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The Hunt for Nazis: The Real-Life Captures That Inspired The Debt

Posted August 22, 2011 to photo album "The Hunt for Nazis: The Real-Life Captures That Inspired The Debt"

John Madden’s THE DEBT tells the tale of a trio of Mossad agents who hunted down a wanted Nazi war criminal. We explore the stories of the many real-life Nazi war criminals who went into hiding after the war, and the people who tracked them down to bring them to justice.

The Debt's Hunt for Nazi Criminals
Nazi War Criminals After the War
Adolf Eichmann, the Transportation Administrator
Capturing Eichmann
Josef Mengele, the
Mengele's Escape
Martin Bormann, Hitler's Private Secretary
The Hunt for Martin Bormann
Martin Bormann's Death
Barbie's Hunters
The Trial of Klaus Barbie
Aribert Ferdinand Heim,
Erich Rajakowitsch
Franz Paul Stangl,
Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan
Herberts Cukurs
Dinko Šakić
Erich Rajakowitsch

Erich Rajakowitsch

Dutch Jews on their way to the camps

When Anne Frank wrote in Diary of a Young Girl, “These wretched people are sent to filthy slaughterhouses like a herd of sick, neglected cattle. But I won't talk about it, I only get nightmares from such thoughts,” the man responsible for those nightmares was most likely Erich Rajakowitsch.

When Rajakowitsch applied to join the SS, his friend Adolph Eichmann wrote him letter of recommendation, proclaiming the Italian-born lawyer to be “somebody who puts himself at the disposal of the cause with heart and soul, a National Socialist of the purest race.” Rising in the ranks, Rajakowitsch was the SS officer in charge of the Special Office for Jewish Affairs in Holland and responsible for sending Anne Frank and about 110,000 other Dutch Jews off to concentration camps and gas chambers. When asked to spare a few Portuguese Jews, Rajakowitsch famously declared, “Jews are Jews — out!” Rajakowitsch disappeared after the war. After Eichmann was captured in Argentina, he told Israeli investigators that he had talked to Rajakowitsch while living in Buenos Aires. And the hunt was on. Simon Wiesenthal, then head of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, tracked down Rajakowitsch in Milan, where, under the name Enrico Raja, he imported metals and machinery from Eastern Europe. His cover blown, he fled to Switzerland, which expelled him as an “unwanted person.” In 1963, he finally gave himself up to Austrian authorities. For his part in the Holocaust, Rajakowitsch was sentenced by the Austrians to two and half years for having with “malicious forethought created a situation which brought about danger of life for human beings and which resulted in their death.”  After six months, he was quietly released and returned to Milan.