Review: Hunting Eichmann

Neal Bascomb, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, 390 pages

eichThere will be a day when one of my sons will test the veracity of Numbers 32:23. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” I’ll tell him the story of Hunting Eichmann, a book full of spies and Nazi hunters and kidnappings and justice.

Who’s to blame for the holocaust, for the sixty-four pound bodies, and the 60,000 living skeletons? Whose deeds made General Omar Bradley speechless and caused George Patton to vomit against the wall? Whose atrocities drove Goebbels, his wife and six children to commit suicide? Who plundered Jewish property through terror and torture? Who denied enslaved Jews their rights as human beings? Who promised these same Jewish prisoners that they had nothing to worry about?

Among others, it was Adolf Eichmann. What set him apart was that when most of the notorious Nazis fell into Allied hands within the first weeks of occupation, Eichmann managed to escape. As the head of the Jewish branch of the Gestapo hired to rid Europe of Jews by extermination, he eluded justice for nearly two decades. World War II Germany had fancy titles for wicked deeds just like America does today. We call the organization that helps slaughter millions of innocent children ‘Planned Parenthood.’ They called the concept of annihilating the Jewish race the ‘Final Solution.’ Adolph Eichmann was the German version of Margaret Sanger and Cecile Richards.

Eichmann fled to Argentina and had a family but he was never happy–always looking over his shoulder as he worked a dead-end job. The book centers around the exploits of the Mossad, Israel’s young intelligence agency. They were to capture Eichmann, smuggle him back into Israel, and place him on trial. This they did and the trial was covered around the world. It ended with the first—and to this day only—sentence of death by an Israeli court.

At the commencement of the trial, attorney general Gideon Hausner spoke these poetic lines:

When I stand before you here, Judges of Israel, to lead the Prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger towards him who sits in the dock and cry: ‘I accuse.’ For their ashes are piled up on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka and are strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graces are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voice is not heard. Therefore I will be their spokesman. (337)

This book was much like Unbroken in that—despite the author—the sheer grandeur of the story kept the pages turning. Bascomb does not write with exceptional wit or insight. He was only quotable when quoting someone else. But the story yields several lessons.

  1. Your sin will find you out. For Eichmann, his sin was found by the Jews over fifteen years later. For my daughter, it may be by his mother the next day. For you, it may not be until the last day. “[Jesus] will bring to light those things now hidden in darkness” (1 Cor. 4:5).
  2. Appearance can be deceptive. The man who looked like a postal clerk, someone so average in temperament and appearance, was responsible for the extermination of six million Jews. The personification of evil worked 8-5 and had a family.
  3. Guilt over sin plays tricks. If we allow sin to fester unconfessed, it will play us for a fool. Just captured and head shrouded with a bag, Eichmann confessed in somewhat relief to the secret agents: “I am already resigned to my fate.” Then, “no man can remain vigilant for fifteen years.” But this was not true remorse, for only Jesus can change the heart. Till the very end, Eichmann remained defiant. Claiming innocence, he said: “I have no regrets.”

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