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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of Hunting Evil by Guy Walters

In Hunting Evil, author Guy Walters embarks on a meticulously researched journey through the labyrinthine post-war world, following the trails of notorious Nazi war criminals who escaped justice. With a historian's eye for detail and a storyteller's flair for narrative, Walters presents a gripping account of the immense efforts to track down and prosecute those responsible for some of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century.

Walters begins his narrative at the close of World War II when the Allied victory was all but assured, and the architects of the Holocaust and other war atrocities sought to flee the inevitable reckoning. He paints a vivid portrait of the chaos that ensued in the war's aftermath, where borders were fluid, identities easily forged, and the priorities of the victors not always aligned with the pursuit of justice.

The book meticulously details how various Nazi war criminals managed to evade capture through a combination of luck, cunning, and often with the assistance of a network of sympathizers—including, in some cases, officials within the Vatican, the Red Cross, and various international organizations. Walters delves into the infamous "ratlines," escape routes used by Nazis to flee Europe for South America, the Middle East, and other regions where their pasts might be either ignored or welcomed.

One of the most compelling aspects of Hunting Evil is the way Walters examines the varied fates of some of the most infamous Nazis. He traces the footsteps of men like Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, who was eventually captured in Argentina by Israeli agents and brought to trial in a historic and televised event. The narrative also follows the elusive Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death" of Auschwitz, whose story of evasion and eventual death in Brazil reads like a thriller.

Walters does not shy away from the controversies and complexities involved in the hunt for these criminals. He critiques the efforts of organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center and individuals such as Simon Wiesenthal himself, questioning the accuracy of their claims and the effectiveness of their methods. The book challenges the reader to consider the difficult moral and legal questions that arise when seeking justice many years after the fact, and when the pursuit of some may have come at the cost of ignoring others.

Throughout the book, Walters draws on an impressive array of sources, from trial transcripts and declassified intelligence documents to interviews with survivors, hunters, and even some of the hunted who managed to live into old age. His attention to detail is meticulous, and his commitment to unraveling the truth is evident in every page.

Hunting Evil is also a study in the complexity of human morality, providing a sobering reminder that the line between good and evil can be blurred. Walters presents instances where former Nazis were recruited by governments, including the United States, for their skills during the Cold War, raising uncomfortable truths about the sacrifices made in the name of geopolitical strategy.

The book is not without its weaknesses. At times, the sheer number of individuals and events can be overwhelming, making it difficult to keep track of all the threads of the narrative. Additionally, while Walters' skepticism of some well-established figures in the field of Nazi hunting is valuable for critical reflection, it occasionally borders on the cynical, which may turn off readers who are more inclined to view these figures as flawed heroes rather than as self-promoting opportunists.

Despite these critiques, Hunting Evil is a significant contribution to the historical record of World War II and its aftermath. It is a powerful reminder of the lengths to which individuals will go to escape accountability, the tireless efforts of those who pursue justice, and the importance of remembering the past—not as a series of black and white narratives, but as a complex tapestry that continues to influence our present.

In conclusion, Guy Walters' Hunting Evil is an important, if sometimes uncomfortable, exploration of the post-war pursuit of Nazi war criminals. It serves as a comprehensive overview of the subject, filled with suspense, moral ambiguity, and the stark reality of the challenges faced by those seeking justice. For anyone interested in World War II, the Holocaust, or the nature of evil and retribution, this book is an essential read that simultaneously educates and engages, ensuring that the stories it tells will not be forgotten.

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