The Avengers: A Nazi’s Worst Nightmare

“Revenge is like a two-headed snake. While you watch your opponent go down, you get poisoned yourself.” —Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005)

In A Nutshell

After World War II, most of the Nazis responsible for the Holocaust escaped punishment and lived their lives in peace. However, Abba Kovner (pictured above, on the right) and the Nokmim group (Hebrew for “Avengers”) decided to take justice into their own hands. Over several years and across multiple continents, this band of Jewish vigilantes hunted down and murdered hundreds of ex-Nazis.

The Whole Bushel

Even though they tortured and murdered 11 million people, the Nazis were never really punished for the Holocaust. Sure, there were the Nuremberg Trials, but those well-publicized proceedings were just a drop in the proverbial bucket. There were over 13 million men living free in western Germany who’d contributed to the Holocaust. These were the Gestapo agents and the SS guards who’d broken into homes, dragged terrified citizens into the street, crammed them into cattle cars, and murdered them with pesticides. However, four years after Germany surrendered, only 300 of these men had been arrested. The Allies had decided it wasn’t worth the extensive time, money, and effort to round up and prosecute what was essentially Western Germany’s entire male population. In short, these men got away with murder.

This didn’t sit well with Abba Kovner. He was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who’d escaped from the Vilna Ghetto by crawling through the sewer system. Once free, he’d joined a band of resistance fighters and fought back against the Nazis, eventually liberating the very ghetto where he’d been imprisoned. Years later, he would help thousands of Jews emigrate to Palestine, fight in Israel’s war for independence and become a celebrated poet. However, before he settled down to a life of literature, Kovner planned on taking revenge against the Nazis who’d murdered six million of his people. And he wasn’t the only one who wanted to take a few Nazi scalps.

In 1945, Kovner became the leader of a Jewish group of vigilantes known as Nokmim (or Nakam) which is Hebrew for “Avengers.” The Avengers were from all walks of life and subscribed to creeds ranging from Communism to Orthodox Judaism. Not all of them were Holocaust survivors either. Many were previously members of a special British unit known as the Jewish Brigade who used their military connections to the group’s advantage. Despite their different backgrounds, they all had one thing in common. They wanted to kill some Nazis.

During the first phase of their operations, the Avengers hunted down Nazis one by one. Disguising themselves as Allied MPs, they would make fake arrests, but their prisoners never made it to any jail cell. Often, the Avengers would break into the homes of men who’d worked in the death camps and hang them in their garages, staging their assassinations to look like suicides. And no one seemed to notice when an oddly high number of ex-Nazis started showing up dead along the sides of highways, covered in tire tracks. The Avengers were so hardcore that once they even sneaked into a hospital and injected an invalid Gestapo agent with syringe full of kerosene. These guys were not messing around. They went all over the world, from Europe to South America, wreaking Old Testament vengeance on the men who’d done them wrong.

However, Kovner wasn’t satisfied with picking off a few Nazis here and there. He believed in “an eye for an eye,” and he wanted vengeance on a much grander scale. The Nazis had killed six million Jews? Well, the Avengers would kill six million Germans. Fueled by pure hatred, Kovner and his comrades developed a scheme to poison the water supplies in Munich, Berlin, Weimar, Nuremberg, and Hamburg, and the Avengers worked their way into water filtration plants, figuring out how and when to spread the poison. While his men figured out the details, Kovner went to Israel and asked the future president Chaim Weizmann for assistance. Supposedly, Weizmann helped Kovner acquire poison for the job (though there’s debate on whether or not Kovner fully explained to Weizmann what he was planning), but fortunately, most Israeli leaders were horrified by Kovner’s plan. They tipped off British authorities to the vigilante’s plot, and as he sailed back to Europe, Kovner was arrested, his plans for a German Holocaust thwarted.

However, the Avengers had a Plan B. Under new leadership, the organization decided to infiltrate the Allied prison camp Stalag 13 in Nuremberg. If they couldn’t murder six million civilians, then they would poison several thousand German POWs. When the Nokmim group learned which bakery provided the prison with its bread, one of the members began working there as a baker, all the while sneaking in bottles of arsenic. Finally, in April 1946, the group made their move and smothered 3,000 loaves of bread with the poison. However, the facts are a little fuzzy as to what happened next. On April 20, a New York Times article mentioned 1,900 German POWs had been poisoned. However, sources disagree over how many actually died. While some claim the fatalities reached over 1,000, most believe the Avengers were only successful in killing around 300 prisoners, far less than they’d hoped.

The Avengers carried on their quest for vengeance into the 1950s although they never again attempted another mass attack. Eventually, the group disbanded, its members went their separate ways, and strangely, their story disappeared which is unfortunate. Their grisly tale adds a unique dimension to the horrors of the Holocaust and poses several complex questions. Were the Avengers right to take the law into their own hands, or were they simply terrorists? And at what point do you become just as bad as the thing you want to destroy? Perhaps they started out as righteous warriors, but if the Nokmim group proved anything, it’s that hatred isn’t a quality exclusive to Nazis.

Show Me The Proof

The Guardian: Revenge
J Weekly: Survivor reveals 1945 plan to kill 6 million Germans
CNN: ‘The Avengers’ chronicles Jewish resistance fighters
NY Times: Obituaries: Abba Kovner, Israeli Poet, Dies

  • RealReaganite

    So, every German male supported the holocaust? That’s preposterous. I guess you believe that every American who lived in 1963 is guilty of killing Kennedy, too. And when do I get my share of World Series winnings for every year from 1970 to the present. After all, I was alive during those years, so I must have done *something* to support the victors.

    • Jimmy

      I thought that. 13 million men in the SS and Gestapo is a ludicrously high number. I don’t think it ditracts from the article though. One of the best knowledgenuts ever in my opinion.

    • Alysha Beck

      According to the article in The Guardian…

      “Consider this numbing statistic. After the war, allied officials
      identified 13.2 million men in western Germany alone as eligible for
      automatic arrest because they had been deemed part of the Nazi
      apparatus. Fewer than 3.5 million of these were charged and, of those,
      2.5 million were released without trial. That left about a million
      people – and most of them faced no greater sanction than a fine or
      confiscation of property that they had looted, a temporary restriction
      on future employment or a brief ban from seeking public office. By 1949,
      four years after the war, only 300 Nazis were in prison. From an
      original wanted list of 13 million, just 300 paid anything like a
      serious price.”

    • rincewind

      I do not understand your comparisons. The American public didn’t know that Kennedy would be assassinated nor do they know who will win the World Series in advance. The German public did know about the death camps and the persecution of the Jews while it was going on. Most (but not all) quite happily supported this.

      Poisoning the water supplies may have been a little strong, although totally understandable.

      Perhaps Germany should have been broken up at the end of the war. The map of Europe redrawn as they tried to do with others. Certainly Europe would be richer today without the debts caused of those TWO wars.

      • Sharleen Targon

        The German concentration camps were no different then the Japanese concentration camps America had here at home! YOU FORGOT TO MENTION THE WAR CONCENTRATION CAMPS EISENHOWER HAD WITH GERMANS!

        • stonepillow

          You’re an idiot!

        • John Ysc Groenvold

          Holy hells poster, ‘no different’? If you think the slave labor and death camps the Nazis (and to a lesser extent Japan) had were anything like the American concentration camps then you are being under-researched and naïve. I hope this is just a case of identifying with being contrarian.

          Books on the issue would be better, but for a quick one hour exercise you might benefit greatly from googling American, Japanese and German ww2 concentration camps.
          This doesn’t mean any of them were just, but I’ll bet anything if you or someone you loved were there you’d think the experience between being interned versus worked to death and/or being shoveled into a furnace or experimented on medically to be quite different.

  • Hillyard

    While I can understand their motives, and undoubtedly a number of the men they killed deserved it, I find their tactics to be questionable. Capturing the Nazis and publicly bringing them to the Allied powers for trial would have been the right thing. being very public when they turned over the men would help ensure that the Allied powers put them on trial. A mass poisoning of the German public would have made them no better than the Nazis they hunted.

    • Jimmy

      You’re right. In my view those men were nothing more than terrorists and, while their cause is understandable, it shows how quickly humans return to savages if the situation’s right.

      • Lisa 39

        Anger is a very powerful motivator that doesn’t include rational thought.

    • rincewind

      Bringing them to trial wouldn’t have worked, as many known Nazis are still being protected in Germany. As an example, I cite the Munich Massacre, the attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics where some members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed. The attackers were captured, but later released by West Germany.

      There is very little justice in this world. Would you trust any government to do the right thing?

      • Hillyard

        The attack on the Israeli athletes was done by Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group, not by Nazis. Check your sources a little better.

        • rincewind

          Of course I know that the attackers weren’t nazis. I remember Black September. That wasn’t the point. The fact that the attackers were released by West Germany is the point. The German people (or at least most of them) still hated the Jews.

          It still takes years to extradite even single nazis for trial and even when found guilty, they were given only a few years in prison.

          • Hillyard

            That wasn’t motivated by hate of the Jews, but by a (very wrong) feeling that if they appeased the PLO that they could prevent further terrorist acts on German soil. Chancellor Willy Brandt’s decision to follow this route has been compared to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy in relation to Hitler.

          • comradechinx

            They were released because a plane was hijacked, and the government trade the 3 prisoners for the lives of 18 people. Although there was accusation about Germany involvement who want to “get rid of three murderers, which had become a security burden” as Amnon Rubinstein put it. There is a Doco film called one day in spetember about it, which is good.

          • Sharleen Targon

            Judea also waged war on Germany before when WWII started. There are two sides to every situation

          • stoffelvonwaffle _

            Yes there are, right and wrong. The Germans often find themselves on the latter side of things.

      • Sharleen Targon

        Exactly like Rachel Corrie’s death

    • Alex Delarge

      But there was no Christian appetite for bringing the evil Nazi nation to Justice. So just “turn the other cheek”? The Jewish Book (Five Books of Moses–Old Testament) says “eye for an eye”. I guess Christianity prevailed on the earthly plane for the most part. Hopefully justice will prevail in the afterlife. Or maybe the murderers reincarnate to be victimized as they have victimized.

  • Joseph

    I can’t agree with poisoning drinking water, but everything else seemed fine in my opinion.

    • Sharleen Targon

      Would you agree with the same tactics if the Palestinians did this to the Jews to get even for the ethnic cleansing from 1948 to now?

  • Tom

    Was this an inspiration for V for Vendetta ?

    • Sharleen Targon


  • Sharleen Targon

    These same Ashenazi Jews also massacred so many Palestinians in the same brutal manner to make room for there own kind! They are still doing this to occupied Palestine to this very day. These men are terrorists but got by with it because they are so called Jews. I don’t like them and I see why the rest of the sane world hates them too

  • SSS

    11 millions ? hahahah. Even the highly stupid and proven officially wrong of 6 millions, so 11 millions, are you brain damaged? the real number is 400 000 like the red cross said. Fuckin morons with your zionist propaganda. Why not 11 billion?
    These jewish were terrorist and murderers.

    Ilya Ehrenburg (jewish): Kill them all, men, old men, children and the women, after you have amused yourself with them! Kill. Nothing in Germany is guiltless, neither the living nor the yet unborn. . . . Break the racial pride of the German women. Take her as your legitimate booty. Kill, you brave soldiers of the victorious Soviet Army. [Lutz, Elizabeth. “Rape of Christian Europe—The Red Army’s Rampage in 1945.” The Barnes Review 3, no. 4 (Apr. 1997): 9–16.]

    We can see very well who were the aggressor of the WW2. The real genocide of WW2 were against the germans.

  • L.a. Noel Gallagher

    The Holocaust Museum in D.C. say’s 190,000 casualties

    You should really get over these outlandish #s people.

  • Nick Cainski

    So the Satanic Zionists murdered real people because of the HoloHoax! Luckily the Satanic Zionists failed to poison millions when they tried to poison the water supply!