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Case Number 23218: Small Claims Court

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Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals

PBS // 2011 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // January 29th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge P.S. Colbert respects Nazi hunters far too much to say snarky things about them.

The Charge

"I am not a person who hates, who revenges, who kills. Whatever has been done has been done because justice had not been served. And justice had to be done."—A Mossad Agent (Name withheld by request)

The Case

Have you ever wondered why there are still Nazi Hunters around? Neither had I.

These rugged young vanguards of retribution (Inglourious Basterds, The Stranger) have existed so long—in both fact and fiction—I've come to take them for granted, like air, or water, or superheroes. The hunters featured in Elusive Justice: The Search For Nazi War Criminals are all too human…and no longer young. Some were members of Israel's paramilitary intelligence unit (the Mossad), some called themselves "Nokim,"—which is Hebrew for "Avengers"—and most are survivors of Nazi atrocities. Some speak of revenge, others of justice. Former Israeli ambassador Asher Ben-Natan reasons that "Vengeance is a means to do justice."

Written, produced and directed for PBS by former ABC News investigator Jonathan Silvers, Elusive Justice wisely avoids the purple prose and cheesy reenactments that have marred similar History Channel productions. Silvers' taut and provocative text is narrated by Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown), whose polished gravel baritone lends an air of gravity to the proceedings.

What's more, Silvers doesn't rely on old, frequently rerun archival footage to illustrate his salient points. There are shocking and disturbing images—including film footage taken by American troops immediately upon entering Auschwitz in 1945—but they are never gratuitous. Clearly, the purpose here is to educate, not titillate or nauseate.

"During the Second World War, the Allies pledged to prosecute all of those who had taken part in Nazi crimes and atrocities. This was a hugely ambitious pledge, and it failed."— Allan Ryan, former chief war crimes prosecutor, U.S. Department of Justice

Most of the action takes place after the end of World War II, with an emphasis on recent history, which brings us back to the question of why Nazi Hunters still exist. Perhaps the saddest and most maddening truth of all is that—unlike in fiction—most Nazi war criminals have been able to get on with their lives and careers in the great wide open, while using their real names, and resting comfortably in the knowledge that due process of law protects them.

PBS' presentation of Elusive Justice is just as stark and detailed as Silvers' production. The standard definition visuals are 1.33:1 full frame and crystal clear (save for some clips sixty years and older), and the Dolby 2.0 Stereo track equals the image quality. English subtitles have been provided, as has a special option to hear video descriptions.

The tale unfolding here is not a happy one, nor necessarily a hopeful one, but Elusive Justice: The Search For Nazi War Criminals is nevertheless an indisputable testament to the courage of convictions and should be required viewing for everyone from high school age on up.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 98

Perp Profile

Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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