Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher

Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher

Part spy thriller, part detective case, part Holocaust history. This is the untold story of the epic Israeli spy mission to hunt down a savage, escaped Nazi murderer. Led by a brilliant Mossad agent who lost his entire family in the Holocaust, the hunt for the infamous Butcher of Latvia was a secretive espionage operation that forever altered the fates of all ex-Nazis. Bestselling author and journalist Stephan Talty brings the story to life using interviews with the Butcher’s victims, the relatives of the Israeli agents, and the Mossad spies themselves, revealing for the first time this little-known chapter of Holocaust history and the pulse-pounding undercover operation that brought The Butcher to justice.

Episodes

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 sp...
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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...
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April 2, 2021 40 min
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 48 min
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 43 min
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 44 min
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 co...
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April 30, 2021 55 min
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 kil...
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May 7, 2021 43 min
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 b...
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May 14, 2021 53 min
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 St...
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May 21, 2021 59 min
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-marti...
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May 28, 2021 55 min
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 38 min
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, t...
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