At the end of World War II, Jewish people had a lot of healing to do, and for some, this involved getting revenge on the Nazis who tortured and murdered them and their families. The Nakam, which roughly translates to "The Avengers," was a group of Jewish militant rebels originally calling themselves The Nokmim, who operated during the war, blended with British Jewish Brigade veterans, and came together to exact revenge on those they deemed guilty for the horrific crime of the Holocaust. They were in part the inspiration behind the 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, which featured Brad Pitt as an American Nazi hunter.
Some Nazis had rich lives after the war — one even started a torture cult in Chile, and there are still rumors that Hitler himself survived the war and hid out in Argentina. Very few Nazis were legally prosecuted, so the Nakam took it upon themselves to pass judgment and sentencing.
The End Goal Was To Kill Six Million Germans, One For Every Jew Exterminated During The Holocaust
Although the overall plan was simply revenge, famous Avenger Joseph Harmatz expressed a more specific goal. He told The Observer of Britain, in a 1998 interview: "Our ultimate intention was to kill six million Germans, one for every Jew slaughtered by the Germans."
Recognizing this desire to exact perfect revenge on the Germans, it makes sense why the Nakam had few qualms about carrying out Plan A, an extensive an ambitious murder plot which would have killed numerous innocent German civilians.
The Avengers' Biggest Plan Was To Poison The Water Supply Of Five German Cities
The Nakam had two major strategies, nicknamed Plan A and Plan B. Plan A never came to fruition for numerous reasons: the bottom line is that it was a horrific idea because it superseded punishing Nazis and also would have taken the lives of innocent people. Some members of the Nakam thought the only path to perfect revenge would be inflicting the same fate on German citizens that Nazis did on the Jewish people — "indiscriminate killing on a massive scale."
The plan was to poison the water supply of five major German cities: Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg, and Weimar. Abba Kovner, the creator of the Nakam and mastermind behind Plan A, was arrested with the poison on him, with speculation that he was outed by Zionists who feared the plot would ruin the Jews' right to a new homeland in Israel.
There Was A Poisoning Attempt On Former SS Soldiers Which Was Only Partially Successful
After Plan A was foiled, the Nakam concocted another, less expansive plan: murder 12,200 SS guards that were being held as prisoners. Joseph Harmatz led the scheme, which took place in April 1946. The plan was to lace the prisoners' bread with arsenic, killing the former concentration camp guards. The Nakam managed to poison 3,000 loaves of bread with a mix of arsenic and glue, thanks to member Arye Distel who had infiltrated a local bakery.
Although this plan went forward, it was unsuccessful in that no one actually died. 2,200 prisoners got sick, but the exact number of deaths was not recorded, and according to investigators it might not have resulted in any, despite the bread being laced with a lethal amount of arsenic. Some theories indicate the Nazis suspected the bread was poisoned, and didn't eat enough for it to be fatal.
The Plot To Poison SS Officers Was, According To Harmatz, Approved By The Future First President Of Israel
Plan A was a terrifying concept of what the Nakam were ready to do to exact their revenge — and it's possible that this plot, along with the secondary, slightly more successful Plan B, was approved by Chaim Weizmann, none other than the first President of the state of Israel. Kovner allegedly told Weizmann about the horrors of the Holocaust, and Weizmann was so horrified he gave the Avengers his blessing to exact revenge on the Germans and even helped the group get the poison.
However, numerous sources claim Weizmann had no knowledge of Plan A, and was only on board for Plan B. According to Joseph Harmatz, Weizmann didn't know anything about the plan to poison the water supplies of German cities, but did sanction the poisoning of the SS guards.