Podcast Review: The Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher

The podcast Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher is about the hunt for a Nazi. Herbert Cukurs, nicknamed “The Butcher of Riga,” was the target. Mossad, an Israeli intelligence agency, discovered that Cukurs was living in Brazil and planned revenge for the 30,000 Jews that he killed during the Holocaust.  Agent Yaakov “Mio” Meidad was assigned to assassinate him. The podcast is hosted by Stephan Talty, author of the book The Good Assassin: How a Mossad Agent and a Band of Survivors Hunted Down the Butcher of Latvia. The plot is not only interesting but expertly told by Talty.   

The Good Assassins is similar to a good spy novel or movie. There is much detail provided about how Mio created a new identity so that he could he draw Cukurs in and assassinate him. Mio, with the help of Mossad, disguised himself as an Austrian citizen. He even received a doctor’s note from Austria stating that he was healthy enough to travel to Brazil. Though Mio was naturally quiet and unimposing, you hear about he was able to change his personality to that of an outgoing Austrian businessman. With all the preparation ahead of time, unexpected events happened while Mio was in Brazil. You hear how Mio was able to improvise and maintain his assumed identity. 

An equal amount of time is spent describing the background of Herbert Cukurs. You hear about how he was once a world-famous aviator. He was even nicknamed “The Lindbergh of Latvia” for flying from Latvia to Tokyo before World War II. Talty describes how he transitioned into a diabolical Nazi. His actions during the Holocaust can be difficult to listen to and there are warnings about descriptions of genocide before certain episodes. These disturbing tales explain why Mossad and Mio pursued his assassination with an unwavering conviction.    

When you hear that Mio has arrived in Brazil, it is difficult to not be nervous and excited at the same time. You are nervous that Cukurs will discover Mio’s true identity, but also excited that an evil Nazi will be brought to justice. Talty describes how paranoid Cukurs was; it makes you wonder what will happen when he encounters Mio. By the time they cross paths, you are eager to listen to every detail. 

Good Assassins is masterfully done. The story and the way that it is told make it fascinating. Events described are often suspenseful and you are dying to found out what happens next! People who have never listened to podcasts may want to start with this one.

Good Assassins is an ongoing series. New episodes are uploaded every Friday. It can be listened to on their website or apps such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.