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History of US recruitment of Nazi’s and anti-Semitism explored in the TV series Hunters

February 27, 2020

I just finished the TV series called Hunters, which features a group of people in the US who hunt down Nazis in the late 1970s.

The show centers around the lived experience of several Jewish characters, most of which survived the Nazi Holocaust. The show goes back and forth between telling the story of Jews in the neath camps and then back to the 1970s in New York City.

I found the story to be well written and the trauma of those who survived the death camps to be presented in a very thoughtful way. However, since I am not Jewish, I think it is important to hear from the Jewish community about how they felt about the series and its depiction of what took place in the Nazi death camps, along with the show’s treatment of several Jewish ceremonies.

What I think is important to address is the fact that this was a show, one of the rare shows in US TV history, to acknowledge, and to some degree, explore the US recruitment of Nazis after WWII, also known as Operation Paperclip.

The relationship between the US power structure and Nazi Germany is rather complex. Most of us are taught that the US took an anti-fascist position during WWII, but that is not the whole story.

After the end of WWI, there were numerous US businesses, law firms and financial institutions that assisted Germany with rebuilding. Many of these businesses invested directly with businesses that would then be an integral part of the Nazi war machine, like IG Farben. This history is explored in Christopher Simpson’s powerful book, The Splendid Blonde Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century.

Even after WWII had begun, many US businesses continued to have deep relationships with Nazi Germany, including the Ford Motor Company, General Motors and IBM. These relationships are explored in two excellent books, Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connection to Hitler’s Holocaust (Edwin Black) and Trading With the Enemy, The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933 – 1949 ( Charles Higham).

This historical context is important and is what leads to Operation Paperclip. The US recruited thousands of Nazis scientists, engineers and policy planners as WWII was coming to a close. These Nazis were legally brought to the US to work with NASA and the US military as US foreign policy began to shift to primarily an anti-Communist position during the Cold War.

There were several high ranking Nazi military personnel that were recruited by the US, like General Reinhard Gehlen, specifically because Gehlen had intimate knowledge of the Soviet military. This history is explored in Mary Ellen Reese’s book, General Reinhard Gehlen: The CIA Connection.

Another important book that explores the US recruitment of Nazis after WWII, is Christopher Simpson’s, Blowback: The First Full Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis, and Its Disastrous Effect on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy (1988).

The most recent exploration of the US recruitment of Nazis after WWII, can be found in Annie Jacobsen’s book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America (2014). Jacobsen’s book builds on the work of Christopher Simpson, especially since there have been more declassified documents released and a collection of dossiers discovered in government archives at Harvard University.

There is an excellent scene in one of the episodes of Hunters, where US policymakers are having a discussion about Operation Paperclip, with a variety of justifications for why the US needed to recruit Nazis. This dramatic depiction is a fairly accurate as far as the actual reasons that were given for the US recruitment of Nazis.

Lastly, while the show deals with WWII and the 1970s in the US, it is important that we come to terms with the fact that anti-Semitism continues to be part of the US power structure and US dominant culture. This reality is depicted in Hunters, but it is vitally important that all of us look at how anti-Semitism is normalized in our lives and the institutions that we come into contact with on a daily basis.

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