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Another book about the Nazis, the hunters, the hunted and the judges who presided
By Susan Winlow From | April 10, 2016
How many books on Nazis are too many books?

Is this a period of history that we should never forget; or is that a saying that only us baby boomers are chanting during this year of 2016 where we are fighting terrorism and extermination of a different type?

Having grown up during the Cold War, I developed a natural interest in that period of history. It’s stuck with me all these years, but even I, after picking up the nonfiction book “The Nazi Hunters” by Andrew Nagorski, had to ask myself that first question: Is there room for one more book on the Nazis?

Even the easy-reading book’s enticing blurb talks about the natural “wind down” of the Nazi hunters given that the atrocities happened in the 1930s and 1940s. The hunters are dying off, the Nazis are dying off, and so are the witnesses.

The book billed itself as unfolding a saga that can now be told in its entirety; I think its billing is simply because we are coming to the natural end of the Nazi era and can now look back fully upon this time frame. So, do we need a book to put together the pieces?

I’m not sure how I would personally bill this historical hodgepodge – Nagorski interweaved numerous engaging stories about the judges who presided over the various trials, such as Nuremberg, Dachau and Auschwitz; the controversial secretary-general of the United Nations Kurt Waldheim; and the stories of the actual Nazi hunters, the famous such as Simon Wiesenthal, to the not-so-famous hunters, such as those in the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The chapters jumped around at times without much focus; the exception, however, the hunt, capture and trial for the notorious “Final Solution” administrator Adolf Eichmann who Mossad kidnapped off a Buenas Aires street in 1960. Eichmann seemed to be the common thread that bound the book’s beginning and middle together.

I enjoyed the new-to-me stories about the international set of judges, Benjamin Ferencz, Jan Sehn, William Denson; and especially the German judge/Nazi hunter Fritz Bauer, who felt an almost obsessive-compulsive need to make sure the war criminals met their due. In some cases, it’s said, Bauer bypassed the German government in search of off-the-record Israeli help to ferret out war criminals.

Bauer, who was another common thread that bound the book, appeared determined to ensure the German people came to a full understanding of the atrocities committed in their name – even in a time frame when many low-level Nazis returned to their public positions in post-war West Germany – positions they were initially relieved of just after the war ended due to their Nazi affiliation. The book intimates that the new West Germany was rather Nazi-friendly, wanting to leave the war behind. I didn’t know this.

Another tidbit: The hangman who hanged the infamous guilty at the Nuremberg trials was an American, Army Master Sgt. John C. Woods. Another piece of information I didn’t know.

Within the jumpy chapters are entertaining gems of information that made the book worthwhile. The personal story of blind German Lothar Hermann, whose daughter dated Adolf Eichmann’s son Nicholas (Klaus) in Buenos Aires. The Hermanns provided crucial information to the German judge Bauer that pinned down Eichmann’s locale – that information was initially bungled and refuted by those doing the hunting but found to be true later on.

I give kudos to Nagorski, a former Newsweek reporter and author of “Hitlerland,” for finding and collating the information, which appeared to come from personal interviews, news stories, popular movies and previously written books. In a book where nothing seemed to be overtly new news, I would have liked to have known the exact sources for some of the more obscure personal information.

As I’ve said before, regardless of a book’s cohesiveness and content, if it makes me head to Google or other research mechanisms to find out additional information, it’s a book with a purpose as far as I’m concerned. This one had me searching away on my iPad and laptop, as I read the book on my Kindle.

Of course, others could read that as the book lacked information, and didn’t offer fulfillment. I can agree with that summation, as well.

Susan Winlow is a freelance writer. She is the former features editor for the Daily Republic. You can find her on her blog at www.youvebeenbooked.com/blog, on her new bookish Facebook page at www.facebook.com/youve.booked. Email her at susanwinlow@youvebeenbooked.com.

‘The Nazi Hunters’ by Andrew Nagorski

Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781476771861
Release date: May 17
Two-and-a-half out of five stars
Susan WinlowSusan Winlow
Story Archive @swinlowdr on Twitter
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