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 not forget and he could not forgive. Mio said when he was given the mission in September 1964 to assassinate Herbert Cukurs, it was like reopening a book; the unfinished story of his parents and their fate during the war. He felt there was a final chapter to be written.
CONTENT WARNING: This episode contains descriptions of graphic violence. Listener discretion is advised.
As Mio was making contact with Cukurs in Brazil, on the other side of the Atlantic a man named Tuviah Friedman was headed to the German capital for a meeting with the Justice Minister. He had a presentation to give, and if he succeeded with it, it would make Mio’s mission pointless. Tuviah Friedman was a Nazi hunter. In fact, Friedman was considered one of the two leading Nazi-hunters in the world, second only to the more famous activist Simon Wiesenthal.
Friedman had grown up in Poland. He and his family had watched the Nazis arrive. The Germans soon put them in a ghetto. Friedman saw Jews being murdered around him; his father starved himself to death so that his children would have more to eat. Friedman’s younger brother, Herschel, and his sister Itka were taken away to concentration camps, and Friedman himself was transported to a sub-camp of Auschwitz.
Tuviah Friedman survived the Holocaust by the sheer ferocity of his will. But his family didn’t survive. In the chaos of the post-war period, Friedman hunted down German killers. His specialty was Gestapo officers and SS men; if he saw one of their black uniforms, he would be filled with a rage that sometimes drove him to extremes. He would beat them and sometimes kill them. He was a Jewish avenger, the real thing. Other Nazi hunters never physically put their hands on their enemies. Friedman did.
At the same time, there was another Nazi-hunting mission going on. Mossad had sent another agent to Damascus, Syria. His name was Eli Cohen. Cohen’s main mission was to find out what Syria was up to: war with Israel? building up their forces? But dozens of Nazis had fled to Syria after World War II and Eli Cohen was also hoping to eliminate them.
This episode contains interviews with Colonel Chris Costa, former U.S. Army Intelligence officer, Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council and currently the Executive Director of the International Spy Museum.
“Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher” is written and hosted by Stephan Talty. Produced and directed by Scott Waxman and Jacob Bronstein. Executive Producers: Scott Waxman and Mark Francis. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman and Mangesh Hattikudur. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. With the voices of: Nick Afka Thomas, Omri Anghel, Andrew Polk, Mindy Escobar-Leanse, Steve Routman, and Stefan Rudnicki. Theme music by Tyler Cash. Archival research by Adam Shapiro. Special thanks to Oren Rosenbaum at UTA.
Learn more about “Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher” at DiversionPodcasts.com
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