Nazi hunters have existed since the end of World War II. Western Allies and the Soviet Union were looking for scientists and other Nazi operatives to help with their efforts in the Cold War. Therefore, they needed people who could help find the former Nazis that were still alive and in hiding or denying being whom they say they are. The benefit was there for everyone, because cooperative former Nazis were given all types of protection by providing their services to people. Wernher von Braun and Reinhard Gehlen were two of the first cooperative Nazis to be noted.
Nazi hunters were developed to seek out fugitives that had fled the continent looking for safe-keeping. They worked alone or formed groups, such as the known Simon Wiesenthal Center. Their methods included civil lawsuits, exchanging rewards for information, and reviewing military and immigration records to find people. Over the years, these groups gained support from Western governments, as well as Latin America and Israel. Due to the age of most fugitives, the pursuit of Nazi fugitives declined significantly. The assumption was that most had died or were extremely old.
Anyone who was involved in the Holocaust that was not captured or didn't commit suicide had only one other option: to run. As such, they disappeared from society as a way to keep themselves safe and avoid legal punishment. Most Nazis were imprisoned for life or put to death, which is a fate that no one wanted to have handed down. There were some notable pursuits and captures made during the 20th century, including:
-Josef Mengele, the doctor who was never tried for his involvement. He was pursued largely throughout South America before he died.
-Adolf Eichmann, a leader in the Nazi party. He was sought by Wiesenthal but then kidnapped by the Mossad and tried in Israel. He ended up being executed for his crimes.
-Eduard Roschmann was searched for in Argentina, but never found.
-Klaus Barbie, known as the Butcher of Lyon, was found in Bolivia and extradited to face punishment.
-Josef Schwammberger, a collaborator of Latvian descent, was traced to Argentina.
The Nazi hunters tracked men for information, but also to give them the punishment that they never received. These hunters are not as active today simply because most of the men involved in the Holocaust have since died or are deemed to be too old to bother pursuing. However, during the post-war era, this was a necessary part of cleaning up after the Nazi regime.