Neal Bascomb utilized recently declassified documents for his “nonfiction thriller” about the hunt for Adolph Eichmann. Bascomb, a non-Jew, also studied Nazi edicts and concentration camp records, operations of Israel’s Mossad, the workings of Argentina’s government, El Al’s protocols, and evidence in a Jerusalem courtroom. This information is detailed in the end matter.
On trial, Eichmann’s demeanor and statements appeared weasel-like; however, Bascomb tracks his tenacity, physical endurance, and adaptability as he escaped from Europe. Once in Argentina, to avoid detection Eichmann reduced himself and eventually his family to a subsistence-level existence. But Mossad did capture him. Bascomb impresses readers with fine capsule profiles of the singleminded but multi-faceted Israeli agents. Lacking 21st century e‑devices, they alternated bravura with attention to minute details— timing, theatrical scenarios, forgeries, and just plain secret agents’ dissembling techniques— to bring Eichmann to Israel and his trial.
Using immediacy and urgency to great advantage, the author keeps his narrative removed from the dimension of time — in many chapters, the calendar year disappears, as events are recorded day-to-day, hour-by-hour. Bascomb never loses suspense, even though readers know the end of the story — Eichmann’s death fifty years ago and the approaching demise of his hunters and all Holocaust survivors. The wrenching words of his Mossad capturer— author and artist Peter Z. Malkin (d.’05) — to Malkin’s dying mother, close this remarkable book. Bibliography, index, notes.