Good Assassins

Good Assassins

Season 2 is the unbelievable but true story of the greatest spy of World War II. The Nazis don't know her name, but they want this woman dead. A mysterious agent is strategically dismantling their violent grasp on France and not only leading her own resistance factions but inspiring others. The Gestapo sends their devious double-agent, the priest Robert Alesh, to hunt down The Limping Lady before she threatens their entire push for Western Europe. But Virginia Hall was tougher and more resilient than they ever expected. Season 1 was a Top 10 hit with millions of listeners, making it one of the Top 20 new podcasts of 2021. Bestselling author and journalist Stephan Talty returns with Season 2 of Good Assassins: the dramatic story of a different kind of spy. Written by CD Carpenter (“American Hostage”) and produced by the award-winning team at Diversion Audio.


March 17, 2021 1 min

A spy story. A detective case. The mission was simple: to arrange the death of one man. The goal was to send a message to all Nazi fugitives around the world: "we can find you and we can kill you." This is the true story of an undercover mission to hunt down a savage Nazi murderer who helped Hitler’s forces kill 30,000 men, women, and children. The survivors gave him a name after the Holocaust: The Butcher of Latvia. The spies woul...

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A spy named Mio is called to a secret meeting in Paris. The Israeli government — and its spy agency, Mossad — has decided that Herbert Cukurs, "The Butcher of Latvia", one of the most savage and prolific Nazi killers, must be tracked down and assassinated in South America, where's he's now living. Mio must assume a secret identity, fly to Brazil, hunt down The Butcher and gain his trust, maybe even befriend him. The German governme...

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April 2, 2021 34 mins

Who was the Butcher of Latvia? Before World War II Herbert Cukurs was a a national hero. He put Latvia on the map. If you’re looking for an American equivalent, think Amelia Earhart or Charles Lindbergh. Cukurs was a big deal. But after the Nazis occupied Latvia, Cukurs became a monster, participating in the murder of 30,000 men, women, and even children. How did this decorated and ingenious aviator betray friends and neighbors and...

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April 9, 2021 42 mins

The spy transforms into his cover identity. He will travel to Brazil, where his assassination target is living, and attempt to lure him into a trap. If his cover fails, Herbert Cukurs — The Butcher of Latvia — may kill him. But before Cukurs could be placed on a kill list, and before Mossad could begin to track him down, Cukurs’ pursuers had to be sure he was the right guy. Was this really the Butcher of Latvia? 

“Good Assassins...

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April 16, 2021 37 mins

The spy surveils his target and finally meets Herbert Cukurs — The Butcher of Latvia — in person. Mio had known people like the Butcher earlier in his life. He’d grown up in Germany during the rise of Hitler. Now he was getting to know a Nazi again, being friendly, even drinking with him. Mio kept his parents in his mind constantly. He actually dreamt about them during the mission — bad dreams. So for Mio it was something he could ...

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April 23, 2021 38 mins

Herbert Cukurs invited "Anton Kuenzle" to visit him at his home, not knowing, of course, "Kuenzle" is the spy Mio, undercover. So the spy prepares for the meeting. He doesn't know what Cukurs wants, which was the real question. Most spies use a handful of motives to get people to do what they want: money, sex, patriotism. But Cukurs was an odd fish. He seemed to want to be a hero again, to be beloved. The spy couldn’t offer him tha...

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April 30, 2021 50 mins

The spy had gotten a step closer to the Butcher. Comparing Israel's mission to assassinate Herbert Cukurs to the US mission to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, the latter was revenge. But when Israel and Mossad decided to kill The Butcher of Latvia, it was to prevent more killing of Jews. Things were starting to heat up with the Statute of Limitations, which was the whole reason for the mission: to stop Germany from giving Nazi killers...

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May 7, 2021 38 mins

By the winter of 1964, the mission was coming into focus. In Brazil, the spy continued to meet with Herbert Cukurs, stoking The Butcher's excitement for his coming wealth and making sure he’d be willing to travel outside of Brazil. Yosef Yariv had chosen his kill team and they were training under the Krav Maga master, Imi Lichtenfeld.

“Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher" came out of Stephan Talty's work on a related book, The G...

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May 14, 2021 48 mins

The spy was happy to be back home, but his mission wasn’t complete. The final act was still to take place in Uruguay. So in the Mossad apartment in the heart of Paris, the kill team started to plan the assassination. They were going ahead with the plan. The debate in the German Parliament was coming up in a few months. They all hoped a successful mission would influence it. 

“Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher" came out of Step...

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May 21, 2021 53 mins

Judgment Day had arrived: February 23, 1965. Herbert Cukurs carried his gun in a leather holster as he boarded the plane to Uruguay and headed off into what he must have imagined was his new life. The men of the Mossad kill team were spread out in various hotels across Montevideo. They woke up early on that February morning and began to get ready for the Butcher’s arrival. 

The spy later wrote, “We planned a very brief court-mar...

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May 28, 2021 50 mins

The story of the spy and the murderer isn't over. There is something missing in the story: the answer to the question of *why*. Why did Herbert Cukurs go from being a national hero to a mass murderer? Stephan Talty speaks to some striking characters to try and finally answer that question. It turns out to have more sides than we originally thought.

The opinion of most people was that Cukurs had always been a secret anti-Semite. ...

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The Cukurs operation barely scratches the surface of what Mossad has done over the years. Mossad has been, “involved in special operations and activity in the service of the State of Israel, such as the pursuit of Nazi criminals.” This episode explores some of the most important operations the agency has carried out. Stephan Talty describes missions you’ve probably never heard of but that shaped the Middle East and the whole world.


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June 11, 2021 34 mins

We asked listeners for your questions: Things you didn’t hear in "Hunting the Butcher" and were curious about, or other stories the podcast got you thinking about. Many of your questions prompted new research. In this episode, Stephan Talty answers listeners' questions and digs deeper into the issues the audience brought up. 

We received amazing queries from all over the world: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, the US and ...

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March 7, 2022 1 min

Good Assassins fans, this is Stephan Talty, jumping back into your podcast feed with some exciting news: Good Assassins Season 2 is coming soon!

We can’t tell you all the details of the incredible new story we’re exploring for Season 2 — not just yet — but trust me: it’s another good one. There are a few million of you out there that listened to Season 1, so we know the pressure’s on. But we’re pretty excited to say: we’ve uncover...

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September 1, 2022 2 mins

The woman in the jail cell was proving to be a problem. It was November 13, 1942, and she’d arrived in San Juan de las Abadesas the day before. She was discovered at the train station with three strange men. When the Spanish officers demanded to see their passports, none of them could produce one. The woman was separated from the group and thrown into a cold, isolated cell. The notes in her arrest file only deepened the mystery of ...

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October 13, 2022 1 min

This season of Good Assassins is the dramatic story of a different kind of spy: the greatest spy of World War II. A mysterious agent is strategically dismantling the Nazis’ violent grasp on France. They send a devious double-agent to hunt down “The Limping Lady” before she threatens their genocidal plans. But Virginia Hall was tougher than they ever expected. With deep archival research, rare primary source tape, expert interviews,...

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October 20, 2022 33 mins

The story of one of the most consequential spies in American history. Her name was Virginia Hall, and she was known to the Nazis as "The Limping Lady." The Nazis called her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” From spy to resistance leader, her story is a thrilling tale of a woman whose efforts in the face of fascism, racism, sexism, and ableism saved thousands of lives.

There’s maybe no figure of espionage in all of hi...

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October 20, 2022 25 mins

Virginia Hall enlists in France's organization that provided medical assistance to soldiers on the battlefield. It would be a grueling endeavor. Virginia is given basic medical training, learning how to apply tourniquets and bandages on some of the worst wartime injuries recorded in human history. They were supposed to work in the echoes of gunfire, long after the battle was over, but she often found herself closer to firefights an...

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October 20, 2022 32 mins

A Nazi spy is tasked with uncovering underground Allied resistance networks. He was favored by the SS as a top hunter. Robert Alesh was a Luxembourger priest better known in France by his alias: "Father Robert Ackuin." The raids, arrests, and executions that Alesh’s treacherous work made possible set British intelligence back months. Alesh’s time as a priest served him well in his search for Jews and the Allied spies. Alesh begins ...

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October 27, 2022 36 mins

Virginia Hall joins the UK's spy agency, the Special Operations Executive. The SOE was created to "set Europe ablaze" and wreak havoc on the battlefield: sabotage plus a little espionage, paramilitary operations, make things blow up.

After spy training, Virginia heads into the field in Lyon, France, a strategic location for the Allies. They're planting the seeds of a Resistance there and it's a hotspot for Nazi activity. Vir...

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