When I saw this book, three months ago, it was part of the KBA Bluegrass Award list for 2016. -A little digging and you will find that this is both odd and inspiring because the list is usually confined to fiction.- This book clearly falls into the burgeoning realm of creative non-fiction. Based on the hunt and capture of Adolf Eichmann, Neal Bascomb weaves together the events of his other book, Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, into a narrative that is easily approachable for everyone. The story is broken into three key parts: the initial period of hiding, convincing others of Eichmann’s existence, and the capture/extradition for trial in Israel.
What is here is the harrowing events of the Israeli Mossad and Shin Bat agents and the volunteers who helped them. Isser Harel and his men where an amazing team that spent hundreds of hours researching and detaining Eichmann’s capture. In his own words, “for the first time in history the Jews will judge their assassins, and for the first time the world will hear the full story of the edict of annihilation against an entire people. Everything depends on the action we are about to take.” This is a book that should be on everyone’s to read list.
<Spoilers after the break.>
I must admit the post-WW2 period is fascinating to me. Many wanted to cling to the ideals of fascism even though its oppressive regimes failed to build a 1000 year Reich. Fear of a rising tide of Sovietism in Europe and the economic decline made for an interesting time in Europe. However, his book doesn’t look at that aspect. Instead, Bascomb concentrates on the difficulties of an anti-Semitic post-war world that wanted to move on. Following the events in Cologne, Israeli leadership was worried about what could happen in Europe. A blatant resurgence of Nazi officials in West German politics and neo-Nazi groups in Argentina, fueled this fear and a capture of Eichmann was an answer.
We see little of Eichmann’s time in Nazi Germany before his exile except for his time in Budapest shortly before a retreat and this seemingly jarring moment after seeing the killing squads in Poland, “despite his feelings toward Jews, Eichmann was unnerved by what he saw. But the fear of losing his job, and the power that went with it, outweighed his misgivings, and he accepted the need to rid Europe of the Jews through extermination.” By 1960 his feelings about the war and joys of Nazism both isolated him in the ex-Pats community and were used to bring him to trail.
How Eichmann comes to Argentina is part of the mystery and builds some of the suspense for the story. He was a high ranking member of the SS, and no one wanted to believe he had become a simple factory manager living in stucco hovel on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Bascomb writes about his initial escape, “he hiked away into the mountains, Eichmann was far from prepared to be a man on the run. He had little money, no safe house, and no forged papers. Unlike some of his SS comrades, he had not salted away a fortune in gold and foreign currency. Now he regretted that he had not kept the bribes he took from the Jewish leaders, who would have given him everything they had in exchange for their lives.” Eichmann is also shown to have been pulled into the Genocide by others but then fully embraces the events as they took place. One can only wonder if the AE diatribes about the greatness of Nazism are left out so that a young audience wouldn’t become inundated by his warped since of bigotry and violent nationalism.