The First Avengers

Vilna Ghetto Fighters, some of whom joined the group 'Nakam'.

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie.  A small cadre of Jews hatched a plot that would kill six million Germans, by poisoning the country’s water supply.  At first, it sounds like a preposterous notion.  Who would ever believe that?  It’s farfetched, even by Hollywood’s standards, but unlike most Hollywood creations, this incredible plan was actually true.  There are tapes revealing the details of a foiled plan by a group called the Jewish Avengers that really did seek to kill six million Germans.

Avi Merkado, a filmmaker, uncovered ten tapes buried in a museum in Israel, which presented details on a band of Jewish partisans that formed after the Second World War.  Never before heard in public, the recordings are the cornerstone of a new documentary called “Holocaust: The Revenge plot,” set to air on January 27th.

Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0827-318 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0827-318 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

As Abba Kovner, a survivor of the Vilnius Ghetto and the leader of the cadre, was dying of cancer in 1985, he recorded these tapes to provide documentation of the group’s 1946 plans.  The intention of the group was the direct infiltration of the waterworks of four major German cities, these being Hamburg, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Munich, with plans to poison the water supplies.  This plot was funded by £5 notes, capable forgeries from Jews within the concentration camps and exchanged on the black market.  The most audacious claim was that two late Israeli Presidents, Chaim Weizmann and Ephraim Katzir, were not only aware of the plot but assisted their efforts by facilitating their acquisition of the required poison.  The plot was ultimately foiled when Kovner was arrested at sea.

“We are proud to have this remarkable film. Both intensely moving and deeply shocking, it packs a real emotional punch – and by flipping the traditional Holocaust narrative on its head, asks profound questions about the nature of justice,” Commissioning Editor Rob Coldstream said.

Abba Kovner testifying at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, 1961
Abba Kovner testifying at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, 1961

The tapes also talk about another murder attempt, which involved attempts to poison the bread of some 50,000 SS officers in Prisoner of War camps in both Nuremberg and Munich, which were more successful, claiming 2,000 Nazi lives.

“The story of the tapes started a few years ago with Kovner’s grandson, Nimrod. He was moving into his grandfather’s old house, and boxes of his possessions were taken to the Museum.  “After talking to Avi Avidov, who was Pasha Reichmann’s son, who taught me my BA, I found a tape in a box of his old things. I thought there must be more, so I went to the Museum and went through his stuff and eventually found ten tapes. It was a Eureka moment,” Merkado said.  ‘I was especially interested in the interview with Abba Kovner at the beginning when he explained how they did it and why they felt it necessary to make a response to the horrors.’

View of the defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany.
View of the defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany.

Holocaust: The Revenge Plot includes interviews from six of the remaining Avengers.  These include Auschwitz survivor Yehuda Maimon, Simcha Rotem, who is the last remaining survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – and Hasia Warshawski, who has never spoken before in public due to the trauma she suffered during her wartime years.  It will also include Kovner’s son, Michael, and the son of Avengers Avi and Leopold Vassimen, known as Poldeck, who is also the man responsible for financing the operation.  It was his idea to buy £5 notes forged by Jews in the concentration camps, and sell them on the Italian black market.  According to Poldeck, the scheme turned out to be so lucrative that the exchange rate turned out enough profit for the group to pay for their living expenses.

“This is an incredible story that very few people will know, told from the first-hand perspective of the last survivors directly involved, and based on extensive research which has unearthed remarkable new evidence,” executive co-producer Dinah Lord said.