Prime Video’s ‘Hunters’ follows the story of a group of people who join forces to hunt down the Nazis hiding in America. The war is over, but the Nazis are still out there, scheming to bring about the Fourth Reich. When Holocaust survivor Ruth Heidelbaum identifies an SS Officer living as a common man in New York, she knocks on the door of Meyer Offerman for help. They report the Nazi to the authorities. When no action is taken against him, they decide to take justice into their own hands. This leads to the formation of an elite group that identifies many more Nazis and brings them to justice. Due to the historical nature of events in the show, you might wonder if Ruth and Meyer are based on real people. Here’s what you should know about them.
Were Ruth Heidelbaum and Meyer Offerman Real Holocaust Survivors?
No, Ruth Heidelbaum and Meyer Offerman were not real-life Holocaust survivors. They are not based on any specific person and were created by David Weil for the Amazon series. To be respectful of the survivors and the victims, the show made a point to use the numbers for the tattoos that didn’t belong to a real person, confirming that the characters in the show are fictional.
In an interview with Esquire, Weil revealed, “The numbers on the survivors or victims’ arms, those were ahistorical — the highest known number ever given to a victim or survivor of the war was 202499. I chose that every number that we see depicted on the show should be higher than that because I never wanted to misrepresent a person’s life who actually had a specific number. I didn’t want to get their story wrong.”
While Weil didn’t base Ruth on any particular person, he was inspired by the stories of his grandmother to write Ruth’s story, as well as that of ‘Hunters’. While talking to Forbes, actress Annie Hägg, who plays a young Ruth, confirmed that she was playing an iteration of Weil’s grandmother. “I just feel very honored and privileged [to play the character]. What an honor for me to play somebody who is a survivor and the daughter of a rabbi,” she said.
While Ruth is a tribute to Weil’s grandmother, her story differs a lot from his own grandmother, who was not a Nazi hunter. Ruth comes into the business of hunting Nazis when she recognizes one on the street but is unable to do anything about bringing him to justice. This leads her to gather information about other Nazis whom she exposes with the help of the Hunters. In real life, too, there were Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal (who also briefly appears in the show), who dedicated their lives to tracking down the Nazis and exacting justice on them. However, there was much less bloodshed in their methods.
A Holocaust survivor, Wiesenthal started documenting the names of Nazi officers as soon as the war ended, and he and other people in the Mauthausen concentration camp were liberated. Much like Ruth, he relied on paper trails and interviews with the survivors to build a case against the Nazis. He helped in their capture and provided evidence against them to exact justice on them lawfully. This is the path that characters like Ruth and Millie prefer, but Meyer and the others have ideas of their own. They don’t believe in mercy when it comes to the Nazis. In real life too, there were a couple of such people.
Most famously, there was a Jewish group called Nokmim, led by a man named Joseph Harmatz, that consisted of a group of people who didn’t shy away from using violence and being the judge, jury, and executioner when they came across Nazis. One of their plans included poisoning the water supply of Nuremberg, though it was thwarted. In another plan, they poisoned the food of thousands of SS soldiers, out of which around a thousand are said to have died.
In some instances, Nokmim members are believed to have targeted Nazis individually. Reportedly, they would hunt down the ex-SS officers, much like the Hunters do in the Prime Video series. Then, before executing them, they would read out their crimes and kill them in a manner befitting the nature of their actions. In the series, too, the Hunters resort to killing Nazis like Hansel and Gretel Fischel in the same manner that they killed their victims.
Considering all this, it is clear that while Ruth and other Holocaust survivors in the show might not have been real people, their characters are certainly inspired by the people who survived the unimaginable conditions in the concentration camps and then fought for justice for the rest of their lives. Through different characters, ‘Hunters’ represents the different ways in which justice was sought, shedding light not only on the moral responsibility of such actions but also on the correct way to seek justice.