Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Hunter by Tuviah Friedman

If I had to recommend one book that teaches about the Holocaust, I would suggest this slim (279 pages) volume.  The book is a multi-layered memoir of the one who hunted down Adolph Eichmann, the specialist in the Nazi S.S., assigned to carrying out the "final solution" of annihilating the Jewish people of Europe.  Friedman calls himself 'obsessed' with tracking down Eichmann.  When the world was ready to forget, Friedman along with Simon Wiesenthal refused.  They both shared information and they both maintained Documentation Centers. (Wiesenthal in Vienna, and Friedman in Haifa) Friedman's audacious report to the newspaper that Eichmann was seen in Kuwait resulted in someone coming forward to give the true details of Eichmann's whereabouts in Argentina.

I met Friedman at the wedding of one of my sons.  He was from the same town as my Father-in-law, Radom, Poland and came to the wedding as a companion to my wife's elderly aunt.  He was a very unassuming man, refined and pleasant.  He was already in his upper 80's.  Giving me his card, he asked if I was informed about what happened during WWII.  With my affirmative answer, he suggested that I read his book if not just to further my knowledge.

I am sorry that it took me so long to get around to reading it because I wanted so much to thank him for writing the book when I finished it: he unfortunately passed away in 2011. The book has everything about the Holocaust: descriptions of Nazi persecution, of escape and survival, of labor and Death camps; a discussion of the process of elimination, how it evolved from simple shootings to gassings and crematoria, the process of post war interrogations and trials to bring the criminals to justice.  Ben Gurion is described as tough but a "man of integrity" with Friedman hoping that Ben Gurion would put the hunt for Eichmann on the State Agenda.  He worked for the Hagana, the precursor to the IDF, doing intelligence work after the war.

One quality of the book that stands out is its brutal honesty.  In describing his survival, he reveals that at one point he takes on a Polish name and identity to continue the hunt for Nazi criminals and even carries on a serious relationship with a Polish woman after she initiates the companionship, who wants to marry him even when she finds out his true identity.  There is an interesting scene at a church, when Mr. Friedman is observed as completely clueless on what to do, his girl friend assumes that he is an atheist, however, Friedman reveals that he is not an atheist but actually Jewish.

There is ample documented evidence against Eichmann.  The famous Wansee Conference minutes are published and the damning testimony of the Rudolph Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz is detailed.

Friedman honestly expresses himself throughout the book on a variety of topics. The book is multi layered and an excellent discussion of the Holocaust era through the founding of the State of Israel up to the capture of Eichmann.

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