“Hunters” Magnifies Disturbing US Conspiracy

Jack Nelson, Staff Writer

Season One of the new TV series “Hunters” was released to Amazon Prime Video members on February 21 and was generally well-received among viewers and critics. 

 A work of historical fiction executively-produced by Jordan Peele, the show is set in 1977 New York City and follows a group of Holocaust survivors/Nazi-hating spies.  Spearheaded by Meyer Offerman’s (Al Pacino) investigative work, they discover there are over 1,000 Nazis in the US plotting the development of a Fourth Reich. Motivated to avenge 6 million souls, they team up and methodically hunt, verify, torture, and kill these Nazis.  

As the characters attempt to unravel and thwart their masterplan, internal drama develops that threatens to unravel the integrity of their pact. 

“Hunters” has been hailed as a captivating drama that is packed with Nazi-killing thrills, shocking twists, and a stellar Al Pacino performance.  Despite the premise’s imaginative approach to the historical subject matter, the series is said to do justice–both figuratively and in the name of Holocaust survivors–by carefully addressing touchy source material.

After binging the ten-episode season, I felt that all of the above rang true, but I was left haunted by a reality that was revealed to me amidst viewing. It’s something that has already disturbed many–and should disturb all American viewers. It’s not fresh news, but it’s been magnified in such a way that it hits harder than when it was first publicized.  It’s a truth so vile and gut-wrenching that it made me feel ashamed to call myself an American: Operation Paperclip.

Between 1955 and 1975, the US and USSR were bitter rivals in the race to reach the moon before the other nation did, which was appropriately named the “Space Race.” Terrified of the possibility that they could lose such a monumental scientific achievement to the dreaded communists, the US government elected to take drastic measures in order to get an advantage. They were willing to do anything to beat the Soviets. Anything. 

Thus commenced Operation Paperclip, a secret intelligence program under which some 1600 German scientists were brought into the country by the JIOA (Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency) branch of the US federal government. Why Germans? Simple. They were lightyears ahead of the US and USSR when it came to rocketry.  The vast majority, if not all of these scientists, were high ranking Nazi officials or members of the Nazi party who committed atrocious and unspeakable acts against European Jews during the Holocaust.  

They conducted biological weapon research, worked in concentration camps, organized slave labor, experimented on humans, and supported the genocide of over 6 million Jews.  The US government harbored these German scientists, whitewashed their former identities and associated war crimes, gave them new identities, living arrangements, paying jobs, and a fresh start.  Many of these immigrant aeronautics advisors received high honors and awards from the government for the work they did, primarily at NASA. The operation got its name because JIOA staff would mark all scientists they wanted to employ by attaching a singular paperclip to their files.

After knowing Nazis were the Earth’s most vicious monsters, how could the US government possibly justify the decision to give them clean slates?  “Hunters” anticipates this question and addresses it with a scene re-creating the debate that happened between government officials.  

In this scene, one person expresses his disbelief for why they are even considering the operation, citing the horrible crimes that were committed against Jews during World War II.  Another official responds by talking about how small the Jewish population is in the US and questions why they should even care so much about European Jews. The first official doesn’t argue. That was that. The program was almost certainly born from that consensus. “They’re Jews, why should we care about them?”  Not something you would ever expect to hear from the people who are supposed to be our brightest minds and ethical role-models. It says a lot.

Our government’s attitudes toward foreign injustice and national morality have certainly evolved since the 50s, but it is nonetheless sickening to know that the US sacrificed the necessary punishment of Nazis for science. They ignored the immorality of what they were doing and chose to leave alone the glaring injustices of the men they so willingly employed.  Beyond the suspenseful story created in Season One, “Hunters” asks a much more poignant question: at what ethical cost did Operation Paperclip come?