Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Nazi Hunters, Neal Bascomb

Edition: ARC
Author: Neal Bascomb
Goodreads: The Nazi Hunters
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Expanded Knowledge: The Eichmann Trial; The Eichmann Trial, Pt 1 (YouTube)

Goodreads Summary: A thrilling spy mission, a moving Holocaust story, and a first-class work of narrative nonfiction.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the head of operations for the Nazis' Final Solution, walked into the mountains of Germany and vanished from view. Sixteen years later, an elite team of spies captured him at a bus stop in Argentina and smuggled him to Israel, resulting in one of the century's most important trials -- one that cemented the Holocaust in the public imagination.

THE NAZI HUNTERS is the thrilling and fascinating story of what happened between these two events. Survivor Simon Wiesenthal opened Eichmann's case; a blind Argentinean and his teenage daughter provided crucial information. Finally, the Israeli spies -- many of whom lost family in the Holocaust -- embarked on their daring mission, recounted here in full. Based on the adult bestseller HUNTING EICHMANN, which is now in development as a major film, and illustrated with powerful photos throughout, THE NAZI HUNTERS is a can't-miss work of narrative nonfiction for middle-grade and YA readers.

I finished this book more than a week ago, but I've taken some time to digest it. I was born in the mid1980s and raised with only a working knowledge of WWII and the terrible things the Nazis did. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Germany with an exchange program and visit the Dachau concentration camp, which is about an hour away from my favorite Germany place, Munich. Dachau was not a death camp, like Auschwitz, but more than 40,000 people were still killed there, set up along trenches and shot in large groups. This is not a happy place, but it is something that everyone needs to see. Too often, we let history become muted and forgotten, and the horrors start all over again.

The Nazi Hunters is a really good way to introduce more detail into WWII studies for upper middle/high school kids. It details not only the hunt for one of the worst Nazi officers, Adolf Eichmann, but also details the individual stories of the Israeli spies involved, all of them Holocaust survivors. This is James Bond style spying in that there are disguises, fancy 1960s era gadgets, and a lot of looking over newspapers. This is NOT James Bond style spying in that there is no huge climax, with someone strapped to a board with sharks and lasers ready to attack. The climax moments are small, and quickly resolved, but strong enough to make push you deeper into the story and keep you reading.

Prior to getting this book in my hands, I knew nothing of Adolf Eichmann or his trial in Israel. I knew amazingly little about how Israel was formed or how Argentina was a country that supported the Nazis and the Holocaust. The Eichmann Trial played a huge part in the acceptance of the reality of the Holocaust. It seems hard to believe, but before this trial, it was difficult for people to comprehend the stories about death camps and ghettos. The survivors were trying to move on with their lives and could not find the courage needed to talk about what they had gone through, losing their homes, their businesses, and their families while the world looked out and blinked stupidly. This trial gave them courage to begin to speak out, paving the way for important literature like The Diary of a Young Girl.

When we're taught about this time in school, we're told about How the Americans Fought and How the Germans Fought and occasionally, How the British/French/Japanese/Russian Fought, but very little about any other country in the world at that time - and equally little about the daily human atrocities. I really hope this book becomes required reading in social studies and history classes everywhere, because understanding the details of the tragedies of this war are important to fostering understanding in kids at the age where they're susceptible to believing everything they're told, whether it's good, bad, or otherwise.

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