Wild Facts About "Jewish Avengers," Holocaust Survivors Who Got Bloody Revenge On Their Nazi Captors
At the end of WWII, Jewish people had a lot of healing to do, and for a select few, this involved revenge on those who inflicted such atrocities on them and their families. The Nakam, which roughly translates to "The Avengers," was a group of Jewish rebels who originally called themselves the Nokmim. This group operated during WWII, blended with British Jewish Brigade veterans, and came together to exact revenge on those they deemed responsible for the Holocaust. They were - in part - the inspiration behind the 2009 film Inglourious Basterds.
Some German soldiers had rich lives after the conflict, and there are still rumors the Fuhrer himself survived and hid out in Argentina. Very few in his regime were legally prosecuted, so the Nakam took it upon themselves to pass judgment and sentencing.
- Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The End Goal Was To Slay Six Million Germans, One For Every Jewish Life Taken During The Holocaust
While the overall plan was 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 [terminate] six million Germans, one for every Jew [felled] 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 and ambitious plot that would have taken the lives of numerous innocent German civilians.
The Avengers' Biggest Plan Was To Taint The Water Supply Of Five German Cities
The Nakam had two major strategies: 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 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 German soldiers did on the Jewish people.
The plan was to poison the water supply of five major German cities: Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg, and Weimar. Abba Kovner, creator of the Nakam and mastermind of Plan A, was detained with the necessary materials to get the job done on him, with speculation that he was outed by those who feared the plot would ruin the Jewish people's right to a new homeland in Israel.
- Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0
There Was A Partially Successful Poisoning Attempt On Former SS Soldiers
Once Plan A was foiled, the Nakam concocted a less expansive plan: take down 12,200 SS guards being held as prisoners. Joseph Harmatz led the scheme, which took place in April 1946. The Nakam managed to taint 3,000 loaves of bread thanks to member Arye Distel who had infiltrated a local bakery.
Although this plan went forward, it was unsuccessful in that it wasn't fatal. Roughly 2,200 prisoners got sick, but the exact number of fatalities was not recorded, and according to investigators it might not have resulted in any. Some theories indicate the former soldiers suspected the bread was compromised, and didn't eat enough for it to matter.
- Photo: Hans Pinn / Wikimedia Commons
The Plot To Take Out SS Officers Was, According To Harmatz, Approved By The Future First President Of Israel
Plan A was a concept of what the Nakam were ready to do to exact their revenge — and it's possible 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 Holocaust, and Weizmann was reportedly so upset he gave the Avengers his blessing to exact revenge on the Germans.
However, numerous sources claim Weizmann had no knowledge of Plan A, and was only on board for Plan B.
- Photo: Adam Jones / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Avengers Staged Detentions And Then Felled Those Deemed Guilty
There are various accounts of what the Nakam accomplished, and the details vary, but the overall ideas remain consistent. The group would pass and implement their own termination sentences on those they found guilty. Members of the Nakam would pose as allied police, track down former German soldiers who had blended into society, and detain them. The Avengers would then slay their prisoners in ways that often imitated they took their own lives.
There are no exact numbers on how many people the Avengers felled, but some put the figure at dozens.
- Photo: Pixabay
The Biggest Reservation Against "Plan A" Was It Would Undermine Jewish Efforts To Make Israel A Home State
The biggest reason Plan A failed was because Kovner was detained by British officials on his way to Europe. Besides the fact that the plot was an extreme case of "an eye for an eye," many speculated Kovner was reported to officials by those who feared an aggression of such scale would undermine claims to a Jewish homeland.
This faction of the Jewish population believed they had a right to a homeland in Israel because of their near extinction at the hands of the Germans. However, if Kovner's plan had succeeded, the Jewish people would no longer be the victims and instead be seen as the aggressors, putting their claim to Israel at risk.