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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
Mengele's Escape

Mengele's Escape

Mossad agent Rafi Eitan

Following the war, Mengele is thought to have made it to Argentina, most likely helped by Bishop Hudal’s ratline — the same one that also aided Eichmann's escape. While the Mossad agents were interrogating Eichmann in a safe house and planning to get him to Israel, they found out where Mengele was living. But rather than wait and also try to capture Mengele, they decided to first finish their Eichmann mission. Rafi Eitan, one of the Mossad agents who captured Eichmann, told the Associated Press in 2008, "When you have one operation, you're taking a certain level of risk. If you're doing a second operation at the same time, you double the risk ... not only for the second operation but for the first one, as well. … When I have a bird in my hand, I don’t start looking for the bird in the bush. I’ll take the bird in my hand, put it in a cage, and then deal with the one in the bush.” But by the time Mossad agents returned to Buenos Aires, Mengele had fled. Two years later, Mossad had another chance to capture Mengele in Sao Paolo, Brazil, but according to Eitan, Mossad had other “operational priorities,” and he escaped capture again. In the end, Mengele drowned in Brazil while swimming in the Atlantic in 1979 and was buried under the name “Wolfgang Gerhard.” It wasn’t until 1992 that DNA analysis confirmed that Gerhard was indeed Mengele.