buenos Aires. And, after uncovering two names of interest, their trail eventually leads them to Bariloche, a German-speaking alpine resort town high in the Andes.

    Incredibly, they find Erich Priebke listed in the local phone book. And after a sting to confirm his identity, send in the TV crew to ambush him and confront him with the facts. Can they capture him on camera? And will a mass murderer be brought to justice?
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Joseph Mengele
    Arguably the most notorious Nazi fugitive of all, Dr. Joseph Mengele earned the nickname the 'Angel of Death' for his perverse and sadistic experiments at Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the war, Mengele escaped to Buenos Aires where he lived the high life on the run.

    That is, until 1959 when the West German government indicted Mengele for mass murder and demanded his extradition. At the same time, having just captured fellow SS officer Adolf Eichman, Israeli Mossad agents turned their sights on Mengele. With his carefree life now long-gone, the Nazi doctor went into hiding. And although Mossad agents tracked him down outside Sao Paulo, their mission was shelved, and Mengele remained at large.

    By 1985, pressure from Holocaust survivors converged with political will, and German, Israeli and American law enforcement agents agreed to coordinate their efforts. The hunt for Mengele moved into high gear, and although investigators eventually found him in Brazil, they were too late. He had died six years earlier, but doubts linger as to whether the exhumed corpse really is the infamous Dr. Mengele.
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Kurt Lischka
    As the Gestapo Chief in Paris, Kurt Lischka orders the largest mass arrest in French history in 1942, and is responsible for the murder of 33,000 Jews. After the war, Lischka settles in Cologne, West Germany and, thanks to a legal loophole protecting Nazis like him from prosecution, he lives a quiet life and enjoys a successful career as a prosperous businessman.

    That is, until one morning when Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld show up to film him as he leaves his apartment. Determined to bring Lischka and others like him to justice, they hope the footage of a Nazi criminal running through the streets of Cologne will shame Germany into adopting a new law. But when the public outcry they’re hoping for doesn’t materialize, they decide on a much more radical strategy.

    When their plan to kidnap Lischka fails, Beate ends up in jail. And although they initially find little support in Germany, the injustice of her incarceration becomes a cause célèbre. The couple continues their struggle for several years, but the harder they fight, the more danger they face from the neo-Nazi forces determined to stop them. Can they get Germany to face up to its past? And will they ever see Kurt Lischka punished for his crimes?
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Paul Touvier
    One of France's worst wartime villains, Paul Touvier is an overtly anti-Semitic traitor who terrorizes his own countrymen. As a leader of a pro-Nazi paramilitary police force, he relishes his job of hunting down 'enemies of the state' and, murdering Jews and resistance fighters alike, earns himself the nickname the 'Hangman of Lyon'.

    A devout Catholic, Touvier escapes retribution after the war by turning to the church for help. By 1988, France's most notorious war criminal is still at large, and a high-ranking French investigator, Jean-Louis Recordon, is given the job of hunting him down. After 40 years, it is a nearly impossible mission.

    Recordon starts with his last known address — the archdiocese in Lyon. As the investigation unfolds Recordon discovers that a shadowy right wing movement within the Catholic church is hiding the Nazi collaborator. The manhunt takes detectives to secretive religious orders all over France. It also reveals that the deep divisions caused by the war live on.
  • Nazi Hunters: Nazi Hunters: Gustav Wagner/Franz Stangl
    A fervent believer in Hitler's theories on race and Aryan superiority, Franz Stangl is an Austrian career policeman who joins the Nazi party and works his way up the ranks. Proving a knack for mass murder, he eventually finds himself in charge of three Polish extermination camps where he is responsible for the genocide of 800,000 people.

    Following a well worn 'ratline', Stangl escapes to Brazil after the war where for nearly two decades he leads a comfortable existence in exile. That is until 1964 when the world's most famous Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, receives an anonymous tip about Stangl's whereabouts. With help from the Brazilian police, and an extradition request from West Germany, Stangl is arrested in 1967.

    It is a major victory for Holocaust survivors, particularly since Stangl's trial brings the horrifying reality of the extermination camps to light. Thanks to a surprising admission, it also puts Weisenthal on the trail of another notorious Nazi fugitive, his former deputy Gustav Wagner.

    According to Stangl, the man known as the 'Beast of Sobibor' is also in Brazil. But it will take nearly a decade, a secret birthday party for Hitler, and a Sobibor survivor to put Wagner behind bars.
  • Nazi Hunters: Joseph Mengele
    Stereo
  • Nazi Hunters: Kurt Lischka
    Stereo
  • Nazi Hunters: Paul Touvier
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  • Nazi Hunters: Gustav Wagner/Franz Strangl
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