Neal Bascomb is the author of The Nazi Hunters, a finalist for YALSA’s 2014 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The book is a rewrite of his 2009 book for adults, Chasing Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, and tells the story of the effort to capture Nazi Adolf Eichmann after he was discovered to be living in Argentina. The book is a work of narrative nonfiction, and also includes throughout archival photos and objects, like passports, travel documents, and more.
Congratulations on your nomination! I understand The Nazi Hunters is an adaptation of your previous work, Hunting Eichmann. What prompted you to approach this subject again? How did you go about creating this new work from the old one (i.e. how much is new, how much is reshaped, etc)?
While researching the story of Eichmann’s hunt and capture, I came across a statement by David Ben Gurion, the leader of the Israeli State, on why he ordered the dangerous operation to seize the Nazi war criminal and bring him to Tel Aviv to face a trial. It would have been much easierâ€”and much less risky on many levelsâ€”to simply have Eichmann killed quietly. But Ben-Gurion wanted Eichmann captured alive for two reasons: 1) To remind his country’s youth why the State of Israel needed to exist; 2) To remind the world what happened in the Holocaust.
At its heart, this secret operation was about education, about informing the world of deeds past. In that sense, the story was tailor-made to be written for a younger audience. Unfortunately, I was too dim to see it myself, but then I received a call from a wonderful editor at Scholastic, Cheryl Klein, who had read Hunting Eichmann and saw its potential for this audience.
To adapt the book for younger readers, I focused more on the narrative of events than the layers of history that surrounded it. I wanted to get to the center of who these individuals were who captured Eichmann and explain why they risked their lives to bring him to Israel. Everything else hit the cutting room floor. One could say that Nazi Hunters is truer to the events than the much longer adult book!