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

With 'Formation,' Beyoncé Lights Up The Internet. Here's What People Are Saying

The singer's new music video quickly drew commentary of all kinds — on its references to being black in America, Hurricane Katrina and Black Lives Matter.
NPR

Calif. Restaurant Gives Diners — And Sea Lions — An Ocean View

The Marine Room is a restaurant right on the beach. When the tide is high, waves hit the windows, and bring in unexpected visitors.
NPR

'Us' Vs. 'I, I, I' For Some Democrats In What Used To Be Clinton Country

Though Hillary Clinton still has her loyalists, even some former supporters are "feeling the Bern" in New Hampshire.
WAMU 88.5

Call To Get All Maryland Students Internet Access Renewed This Year

Should all students in Maryland schools have access to the Internet and other digital resources? One Maryland Senator is taking up the call again this legislative session.

Leave a Comment

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