An Interview with 2014 Nonfiction Award Finalist Neal Bascomb

The Nazi HuntersNeal 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 easier—and much less risky on many levels—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!

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Spotlight on YALSA’s Nonfiction Award Finalists: Fiction Readalikes for The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

The Nazi HuntersIn 2014 Nonfiction Award Finalist The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, author Neal Bascomb recounts the heart-pounding search for a man who was responsible for the deaths of thousands during the Holocaust, and explores the aftermath of that horrific time. If you’re riveted by this compelling true life narrative, try the following novels that also deal with the Holocaust and its aftermath.

(The following book summaries are from the publishers’ jacket copy.)

 

  • TamarTamar by Mal Peet

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.

  • roseunderfire-weinRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her? (Companion novel to 2013 Printz Honor book Code Name Verity)

Set in contemporary Israel, this powerful novel is narrated in real time by many voices: Sixteen-year-old Thomas, from Berlin, seeking answers to questions about his grandfather, a Nazi officer in World War II. Vera from Odessa, reclaiming her Jewish heritage. Baruch Ben Tov, a Holocaust survivor. Sameh Laham, illegally employed at a diner. His boss. Sameh’s friend Omar. A Palestinian doctor in an Israeli hospital. A mother. A soldier.
A newscaster . . .
Minute by minute, hour by hour, these lives and many others unfold—and then intersect in one violent moment on a highway outside Jerusalem. Each is drastically and irrevocably changed. What do secrets, hopes, dreams, and future plans mean after such a catastrophe? Can what was destroyed be made whole again?
  • mother_nightMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.

  • gentlehandsGentlehands by M.E. Kerr (Best Books for Young Adults 1978)
Buddy and Skye are from opposite sides of the tracks, but that doesn’t stand in the way of their love. To impress Skye, Buddy takes her to visit his cultured grandfather. But when a reporter comes searching for a vicious SS officer known as “Gentlehands,” Buddy realizes that his grandfather’s sophisticated bearing may hide a sinister past.
-2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults committee in collaboration with Hub blogger Diane Colson