Review of Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb
Fans of fiction often complain that nonfiction books tends to be dry. They obviously haven't read the right books. I started this blog, in part, to expand the reach of great nonfiction. Hunting Eichmann is a real life thriller that is better than anything Tom Clancy or any other comparable fiction writer could dream up.
This story begins with the capture in Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi who had direct involvement in the deaths of over six million jews. From this beginning the author retraces the steps that led to the capture starting with the waning days of WWII and the collapse of the Third Reich.
Eichmann's role was to round up the jews and send them off to the concentration camps. He did this by promising them that they were simply being relocated. He did this with full knowledge of what fate awaited them. His rationalization for his actions were that he was simply following orders. It's the same justification given by many of the men and women who worked in the concentration camps.
How Eichmann managed to allude his pursuers takes up a good portion of the book. By the time the Jewish secret police, or Mossad, caught up with Eichmann, the whole enterprise of capturing former Nazis and trying them as war criminals had faded from the public consciousness. So when a lead about Eichmann's whereabouts turned out to have some credence, there was renewed interest in bringing this man to justice. Perhaps a trial would once again bring the holocaust to the forefront and acts as a reminder of what had happened.
Eichmann was able to evade capture by living off the grid. He used forged identities. He lived with his family in near poverty without electricity and basic services. One israeli agent sent to check up on a lead about Eichmann took one look at the barren building said to be his home and reported back that it could not be Eichmann. There was no way that such a man could be reduced to so low of living standards. After all, this was a high ranking Nazi who lived a life of luxury while in the military elite. All of that power, however, disappeared almost as soon as his uniform and rank no longer held weight. He turned into a chain smoking, nervous, stooped over man unrecognizable from his former self.
The pursuit, capture, and ultimate trial of Adolf Eichmann as told in this book is nonfiction at its best. If this book doesn't convince you that nonfiction is better than fiction, then nothing will.