THE GOOD ASSASSIN : How A Mossad Agent And A Band of Survivors Hunted Down The Butcher of LatviaStephan Talty
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The Untold Story of An Israeli Spy’s Epic Journey To Bring The Notorious Butcher of Latvia To Justice – A Case That Altered The Fates Of All Ex-Nazis
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★★ Inspiration for the hit new podcast “Hunting the Butcher” ★★
The compelling story of the pursuit of a man responsible for the murders of at least 30,000 Latvian Jews during World War II.
The untold story of an Israeli spy’s epic journey to bring the notorious Butcher of Latvia to justice—a case that altered the fates of all ex-Nazis. This book tells the remarkable true story of the pursuit and capture of Herberts Cukurs, a Latvian Nazi war criminal, by a Mossad agent and a group of Holocaust survivors.
The book is based on extensive interviews with Meidad, other Mossad agents, and survivors of the Holocaust in Latvia. Talty also draws on archival documents and historical research to tell the story of Cukurs’s crimes and the Mossad operation to bring him to justice.
The Mossad, Israel’s black ops organization, was at the forefront of many of the efforts to track down these killers and organizers of wartime atrocities. Its most well-known exploit, of course, was the 1962 kidnapping of Final Solution architect/facilitator, Adolf Eichmann, resulting in his trial and subsequent execution. A Mossad team was organized and tasked with a plan to eliminate Cukurs in 1965 just prior to a German legislative debate on granting amnesty to virtually all as-yet unprosecuted Germans believed to have participated in wartime atrocities.
Before World War II, Cukurs was a famous figure in his small Latvian city, the “Charles Lindbergh of his country.” But by 1945, he was the Butcher of Latvia, a man who murdered some thirty thousand Latvian Jews. Somehow, he dodged the Nuremberg trials, fleeing to South America after war’s end.
By 1965, as a statute of limitations on all Nazi war crimes threatened to expire, Germany sought to welcome previous concentration camp commanders, pogrom leaders, and executioners, as citizens. The global pursuit of Nazi criminals escalated to beat the looming deadline, and Mossad, the Israeli national intelligence agency, joined the cause. Yaakov Meidad, the brilliant Mossad agent who had kidnapped Adolf Eichmann three years earlier, led the mission to assassinate Cukurs in a desperate bid to block the amnesty. In a thrilling undercover operation unrivaled by even the most ambitious spy novels, Meidad traveled to Brazil in an elaborate disguise, befriended Cukurs and earned his trust, while negotiations over the Nazi pardon neared a boiling point.
Soon after German forces pushed the Soviet Army out of Latvia in 1941, Cukurs, a renowned aviator, became second-in-command of the Arajs Commandos, volunteer paramilitaries who assisted the S.S. in carrying out mass killings. Eyewitnesses describe Cukurs murdering women and young children, and supervising the liquidation of the Riga Ghetto, which sent nearly 30,000 Jews to their deaths.
In 1946, he fled to Brazil and started a successful boat rental and sightseeing business. Despite lobbying by Latvian Holocaust survivors and Brazilian Jews, local police refused to take action against Cukurs, and by 1965 the statute of limitations for prosecuting Nazi war criminals was set to expire in West Germany.
In a plan approved by the Israeli prime minister, Mossad agent Jacob Medad, who’d helped to capture Adolf Eichmann, disguised himself as an Austrian businessman, befriended Cukurs, and brought him to Uruguay, where a team of assassins killed him.
According to Talty, international publicity over the case helped push German legislators to extend the statute of limitations (it was formally abolished in 1979). Talty efficiently mines archival records for vivid details and tracks the complexities of Medad’s undercover mission with flair. The result is a captivating and gruesome real-life spy thriller.
“The Good Assassin” provides historical context by delving into the history of Latvia during World War II, the atrocities committed by Cukurs and others, and the broader context of Nazi war crimes. This book also offers a unique perspective on the pursuit of justice for Holocaust crimes and serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of those who sought justice for the victims of the Holocaust. Therefore it explores the challenges faced by Holocaust survivors seeking justice for the crimes committed against their families and communities. It uncovers this little-known chapter of Holocaust history and the pulse-pounding undercover operation that brought Cukurs to justice.
About the Author :
Stephan Talty is a critic and journalist who has contributed numerous pieces on race and American culture to publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Vibe, George, Chicago Review, the Irish Times, and Playboy. Originally from Buffalo, New York, he now lives in Brooklyn.
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