A Nazi hunter is a private individual who tracks down and gathers information on alleged former Nazis, SS members and Nazi collaborators involved in the Holocaust, typically for use at trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prominent Nazi hunters include Simon Wiesenthal, Tuviah Friedman, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, Ian Sayer, Yaron Svoray, Elliot Welles, and Efraim Zuroff.
With the onset of the Cold War following World War II, both the Western Allies and the USSR sought out former Nazi scientists and operatives for programs such as Operation Paperclip. Cooperative former Nazis, such as Wernher von Braun and Reinhard Gehlen, were occasionally given state protection in return for valuable information or services. At the time, Gehlen had been chief of the German Bundesnachrichtendienst secret agency, founder of the Gehlen Org and co-founder of the ODESSA network, which helped exfiltrate Nazis from Europe. Other alleged Nazis used ratlines to escape post-war Europe to places such as Latin America.
In response, Nazi hunters sought out fugitives on their own or formed groups, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Methods used by Nazi hunters include offering rewards for information, reviewing immigration and military records, and launching civil lawsuits.
In later decades, Nazi hunters found greater cooperation with Western and Latin American governments and the state of Israel. By the end of the 20th century, pursuit of former Nazis declined, because most of the generation active in Nazi leadership during the Holocaust had died or reached extreme old age.
- Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon", was extradited from Bolivia after earlier attempts by Serge and Beate Klarsfeld to track him.
- Adolf Eichmann was pursued by Wiesenthal before being kidnapped and smuggled from Argentina by the Israeli spy agency Mossad and tried in Israel, after which he was then executed.
- Boļeslavs Maikovskis was a Latvian Nazi collaborator, pursued to Mineola, New York by Welles.
- Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death", was sought in various South American countries by Mossad, Wiesenthal and the Klarsfelds before his death.
- Erich Priebke was sought in Argentina.
- Eduard Roschmann was sought by Wiesenthal in Argentina.
- Josef Schwammberger was traced to Argentina by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Welles.
- Dinko Šakić was pursued to Argentina by Zuroff.
- Gustav Wagner, the "Wolf", was sought by Wiesenthal in Brazil.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center publishes an annual report on Nazi war criminals.
- "Simon Wiesenthal: Nazi hunter". BBC News. 28 December 1999.
- Wiesenthal Center Urges Australian Authorities to Expedite Extradition Proceedings Against Holocaust Perpetrator
- David Crossland (14 January 2008). "Nazi Hunters More Than Double Reward to $25,000". Spiegel Online International. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- Jason Cato (15 April 2007). "The Nazi hunt continues for ex-guards". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
- Zuroff, Efraim (April 2013). "Simon Wiesenthal Center 2013 Annual Report on the Status of Nazi War Criminal". Simon Wiesenthal Center.