The Exe­cu­tion of the Hang­man of Riga: The Only Exe­cu­tion of a Nazi War Crim­i­nal by the Mossad

Anton Kuen­zle; Gad Shim­ron; Uriel Masad, trans.
  • Review
By – August 14, 2012
Anton Kuen­zle, an author writ­ing under a pseu­do­nym, tells of the extra­or­di­nary covert oper­a­tion which began in 1964 and end­ed on the 23rd of Feb­ru­ary 1965 with the exe­cu­tion of Her­bert Cuk­ers, the infa­mous Hang­man of Riga. Pre­sent­ing him­self as a well-to-do Aus­tri­an busi­ness­man, Anton Kuen­zle, an Israeli and high-rank­ing offi­cer of the Israel Defense Forces and a senior agent of the Mossad (Israel’s CIA equiv­a­lent) embarked on a jour­ney to San Paulo, Brazil, to the fortressed home of Her­bert Cuk­ers, the Lat­vian flight pio­neer and mon­ster respon­si­ble for the death of 30,000 Jews in Latvia. The sto­ry tells of Mr. Kuenzle’s jour­ney and his encounter with Cuk­ers, whom he refers to as the Deceased.’ It describes how he gained his trust so that the Nazi war crim­i­nal could be led to Uruguay to be trapped, over­pow­ered and ulti­mate­ly exe­cut­ed by a team of five men from the Mossad. Kuen­zle spares few details in describ­ing the bar­bar­ic, cru­el and sadis­tic acts of Cuk­ers. The book includes many black and white pho­tographs of Cuk­ers, his Jew­ish vic­tims and Kuen­zle, (with his face black­ened out so that he can­not be rec­og­nized). Upon his death, Cuker’s blood­ied body was laid in a trunk with a sin­gle piece of paper writ­ten in Eng­lish: VER­DICT: Con­sid­er­ing the grav­i­ty of the crimes of which HER­BERT CUK­ERS is accused, notably his per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty in the mur­der of 30,000 men, women and chil­dren, and con­sid­er­ing the ter­ri­ble cru­el­ty shown by HER­BERT CUK­ERS in car­ry­ing out his crimes, we con­demn the said CUK­ERS to death. He was exe­cut­ed on 23 Feb­ru­ary 1965 by Those Who Will Nev­er For­get.’” 

This amaz­ing sto­ry is very well writ­ten, and trans­lat­ed mas­ter­ful­ly by Uriel Masad. A must-read for any­one inter­est­ed in this first­hand account by the coura­geous Mr. Kuen­zle of the mur­der of the Hang­man of Riga.
Bar­bara S. Cohen is a tri­al attor­ney in Los Ange­les who spe­cial­izes in child abuse cas­es. She is a mem­ber of NAMI and a sup­port­er of NARSAD, and is an advo­cate for those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

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