Filed Under:

Nazi Hunter Dedicates Career To Pursuing Justice

Play associated audio

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

More than 65 years after World War II, many Nazis are living out their lives in quiet retirements. The crimes scenes are, for the most part, cold. But Eli Rosenbaum is hot on the trail. He and his team at the Justice Department are Nazi hunters. They track down Nazis who moved to the U.S. after the war, and deport them.

Rosenbaum grew up in a Jewish home, where his family didn't talk about the Holocaust. But one night when he was a child, he tuned the TV to a dramatic reenactment of the Auschwitz trial in Germany. "Suddenly I am seeing a woman testifying about being experimented on at a Nazi concentration camp," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "And I recall being absolutely shocked."

Other than meeting the victims, Rosenbaum says the most memorable part of his work is questioning the suspects, an experience he calls "surreal." Siting in someone's home, or in the U.S. Attorney's office, "these people look close to harmless." Hearing them talk about the terrible things they did for the Nazi regime is unsettling, says Rosenbaum, "but one tends not to focus on the horror of it. You focus on getting the answers to the questions you're posing. But afterwards, that's usually when it hits you."

In the early part of his career, Rosenbaum felt guilty if he took a weekend day off. "We were, after all, told from very start that time was our enemy, that these people were already senior citizens, and that we would have to work as fast as we responsibly could." The time pressure, added to the tragic nature of the cases, became too much, and he left after three years.

But before long, he was back at the Justice Department, hunting Nazis. "The cases just don't let go of you," says Rosenbaum. Each of the victims breaks his heart, and impresses him with their courage. "You meet them and you say well, I have to pursue justice for them. It has to be done."

Join Our Sunday Conversation

Should the U.S. continue to track down and deport Nazi war criminals from World War II? Tell us on Weekend Edition's Facebook page, or in the comments section below.


Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Costume Designer Colleen Atwood Took Unlikely Path To Hollywood Royalty

Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood knows tough times. A single mom at 17 who once worked at a French fry factory to make ends meet is Hollywood royalty today. A favorite of director Tim Burton, Atwood is now costume designer for his adaptation of the darkly comic, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and the upcoming Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
NPR

Carnegie Deli Says It Is Closing Down Its Landmark NYC Restaurant

As news of the closing rippled far beyond the deli's home turf in Manhattan Friday, hundreds of people responded with sadness and disbelief.
NPR

The VA Will Now Pay For Fertility Treatment For Wounded Vets

Congress has reversed a law passed in 1992 that prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying for IVF for veterans and their families, after mounting political pressure.
NPR

The United Nations Is Launching A Space Mission

The U.N. is planning to send its first spacecraft into orbit, packed with scientific experiments from countries that can't afford their own space programs.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.