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

Customer Reviews:

  • Fascinating, fast paced read for the history lover
    I knew the fate of Eichmann but found I simply couldn't put this book down. I didn't realize the significant role the Catholic church played in relocating the Nazis and the role of the Israeli government. Well researched and gripping....more info
  • A great thriller with real historical teeth
    I'm a great fan of historical narratives, but it's rare that an author has access to the primary research that allows him to inject the book with real novelistic detail. Bascomb interviewed Mossad agents, El Al staff and combed through the archives of the CIA and other agencies, unearthing all kinds of new, exciting information, including the passport Eichmann used to escape Europe under the name Klement. While all this information in and of itself is interesting (and newsworthy), in Bascomb's hands it becomes the foundation for a rich, nuanced, taut thriller with relentless pacing. I could not put this book down, even though the conclusion is well-known to the world. Part of that was because Bascomb did a fantastic job of bringing the "characters" to life. The Mossad agents were all survivors in one way or another and their personal motivations and struggles were imprinted on every page of the manhunt, capture, and deliverance of the monster known as the architect of the Holocaust. I give this book my highest recommendation. I hope there's a movie, too! I assume they'll be one -- you can certainly see it in the book. ...more info
  • Living with Eichmann
    Years ago I read a brief description of the operation to kidnap Eichmann and bring him to Israel. With the release of this book I thought I'd take a deeper interest in what happened, how the operation was organized, and the background to the entire event. In the end I think this book delivers. Although the research is there, the book lacks in the usual endnote citations a scholarly work includes. Rather you can follow page numbers in the back and try to see which few words, designating the beginning of a sentence, are followed by a source, which is where the information in that sentence, and perhaps what follows, comes from. This is a bit annoying at times, but better than no endnotes at all.

    What I really appreciated about this text is the fact that you see these Mossad agents for who they are, not supermen, but ordinary human beings with a past (a past that the majority inherited from the Holocaust) and in their humanity can easily complicate any and every perfectly created plan. From beginning to end this was an operation that with one false step could send the entire mission off course with repercussions none could predict for certain; luck, detective work, and a superior work ethic is what made the difference. Also, I found it interesting, and at the same time horrifying, that such a person like Eichmann can exist. To be so entrenched in one's beliefs and removed from his actions is simply beyond reason. Then again, he had fifteen years to convince himself that what he did was simply to follow orders, even if those orders came from a genocidal authoritarian regime. That Mossad agents were able to be around him and come face-to-face with one of Hitler's most ruthlessly efficient bureaucrats is hard to fathom; that they could restrain themselves from doing violence to him after having first hand knowledge of what went on during the Holocaust and the suffering he caused, is commendable. A recommended book that brings a lot of literature, interviews, and primary sources together on the subject....more info
  • Thorough and thoroughly pedestrian narrative -- 3.5 stars
    Neal Bascomb faced a big challenge in writing this book -- his readers all know how the story ends. Titling the book "Hunting Eichmann" implicitly promises those readers that he will still provide all the excitement and drama associated with the quest for a missing war criminal and mass murderer.

    Some historians do manage to turn out great books in the face of that challenge. Sticking to the events of World War 2, I can recall reading fabulous books about the Generals' plot to assassinate Hitler, about the White Rose resistance movement in Munich, about the planning and early hours of D-day that created so much narrative tension that I completely forgot I already knew how the story ended in 'real life'. (When you read a biography of Anne Boleyn and find yourself hoping against hope that this time she escapes the headsman and survives to see her daughter become queen of England, you know you're in the hands of a masterful writer.) Unfortunately, while Bascomb is a competent historian and thorough researcher, the prosaic, even pedestrian manner in which he presents his material does the book and the topic a great disservice.

    There are relatively few comprehensive histories of the Eichmann operation -- to identify him, kidnap him in Argentina and smuggle him to Israel to face trial for his role in the Holocaust. Even fewer are readily accessible and are well-written, much less crafted by someone with an ability to be dispassionate about the events he is writing about (in the sense of having no axe to grind). But Bascomb succeeds too well in being dispassionate about some of the most horrifying events and one of the biggest 'true crime' investigations of the last century. His story of how Eichmann escaped from justice in the first place is comprehensive and authoritative, but strangely lifeless; the reader follows the details with interest, but rarely feels a sense of outrage at the camaraderie of the SS in prisoner of war camps that permitted Eichmann's escape, or the short-sightedness of war crimes investigators. Equally, the story of how justice caught up with him is told in such a pedestrian manner that only later, the book long since read and discarded, did I realize just how many twists of fate were actually involved in his being located at all, much less successfully brought to justice.

    The only part of this book where I found myself becoming an engaged reader was when Bascomb describes the atmosphere of the house in which the Mossad team kept Eichmann for days before they were able to smuggle him aboard a special El Al flight to Israel. Bascomb succeeded in describing the way that Eichmann sucked all the positive energy and life out of the place, creating an atmosphere of despair and depression among the agents who should have been elated by their achievment. But Bascomb doesn't try to explain how or why this was; he is content with simply describing what was. As a result, even at what should have been the most suspenseful parts of the narrative -- the final confirmation that the man they were pursuing was Eichmann, or the suspense over whether the El Al flight would run out of fuel before reaching Dakar -- felt as if they were just more facts in a long series of facts. Bascomb is a diligent researcher and thorough historian who, unfortunately, failed to rise above just a bland recitation of the facts.

    A final quibble -- Bascomb hints at the wider implications of Eichmann's capture and trial for the state of Israel, for Mossad, and for Holocaust survivors in general, but never really follows up on this. There are a few pages discussing how cathartic the trial was for survivors, and how it opened up an era where the Holocaust became a central image of our time. Still, the scope of what he could have covered in this connection, I ended up feeling short-changed on this front as well.

    I gave this book 3.5 stars because it is authoritative and complete, but I could just have easily rounded down to 3 stars because of these (admittedly rather subjective) flaws. I'm rounding up instead only because in the dearth of other books about the process of capturing Eichmann (what would prove to be only a tiny handful of such high-level prosecutions in the wake of the Nuremburg trials) it has a certain value. But there is a lot of room for someone to tackle the subject again, with more verve, energy, a more creative vision and more eloquent writing. As it stands, it's probably of most interest to historians with an interest in the Holocaust. For a different kind of book about justice and the Holocaust, I'd suggest the superb quasi-biography of Albert Speer by Gitta Sereny Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth. Otherwise, you're better off with fiction if you want to read about Nazis in Argentina. Try Phillip Kerr's excellent A Quiet Flame. ...more info
  • Fantastic book!
    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....more info
  • Good, But Not More Than That
    Nazi hunting is an inherently interesting subject, and this is particularly true of the Eichmann case.

    The author does a good job hooking and holding the reader's attention, but he ain't no Frederick Forsyth. His approach and writing is very much by the numbers; acceptably workmanlike, but it never strives for or attains a higher level. In addition, I had a couple of specific objections. First, he strongly implies that the fate of Bormann is uncertain, hinting that he may have escaped. In fact, the evidence is conclusive (and this isn't news) that Bormann died in Berlin at the very end of the war. Second, he overemphasizes the role, and misconstrues the motivation, of certain Churchmen in helping some of the Nazis escape. He implies, anti-historically, that the Church in general was pro-Nazi. Oh, please.

    One more thing: What happened to the tin box that had contained Eichmann's ashes? Was it also thrown into the sea? A tiny detail, I grant you, but I'd like to know.

    In summary, I recommend this book, but be prepared for a certain flatness....more info
  • Justice Prevails
    This was an amazing piece of non-fiction. The author found the perfect balance between details and pace of action. There's just enough information in the details, the the pace is brisk. It's extremely well researched and you can really picture not just the people, but all the places as well. And the author does a great job of taking the reader inside the head of Eichmann. It's a chilling portrait of a mass murderer, one who never feels as if he did anything wrong. It's also a great tale of investigative chutpah by the Jews that tracked him down. A very satisfying, edifying read. A very welcome addition to Holocaust literature, especially because with this story justice prevailed....more info
  • Bascomb nails it again!
    I was introduced to the writing of Neal Bascomb when I read his best seller, The Perfect Mile. Usually, I read novels and current events books, but I love track and field and the story of Roger Bannister's breaking the 4-minute-mile barrier intrigued me. That's when I got hooked on the writing of Neal Bascomb. Since then I've read all his books and just finished his fourth book, Hunting Eichmann.

    Like all his books, Hunting Eichmann reads like a well written novel. Bascomb organizes his trademark, extensive research into a riveting read. He takes a historical figure and surrounding events that I probably would have never read a full book about, Adolph Eichmann and his capture, and makes them fascinating and difficult to put down. Because of his excellent writing style and attention to accuracy, I pre-ordered Hunting Eichmann. Bascomb nails it again! It is excellent.

    I highly recommend this book. Then again, I highly recommend any of his books. Bascomb makes all his subjects interesting. Whether it's a race to build New York's highest skyscraper, training for and running a record mile, leading a mutiny on a Russian battleship, or hunting down a notorious Nazi, Bascomb brings history to life.
    ...more info
  • A Gripping Tale Well Told
    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. One got a sense of both operational detail and high politics: The dreary, cold, rainy surveillance outpost on the railroad embankment above Eichmann's house; dealing with capricious banana-republic police; pushing the technical limits of the aircraft that spirited the criminal out of Buenos Aires; the scenes with Ben-Gurion and Meir; the Nazi underworld and its enablers in Peronist Argentina; the indifference of the Adenauer government in Bonn (indifference to everything but maintaining its myth of de-Nazification); the high dudgeon in Germany and Argentina over the supposed defects of a trial that neither state had any interest in initiating; and finally Eichmann's trial and the execution of sentence and disposal of Eichmann's corpse -- one could go on, but the point is that Bascomb has gathered these disparate element, structured them as a compelling narrative, and grips his reader from the very first page. I had the simultaneous feelings that I wanted to read pell-mell to the end and at the same time I didn't want to reach the final page and the end of the book's revelations of what really happened.

    In a larger sense, Bascomb has written an overdue tribute to these daring Israelis and their personal self-restraint (many lost their families in the Holocaust) and to the dignified sense of high justice the Israeli State brought to the whole affair. He does not use colorful or emotive prose, but lets the facts speak for themselves -- speak they do.

    Please don't be put off by S.McGee's review, which seemed to me to miss most of the book's many virtues. (McGee is, in fact, right to use the words "subjective" and "quibble" about his review of the book.) I'm glad I read the book before I read that review, because it might have put me off....more info
  • Prosection and Execution Wasn't Enough
    There is no punishment suitable to the killer of millions. Usually, when I read a book about a killer/s, I feel some pity for the cornered rat, even a John Wilkes Booth or the idiots of "In Cold Blood". But this guy Eichmann was like ebola with brains. I am not sure that it was necessary to try him. He should have been buried alive by his captors and forgotten. But that is the problem with absolute evil, it brings out evil thoughts. Perhaps the Israelis were right after all....more info
  • There is enough drama --- and enough characters --- in this book to flesh out a Dickens novel
    Two or three generations have now grown up to whom the name Adolf Eichmann, and indeed the whole ghastly 12-year Nazi era, are just chapters in history textbooks.

    It is good, though, to be reminded of these horrors and to draw lessons from them. Journalist and author Neal Bascomb has accomplished both ends in this narrative of the escape, pursuit, capture, trial and execution of Eichmann, the Nazi officer charged with carrying out the "final solution to the Jewish problem." That "final solution," of course, involved the roundup, deportation to concentration camps and summary execution of as many Jews as possible in Nazi-occupied central Europe. The now-accepted figure of six million victims has never been seriously challenged.

    Eichmann escaped from Germany in the chaotic last days of the defeated Third Reich and was sent under an assumed identity to Argentina, a country whose government and population were both infested with Nazi sympathizers. He hid there successfully for 15 years, joined by his wife and sons, keeping out of the limelight by holding a series of nondescript jobs. The victorious Allied governments, preoccupied with postwar occupation problems, had no real interest in tracking him down. Private-enterprise Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal worked fruitlessly at finding him, dealing with unfounded rumors that he was living in places like Kuwait, New Zealand, the United States and even Israel.

    Israel did not exist when Eichmann dutifully supervised sending those millions to the gas chambers. But the Israeli intelligence service, of course, had special motivation for going after him. They assembled, from within their own ranks and elsewhere, a band of a dozen expert operatives who went to work in deep secrecy. The group included a master forger, a doctor, an expert in disguises, people who knew Argentina well, an experienced interrogator of prisoners, and people with both the physical strength and the will to subdue Eichmann when the time came. Most team members had themselves been scarred one way or another by the Holocaust.

    It was a ticklish business --- in effect kidnapping a German citizen on Argentine soil and spiriting him off in secrecy for trial in Israel. It involved forged documents, deceptive identities, false cover stories, the whole repertoire of cloak-and-dagger tactics. They even developed a means of instantly changing license plates on the cars they were using in order to elude pursuit.

    Inevitably, a key element was sheer luck. The big break in locating Eichmann came when one of his sons bragged to a girlfriend about his father's major role in the Nazi death machine, not realizing that the girl's father was half Jewish and a passionate Nazi-hater. Learning about this, the man alerted the Nazi-hunting network in Europe, and the chase was on.

    Neal Bascomb tells this story in straightforward, almost journalistic style. He has a large cast of characters to manipulate --- the pursuit team itself, the several European governments that were involved, Eichmann's abettors and protectors --- but the attentive reader can still follow the complex plot clearly.

    Simply apprehending Eichmann was only part of the problem; the pursuers had to find covert means of getting their people into Argentina, keeping Eichmann in secret captivity after his capture, getting him onto a plane and getting him to Israel, all without many of the people directly involved knowing what was going on. It was a beautifully planned operation and masterfully executed. There were a few cliffhanger moments when things threatened to unravel, but the team had backup plans for most of them.

    At his trial, Eichmann famously claimed that he was only following orders from superiors. He styled himself a faithful soldier proud to do his duty for his country and showed no real regrets (he had even told one of his captors "In a way, I love Jews."). Bascomb covers the famous trial itself only cursorily, since many of its themes had been touched upon in his main narrative of pursuit and capture.

    There is enough drama --- and enough characters --- in this book to flesh out a Dickens novel, but Bascomb wisely does not try to be Dickens. He is simply a good reporter, telling us a story that needs to be told, and also needs to be remembered and learned from.

    --- Reviewed by Robert Finn...more info
  • Close, but no cigar!
    This is a well written and researched narrative of a pivotal episode in post-war history. It has all the elements of a modern day spy thriller with, unfortunately, none of the suspense. Perhaps it's because we all know the eventual outcome, or perhaps it's because the author tries too hard to dress up the tedious details of the planning phase of the kidnap. Nonetheless, if you're at all interested in the post war life and capture of Adolf Eichmann, this book is a very good starting point. ...more info