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Who Were the Most Famous Nazi Hunters?

Do you know these Nazi hunters? 

Years after the end of WWII, stories about the Holocaust and Nazis still haunt us. Probably one of the most asked questions of all time is why so many innocent people died, and a lot of those who killed them managed to escape without consequences.

However, along the way, there were a lot of Nazi hunters, like Simon Wiesenthal, who dedicated their entire lives to bringing war criminals to justice.

While you may have probably watched documentaries on Prime about this topic, for some of you, the information presented in the article will be quite new and interesting. I did my “homework” for today as well, so without further ado, let’s meet some of the bravest Nazi hunters of all time.

Nazi hunters
Photo by Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuviah Friedman

One of the first Nazi hunters I decided to talk about was Tuviah Friedman. Friedman managed to escape in 1944, but regrettably, every member of his immediate family—aside from his sister Bella—died as a result of their detention.

Tuviah Friedman, formerly known as “The Merciless One,” was a member of a Polish militia who hunted down Nazis in the final months of the war and beyond. Furthermore, Friedman claimed to have arrested and even tortured Nazis across the Polish countryside, occasionally beating his captives like he was beaten when he was a prisoner in a Nazi work camp.

Friedman was one of the few Nazi hunters who entered prisoner-of-war camps dressed as a captured Nazi officer to track out possible SS members. Eventually, he met Simon Wiesenthal, with whom he sided to track down all the Nazis and throw them into the hands of justice.

He died at 88 years old happier that he managed to do some good to the world despite what horrors were caused by the Holocaust and the Nazi regime.

Simon Wiesenthal

During the Holocaust, Austrian Jew Simon Wiesenthal, who was born in 1908, was detained in five separate concentration camps. Later, he assisted Jews in their emigration from Europe to Palestine and provided information about Nazi war criminals to US intelligence.

Following the establishment of Israel, Wiesenthal began working with the Mossad’s precursor agency, locating former Nazis like Adolf Eichmann. After that, Wiesenthal started working for Israel’s spy service, investigating criminals and ex-missile experts.

Wiesenthal was one of the Nazi hunters who helped in the identification of thousands of former Nazis and the prosecution of hundreds of them, including Franz Stangl, the head of the extermination camps at Treblinka and Sobibor. Despite his past, he was always against vigilante justice.

He specifically asked that every accused person face trial like any other. Wiesenthal also believed that not all of Germany was responsible for the Holocaust, but those who were must suffer the consequences.

Elliot Welles

Another one of the Nazi hunters who didn’t escape getting into the Holocaust was Elliot Welles. Soon after the war began, the Nazis deported him and his mother. His mother was put on a bus after the two were split up. After that, the Nazis shot every passenger inside the vehicle as they drove it into the woods. When the clothes that belonged to the dead bodies were returned two days later, Elliot recognized his mother’s outfit.

Inevitably, Welles was transferred to the Polish detention camp at Stutthof, where he stayed until the last few months of the war. After that, he was ordered to march against his will to Magdeburg, Germany, where he managed to escape.

Welles used the archives of the US Office of Special Investigations, which was established in 1979, to track down the SS officer responsible for his mother’s killing.

After years of searching for the killer, Welles managed to find him. Although the man received a term of only two to three years in jail, he was successful in getting him found guilty.

Nazi hunters
Photo by Golden Brown from Shutterstock

Efraim Zuroff

As the Israeli head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff is often referred to as “the last Nazi hunter” because he has spent more than 30 years locating former Nazis.

In addition, he oversees the Center’s yearly list of the “Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals.” Zuroff doesn’t spend his time trudging through the Argentinean countryside like the Nazi hunts of old; instead, he works more like a desk sergeant.

Critics are something he must deal with, though, something most of them never had to. Considering how long ago the Holocaust occurred, many Nazi survivors are in their eighties or nineties. Older, weak guys don’t appear very threatening, which makes many people feel sorry for them.

…psst! Are you curious about some of the books that got me into writing this article? Check out The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi written by Neal Bascomb which is available in both paperback and Kindle format on Amazon. 

Bonus: if you’re a Spy Story fan, you’ll love the book! Plus you can easily read it in one weekend, same as I did. 

Israel Carmi

Another one of the Nazi hunters who lost his entire family in the Holocaust is Israel Carmi. He founded a group called Nokmim, which translates to “The Avengers,” and was made up entirely of Jews. After the war, governments showed little interest in prosecuting Nazis, leaving individuals to seek justice. This is how Nikmim was born.

Nokmim would look for real Nazis throughout Europe with assistance from the British troops. Upon finding one, they would apprehend the individual, typically posing as law enforcement officers seeking to question them. They would reveal their true identities and plans to the Nazis during the next phase of “Operation Judgment.”

They would take the Nazis to a remote location and carry out their execution—the favored method being strangling. Nokmim was one of numerous murder squads that killed Nazis throughout Europe, and it was responsible for hundreds of deaths.

Furthermore, he was one of the few Nazi hunters who also helped thousands of Jews go to Israel.

Serge And Beate Klarsfeld

Last but not least of the Nazi hunters is the well-known couple Sarge and Beate Kalrsfeld. The two of them met in the 1960s and began tracking down criminals shortly after. Compared to other Nazi hunters on the list, none of them were imprisoned during the Holocaust.

Beate is a German Protestant, and Serge is a French Jew who lost his father in Auschwitz. Kurt-Georg Kiesinger, the German Chancellor in the 1960s and a former Nazi propagandist, was their first target. Beate was imprisoned for four months after she infamously smacked him in the face in protest.

The Klarsfelds were not satisfied with only exposing former Nazis; they started working to prosecute them, focusing on Kurt Lischka, the former head of the Gestapo. When they initially caught him, Serge had a pistol to his head, but she gave in and made him be jailed, receiving a 10-year prison term.

One of their best-known captures was Klaus Barbie, another former head of the Gestapo who they had previously attempted and failed to capture. After being extradited to France, he was found guilty and died in jail eight years later.

Today, they retired from being Nazi hunters but they still commemorate those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

Are you keen on reading more interesting stuff about the Nazi regime? Check out: Heinrich Himmler: 7 Least-Known Facts About the Architect of Terror


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