Forged in Fury & The Final Reckoning: Jewish revenge for the Holocaust

Was there a secret Jewish organisation taking revenge on unpunished Nazi war crimes? Conspiracy theory or fact? The story inspired Jonathan Freedman’s The Final Reckoning and Michael Elkins’ Forged in Fury and more.

Conspiracy theories, investigative journalism or an overactive imagination?

Forged in Fury by Michael Elkins. Is this fact or fiction? The truth or just a conspiracy theory? If a group of Jews had taken revenge on Nazis after WWII, we would have heard about it, surely, not least neo-Nazis, who would have a field day with it. The book is virtually unknown, even though it was written by a BBC journalist, Michael Elkins, coincidentally the first man to report on Israeli forces destroying Arab air forces at the start of the Six- Day War. CBS queried his report because they couldn’t believe it was true and he resigned once he got back to the US. It was true, but it does cast a slight shadow regarding his credibility.
This book tells the story of a group of Jewish men who were disillusioned by the large numbers of Germans and others who had actively been involved in Hitler’s Final Solution, but who had received little more than a slap on the wrist after the war. They decided to take matters into their own hands and to track down and execute people complicit in the Holocaust, forming an organisation that operated long after the war, known variously as Dam Yisrael Noter (‘the blood of Israel avenges’ or DIN (judgement), Nakam (meaning vengeance), Nokmim, Jewish Revenge or the Jewish Avengers.
The details of their plots to poison the water supply in major German cities came to nothing, fortunately. One of the men responsible for collecting the poison from Israel, Abba Kovner, was arrested, foiling the original plot. He later became one of the greatest poets of modern Israel, but was involved with Soviet partisans during the war and was an activist thereafter. The plot was scaled back and the group may have poisoned several hundred men awaiting trial in Stalag 13 in 1946.

Authors inspired by Jewish revenge stories

Of course, it could all just be a good yarn. Apparently John le Carré mentioned this book and the organisation in A Pigeon Tunnel (2016), a book of stories from his life; another reliable witness, one would think. Well-respected journalist Jonathan Freedman also based a book on the story under the pseudonym of Sam Bourne, The Final Reckoning (2008). Another account called The Avengers (1969) was also published by journalist and Knesset member Michael Bar-Zohar. The question is, are all these accounts true, or just the inspiration for a good yarn?

Conspiracy theory or fact?

I haven’t read Forged in Fury, but based on the few reviews available, it sounds like it starts like a thriller, then sinks into a mire of details and statistics, making it a hard read. So perhaps the subsequent authors were inspired by Forged in Fury, just like Dan Brown was inspired by The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail to write The Da Vinci Code. In fact, the excess of detail in Michael Elkin’s book makes it sound like a typical conspiracy theory backstory. There’s a fine line between investigative journalism and taking a few details and blowing them up into a full scale scandal, whether it’s true or not. You only have to look at Pizzagate and many quashed cases of libel to know that. Not every investigative journalist uncovers a truth like the Watergate Scandal (revealed in All the President’s Men)  and not every journalist is Bob Woodward. Who, incidentally, has just released a new exposé, Fear (2018) which we are predisposed to consider trustworthy because he was right about Nixon.
In the case of Forged in Fury, I am more inclined to view the claims with a pinch of salt because it was published so long after the fact, in 1971. Surely more would have been written about it if it was true? I am assuming Jonathan Freedman was indulging the urge to write fiction in his version, writing as Sam Bourne, a name imbued with conspiracy if there ever was one (thinking of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Conspiracy video game).
In any case, I haven’t read any of the books about this subject and am inclined to read Freedman’s version if I do, but I’ll keep Forged in Fury because it’s a hard-to-find book, just in case I feel the need to find out more. I have to admit, I do like a good conspiracy theory.
Read more:
Background article by Jonathan Freedland: Revenge, The Guardian