“Jaguar” is a narrative about Nazi war criminals on the run from relentless pursuers set in the 1960s, an era that witnessed another similar story. The Mossad apprehended Adolf Eichmann in an industrial area of Buenos Aires in May 1960, where he had intended to live the rest of his life in peace. It wasn’t meant to be. As the Nazis’ plan for the murder of all European Jews became known, the leading architect of the Final Solution was secretly packed aboard an aircraft to Israel, where he confronted the terrifying forces he frequently believed were pursuing him. They were doing just that.
“Jaguar,” a fictitious series, manages to include the influence of Eichmann’s destiny on the conscience of certain of its characters—former soldiers of the Nazi military who had concluded that life in Spain would be considerably more pleasant for them than life in Germany.
These Germans considered Eichmann’s capture by Israelis to be an outrage and unlawful. Nonetheless, there appears to be little to dampen the spirits of the Germans, who dine daily at a fine Spanish restaurant. For some, their ties to Spain go back a long time. During the 1930s Spanish Civil War, Gen. Francisco Franco’s army beat the Loyalists—the anti-fascist side—with substantial assistance from German fighter jets dispatched to combat the Loyalists.
During World War II, Franco’s government declared itself neutral, but this did not prevent establishing Spanish volunteers from fighting alongside German soldiers. 47,000 people would enlist. As depicted in the series, allusions to their sacrifice for a more significant cause are common in the German community in Spain.
“Jaguar” shows these Nazis who still retain strong sentiments for the Third Reich brilliantly. We see Adolf Hitler’s birthday celebrations in Spain by his passionate followers, who express their belief that he is keeping a watchful eye on them. There are pieces of evidence of the beautiful gift this leader gave to the German people—belief, a hope of greatness.
However, a different kind of civilization has made its way to Spain in recent years—survivors of Nazi extermination camps. Among them were others who were driven by the same motivations as the Israelis who apprehended Eichmann. We meet the first person Isabel Garrido (a haunting Blanca Suárez, a survivor of Mauthausen who works as a waiter in an upmarket restaurant frequented by Germans).
Isabel is invited to the table of an impeccably dressed diner who wants to know if she is German one night, as the diners are raving over the sauerbraten she has just served. No, she says gently, she isn’t. But, as the diner gently points out, she sounds as though she has lived in Germany for a long time. Neighbors in Isabel’s apartment building feel the same way: there’s something off about this calm and respectable young woman. Of course, there is.
A beautiful scene distressing in its terrible clarity gives us a clear sense of what it is. “Jaguar” conjures up the reality of deportation to Nazi extermination camps using the simple medium of a train journey taken decades after the war years by a passenger in a secure metropolis world distant from danger. That voyage quickly turns into a nightmare—a world of terrified men, women, and children wailing in the darkness of a crowded cattle car on its way to the horrors that await them. Isabel, the subway rider, is again on that sealed train, the doors of which suddenly open; passengers who have been crammed together for days rush to those doors, even as an SS officer yells for males only.
Isabel, a kid of around six years old at the time, leaps out of the boxcar after her father. We observe the frantic youngster being followed by attack dogs and will not stop rushing toward her father. Finally, there’s the face of the German officer who shoots and kills him. Otto Bachmann is his name (a sterling version of blood-chilling malignity delivered by Stefan Weinert ). Isabel will spend most of her life searching for Bachmann. And she will not be alone in this.
She will join a group of camp survivors on the hunt for Bachmann—as well as Aribert Heim, a Nazi doctor at Mauthausen who was responsible for hundreds of cruel killings. Despite their concerns, she has become a part of their efforts—her code name is Jaguar. Even though this quiet lady may be a lone wolf with her own ambitions to rid the world of Bachmann, which would jeopardize the group’s broader objective of apprehending war criminals. Isabel’s integration into the team will need some adjustment, some of it harsh. She discovers from the others that there are ways to endure and live.
The scathing history it portrays, notably regarding the “ratlines,” networks dedicated to assisting Nazi war criminals in fleeing, lends “Jaguar” great force. They resulted from troops whose hatred of communists was far more potent than their hostility toward some of the most known perpetrators of Nazi war crimes. Despite their bleakness, the actions of the individuals and organizations that assisted them in fleeing are historical events worth recounting. Also, remembering.