After this year’s surprise hit Get Out, a growing number of cinephiles have been waiting with bated breath for the next project from comedian and filmmaker Jordan Peele. On September 20, fan anticipation was rewarded with the announcement that Peele would begin shopping an exciting, new TV drama. Called The Hunt, the 1970s-set series follows a diverse squad of characters who were actively hunting down Nazis living in America. The novel concept is audacious and alive with possibility, but the most surprising revelation about The Hunt is that the series is inspired by true events. In the years following World War II, a group of real people devoted themselves to tracking down war criminals who fled Germany after the fall of the Third Reich. News to you? It’s all very real, and here’s how it happened. If you’re looking for the real story behind Jordan Peele’s The Hunt, you can bet he and writer David Weil will find some inspiration from these real world stories.
1. The Death of the Third Reich Saw Former Fascists Flee to Every Part of the World
In the last days of Adolph Hitler’s rule, it seemed pretty clear to most Germans that the fascist state was on its last legs. As a result, several hundred (perhaps even thousands) of Nazis fled the war and their country in the hopes of saving their own skins. These people had served at every level of the Reich, from prison guard to SS officials. While some were brought back and put on trial for their crimes in cases like the Nuremberg Trials, most of them simply disappeared. Or so they thought.
2. Okay, But There Can’t Be THAT Many Nazis Hiding in America, Right?
Wrong. When he was captured earlier this year, former Nazi Michael Karkoc (pictured), a man believed to have commanded a unit that was responsible for numerous war crimes in the Second World War, said that there could still be hundreds of Nazis living undetected all across North America. Karkoc himself is a living example. He was a quiet Minnesota native for decades until his dark past was uncovered.
3. ‘The Hunt’ Will Likely Follow Outlaws, Not Agents
These days, capturing war criminals of every stripe falls on the Office of Special Investigations. However, the OSI wasn’t formed until 1979, the end of the decade in which the series takes place. Before the formation of the OSI, a series of high profile discoveries came courtesy of “private citizens” whose due diligence uncovered the presence of former members of the Third Reich. In terms of The Hunt, this fact suggests that the men and women who form the base cast of The Hunt likely won’t be working with the approval of the US government. The government may even prove to be something of a nemesis.
4. Hold Up, the US Government Were the Bad Guys Here?
That supposition depends on your perspective, I guess. That being said, a short time after the Office of Special Investigation was formed, people began to wonder why decades had passed before the government began hunting Nazis in its own country. The answer was simple: following the Second World War, the government traded amnesty to former members of the Third Reich in exchange for information. The government has made similar deals to similar a-holes in various contexts since the country’s founding. Several more slipped into the United States under the guise that they were “fleeing communism.”
5. A Diverse Cast of Hunters
When it comes to the character pool for The Hunt, Peele and his writing team have a lot of great material to choose from. In the years following the war, people from all walks of life found themselves working feverishly to find and expose the remaining members of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi party. Here are just a couple of the most prominent.
6. Israel Carmi Had Revenge on His Mind
During the Holocaust, Israel Carmi lost most of his family. When the world’s governments didn’t seem concerned with finding and prosecuting Nazis following the end of WWII, Carmi took it upon himself to round up like-minded people. Backed by the British government, Cormi’s group, Nokmim — which translates to “The Avengers” — scoured Europe for members of the fascist party in hiding. When the Avengers found a guilty party, they’d arrest him, drag him out to the woods, and then strangle him. In addition to his involvement in several of these episodes, Carmi was also responsible for helping tens of thousands of Jewish citizens relocate to Israel.
7. Serge And Beate Klarsfeld Focused on the Gestapo
Serge Klarsfeld met his wife in the 1960s and quickly discovered a shared hatred for the men and women who’d served under Adolph Hitler during WWII. The couple quickly began exposing former Nazis in public. After Beate served four months in prison for slapping a Gestapo officer, the couple began to uncover evidence condemning war criminals before forcibly bringing them to justice.
8. Hanns Alexander Really Hated Fascists
One of the era’s most notable hunters was a man named Hanns Alexander, a German-born man raised among the country’s social elite. When Adolph Hitler rose to power, Alexander’s family fled to Britain. Alexander immediately took the fight to the enemy in a big way. After the war, he was one of the more outspoken hunters — he reportedly spent time driving around the country with a dead Nazi strapped to the hood of his car.
9. Wayne Stringer Was a Cop Doing His Duty
In 1992, New Zealand detective Wayne Stringer was given a list of 47 names by human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Over the next twelve months, Stringer devoted himself to hunting down each of the criminals. He even went so far as to travel to another continent in pursuit of some of the former fascists.
10. Every Team of Hunters Needs a Little Legal Help
Efraim Zuroff is sometimes referred to as “the last Nazi hunter.” He’s spent several years tracking former fascists with the help of an unlikely tool of warfare: paperwork. The Israeli director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center does the homework necessary to expose for members of the Nazi party.
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