Judge William Lee is in the hating Nazis business. With TV series like this one, business is a-booming.
The most evil men in history brought to justice.
We risk forgetting the lessons of history with the passage of time or the changing winds of politics. The survivors of the Holocaust and their families can never forget the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis. The first war crimes trials in Nuremberg ended in 1946 but many of the key players of the Nazi regime were still free. Dedicated avengers like Simon Wiesenthal spent the next fifty-plus years pursuing these mass murderers. Nazi Hunters is a Canada-Brazil co-production, broadcast on History Television, chronicling how eight of the most evil men in history were finally brought to justice. The eight episodes are spread over two discs in this order:
• Herbert Cukurs
Each 43-minute episode follows the same pattern. A tip-off puts a suspected Nazi criminal on the radar—he's usually hiding out in South America. An agent of Israel's secret service, Mossad, or an independent avenger/detective is on the case. Surveillance or outright confrontation is followed by a protracted waiting game as governments stall or interfere. About midway in each episode, a more detailed account of the target's heinous crimes is featured. Reenactments illustrate how the avengers' plans came together. Along the way, interviews with witnesses, surviving participants and experts fill in the details of the mission. Guy Walters, journalist and author of Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice, is regularly called upon for commentary throughout the series.
Consistently using fast cuts throughout the series, Nazi Hunters always moves along at a quick pace. It's easy to watch a few episodes in a single viewing because the dense information is presented in such a riveting manner. Archival photos, reenactments with actors, and interviews are blended together effectively. Staged scenes have an economical, almost documentary, feel to them. There isn't any extraneous dialogue or drama so there's a cold precision to the information offered.
One thing I would have liked to see is an overview perspective to put these eight cases in context with the overall effort to find the fugitive Nazis. The episodes are not presented in chronological order of each target's capture. Jumping around in time, each case is treated like an isolated mission even though subtle mention is made of how the earlier capture of a notable Nazi would affect the current situation of hunting another target. There's also slightly more attention paid to the story of the criminals than the hunters and the latter are the driving force of this push for justice. Of course, deep undercover Mossad agents can't be revealed but Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, the civilian couple who helped bring Klaus Barbie to trial, are fascinating people with a rich life's story. The hunters are given more than just a mention but, considering the title of the series, they aren't exactly given their due.
The show's fast editing ways and grab bag employment of visual tricks may have helped to hide any technical problems. The picture quality is superb on this DVD set. The image is sharp and exhibits no compression problems. There are slivers of black bars on the left and right sides of the picture so while the disc's video is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, the actual image area of the show appears in a 1.74:1 frame. Standard issue Dolby Digital stereo mix provides clear dialogue.
The aftermath of World War II was a messy affair. The emergence of the Cold War and other political games drew public attention away from the pursuit of Nazi war criminals. I was surprised to learn a few of the big fish, true believers in the Nazi cause, were not captured until the 1990s or later. It's also shocking to learn what a widespread network existed to aid fugitive Nazis. The series directly implicates the Vatican and the C.I.A. among those institutions that protected Nazi war criminals. Whether their strategies were petitioning, kidnapping or assassination, the courageous and tireless hunters of Nazis are true champions of justice.
Nazi Hunters presents these stories in a concise, fast and easily understood manner. The subject matter can be disturbing but the stories of the hunters are exciting and endlessly fascinating. If the television documentary format limits this show to just the key facts, it invites the viewer to delve into further research by laying out some key starting points. This series is certainly worth a rental for any war history buff or fan of crime and detective stories.
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