Prime Video’s ‘Hunters’ follows the story of a group of Nazi hunters. It starts with Jonah Heidelbaum finding out that his grandmother had been a hunter too. As he goes on more missions, which get increasingly challenging, he realizes that the world of the hunters is much bigger than expected. A lot of people have been working, be it openly or in secret, to track down the Nazis who escaped Germany at the end of the war. In the second season, Jonah meets a man who has been at this job for a very long time and has earned a reputation for himself. He is known as the Plague to the Nazis who are scared of him. If you are wondering who he really is and whether he is based on a real person, then here’s what you should know about him. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Who is Zev aka the Plague?
Zev is first mentioned by Chava Apfelbaum when she tells the Hunters about her past and the life she lived before she met them. Soon after her escape from the camps, she started killing Nazis and continued her search for Hitler and other SS officers who conspired together to kill millions of Jews. Somewhere down the line, she heard of a man who came to be known as the Plague. He was a Nazi hunter who was exceptionally good at what he did and was so efficient that Nazis were scared of him.
Eventually, Chava’s path crossed with the Plague’s, and she discovered that his real name was Zev. He was still very young when the Nazis started rounding up Jews and sending them to concentration camps. He, and a bunch of other people, found refuge in the house of Helga and Heinrich Hansöm. Heinrich Hansöm was an architect and he built many hiding places inside his house to keep Zev and the others safe. The old man also taught Zev how to build traps, which came in handy when the Nazis discovered that Jews were hiding in the house and attacked them.
With the Hansöms dead, the children had to flee while the rest of the adults tried to stop the Nazis and died in the process. Since then, Zev spent his childhood in hiding, and when he grew up, he decided to hunt down the Nazis who had forced them to live like ghosts. When he met Chava, he fell in love, and they got married. However, when Chava discovered Hitler’s trail, she didn’t want to be held back by her love for Zev and vice versa. She knew that she needed to go into the hunt without any emotional attachments because it could be used against her, much like what happens to Jonah when Clara is kidnapped by Travis.
In the end, however, she knew that Zev was the only person she could trust to smuggle Hitler out of Argentina to be held accountable for his actions in front of the entire world. And she was right. It is Zev who meets Jonah by the lake, getting them to safety and preventing Hitler’s minions from saving him. Once the job is done, he slips back into the shadows just as quietly as he had emerged from them.
Is Zev Based on a Real Nazi Hunter?
‘Hunters’ uses historical facts to create a fictional tale of Nazi hunters. While there are several names and characters in the show who were real people, Zev’s character doesn’t appear to be one of them. There is no record of a Nazi hunter who was known as the Plague. While it cannot be confirmed whether he was based on a real person, the writers were most probably inspired by the real people who hunted Nazis and brought them to justice. One such person was a man named Zvi Aharoni.
Born Hermann Arndt in Frankfurt, Aharoni left Germany in 1938 when he was just a boy and the Second World War was right around the corner. Reportedly, he first served in the British Army and then became a Mossad agent, where he stayed for the next two decades. During this time, he tracked down Nazis, the most infamous of whom was Adolf Eichmann, one of the main organizers of the Holocaust.
It was Aharoni who tracked down Eichmann to Argentina and brought back pictures that confirmed his identity, leading to his arrest and subsequent trial and execution. He detailed the experience of the mission in his book titled ‘Operation Eichmann’, which he co-authored with Wilhelm Dietl. Aharoni was also known to have been involved in the search for Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known for experimenting on prisoners in Auschwitz Birkenau. Considering that Zev’s story is quite different from Aharoni, it clear that the ‘Hunters’ character is not based on the real-life Nazi hunter. However, the writers were clearly inspired by Aharoni and many other people who dedicated their lives to the cause.