Nakam: The Holocaust Survivors Who Sought Full-Scale Revenge by Dina Porat

Nakam: The Holocaust Survivors Who Sought Full-Scale Revenge by Dina Porat

Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture

The true story of a vigilante group of Holocaust survivors who conspired to kill six million Germans

Nakam (Hebrew for “vengeance”) tells the story of “the Avengers” (Nokmim), a group of young Holocaust survivors led by poet and resistance fighter Abba Kovner, who undertook a mission of revenge against Germany following the crimes of the Holocaust. Motivated by both the atrocities they had endured and the realization that murderous antisemitic attacks on survivors continued long after the Nazi surrender, these fifty young men and women sought retaliation at a level commensurate with the devastation caused by the Holocaust, making clear to the world that Jewish blood would no longer be shed with impunity. Had they been successful, they would have poisoned city water supplies and loaves of bread distributed to German POWs, with the aim of killing six million Germans. Kovner and his followers went to great lengths to carry out their plans, going so far as to obtain the schematics for Nuremberg’s municipal water system, secure large quantities of poison, infiltrate a POW camp and the bakery that supplied it, and distribute poisoned bread to prisoners―but their plots were ultimately stymied. Most of the members of Nakam eventually returned to Israel, where for decades many of them refused to speak publicly about their roles in the group.

While the Avengers’ story began to come to light in the 1980s, details of the relations between the group and Zionist leadership and the motivations of its members have remained unknown. Drawing on rich archival sources and in-depth interviews with the Avengers in their later years, historian Dina Porat examines the formation of the group and the clash between the formative humanistic values held by its members and their unrealized plans for violent retribution.

Year first published: 2022

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