At the end of World War II the Allies declared the Nazi party a criminal organization and vowed to prosecute and punish the architects and triggermen of genocide. It was an ambitious pledge: several hundred thousand Gestapo, SS and Wehrmacht forces had engaged in war crimes and atrocities against civilians. However, only a few thousand Nazi war criminals and collaborators were convicted at the Nuremberg trials, held from 1945 to 1949. The vast majority evaded prosecution by concealing their war records, assuming false identities, fleeing Europe, or serving Allied governments as spies or scientists.
In the absence of a sustained international manhunt and centralized prosecution, the task of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice was undertaken by a handful of individuals — acting without official status or government support. These so-called Nazi hunters collectively identified and brought to justice thousands of Nazi war criminals. Simon Wiesenthal may be the most famous Nazi hunter, but Elusive Justice focuses on individuals whose names are less well known and who helped capture and convict the architects and engineers of genocide, mobile killing squad officers, concentration camp guards, industrial slave drivers and medical experimentation staff. In the process, these Nazi hunters gave a measure of dignity to the dead and reminded the international community that enemies of humanity must be punished if humanity is to survive. The legal protocols developed by the Nazi hunters are still being used to extradite and indict the perpetrators of war crimes that continue to plague the world, including most recently in Rwanda, the Balkans and South Asia.
Narrated by Candice Bergen, Elusive Justice is an unprecedented examination of the more than six-decade global hunt for the 20th century's most notorious war criminals, thousands of whom are still presumed to be alive. Featuring intimate portraits of the Nazi hunters, the film also examines the nations and institutions that helped bring war criminals to justice or, in too many cases, helped them to escape.