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Tuviah Friedman – Nazi Hunter

Tuviah Friedman – Nazi Hunter

​A project to make the contents of many archives accessible to the public online is currently underway at the National Library. The Library's collection includes hundreds of personal and institutional archives. These are catalogued in Merhav, accessible to all users and available for perusal in the Archive Department.

Among the archives recently processed is that of Nazi hunter Tuviah Friedman (1922-2011). The archive contains a wealth of materials about Friedman's anti-Nazi activities, his contact with individuals and institutions across the world, and his mission to document and memorialize the Holocaust by means of an institute he founded in Haifa, where he lived.

To the Israeli public, the name Tuviah Friedman is synonymous with the appellation "Nazi hunter." Friedman was born in Radom, Poland, and passed away in January 2011 at the age of 89. In August 1940 he was sent to a labor camp, from which he escaped and returned to Radom. In the spring of 1941, along with the rest of Radom's Jewish population, he was imprisoned in the city's ghetto. Labor camps would be his home until the summer of 1944, when he escaped, hid in a cemetery and tried to join the partisans. In November 1944 he was captured by the Germans who intended to execute him as a partisan. Friedman managed to kill his guard and escape death once again.

The Russian Army entered Radom at the beginning of 1945. This was Tuviah Friedman's opportunity to try and realize his greatest aspiration – revenge on the Nazis. He found a way to enlist in the Polish police, using a fake identity, and thus reached the city of Danzig as a Polish investigative officer. Friedman worked energetically to apprehend Nazis, interrogated many of them and saw them tried. In 1946 he decided to resign from the Polish police and make his way to Israel-Palestine.    

Friedman arrived in Vienna, where he encountered the Aliyah Bet movement (a clandestine organization that smuggled survivors out of Europe) and the activities of Arthur Ben-Natan who recruited him to track and interrogate Nazis. Friedman was particularly interested in locating Nazis who had participated in the expulsion and destruction of the Jews of his hometown of Radom. He succeeded in capturing Konrad Buchmayer, an SS officer who had abused the Jews of Radom and then Richard Sheigel, another SS officer, who had sent Jews of Radom to the Treblinka death camp. Friedman worked in Vienna for several years, locating several Nazi criminals and having them arrested and in certain cases incarcerated for long periods of time. During this period Friedman also assisted the Haganah with acquisitions and counter-operations in central Europe.

In 1952, Tuviah Friedman moved to Israel. He served as director of the Haifa branch of Yad Vashem for several years, until he was dismissed from the position for giving priority to the location and capture of Nazis, while the organization sought to focus on documentation and memorialization of the Holocaust. And so, in 1957, Friedman established the Institute of Documentation in Israel for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes. For the rest of his life, Friedman documented, published, and attempted to track Nazi criminals and pressure governments to prosecute those known to have committed war crimes.

Friedman's contribution to the capture of Adolf Eichmann holds a special significance among his achievements. These efforts began when he was still in Vienna when, with encouragement from Arthur Ben-Natan, he managed to obtain a current photograph of Eichmann. Later he played an important part in lobbying public interest in efforts to root Eichmann from his hiding place. Friedman collected many materials about the architect of the "final solution", which he later turned over the Israeli police.

Friedman worked hard to raise awareness of the existence of Eichmann through the media, with a view to tracking him down and bringing him to trial. At first he believed that Eichmann was in Kuwait, publishing articles in the press to this effect. Though this information would prove incorrect, Friedman began receiving snippets of information. One of these indicated that Eichmann was in Argentina. It came from a half-Jewish German resident of Argentina by the name of Lothar Hermann, who had himself fallen victim to Nazi persecution. After some time, urged by Friedman, the Mossad decided to address the information submitted by Lothar Hermann. The details proved accurate and filled in part of the puzzle for Israeli intelligence operatives who eventually captured Eichmann in Argentina.  
Most of Tuviah Friedman's Nazi hunting and prosecution activities took place in the years following WWII, while he lived in Vienna and worked with Arthur Ben-Natan, Aliyah Bet, the Haganah and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Nevertheless, Friedman worked throughout his life to make the public, in Israel and abroad, aware of the need to take practical steps to locate and prosecute Nazi criminals. 

Friedman's autobiography, The Hunter, has been translated into five languages. He entrusted his extensive archive to the National Library in Jerusalem, with which he had had dealings over the years. Friedman also lectured at the Library about his personal story from the Holocaust and his Nazi hunting work. Among the wealth of materials in his archive are an index of Nazi criminals, copious materials on Adolf Eichmann, press clipping from Israel and abroad, and Friedman's rich and varied correspondence with public figures and important persons in Israel and abroad. The archive reflects the degree to which Friedman dedicated himself to his highest priority: capturing any Nazi criminals that may be wandering free.