The Eternal Nazi, by Author (Hardcover, 2014)|
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Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
A well-researched, adroitly told story of the decades-long pursuit of an
alleged Nazi war criminal, Dr. Aribert Heim.
This story is one that just hooks you and keeps you going to see how the
anticipated outcome will emerge. It reads like good fiction, in terms of how
the authors pace the story and lead the reader through various clues. As
with good fiction, the reader hits to cul-de-sacs, dead ends, and detours.
And as with really good fiction, the suspense fluctuates its intensity and
ends in a way you had not anticipated.
So much for the fiction part. The sheer volume of the sources tapped
(plus the consistency with other works) is substantial evidence that the
authors went to great lengths to present a factual account rather than
pursue an agenda.
They even bring us much of the human side of Aribert Heim, something
that, given the subject, must have taken great resolve. It's clear from the
text that the authors share the nearly universal revulsion over the
despicable acts of the Nazis (especially the attempted extermination of
European Jews). So I'm not saying that they, in any way, minimize what
happened and try to paint a sympathetic picture of those who committed these
atrocities. This is the story of the pursuit of one alleged war criminal,
one who was never brought to trial. He was probably guilty, but we don't
have a proven case.
I felt the authors tried to present a balanced account, and we did get to
see into the mind of Heim. Was he merely engaged in denial and
justification? By the end of the book, we aren't sure. But the point of the
book is to tell about the search to bring Heim to trial, not take the place
of a trial that never happened.
Though many of the sources were books, some were periodicals.
Unfortunately, the disinformation source "The New York Times" was used as a
source, somewhat diminishing the credibility of the authors' research.
However, sometimes the NYT is not totally "alternate universe" in its
coverage and maybe that was the case with whatever the authors used from it.
Greatly adding to their credibility are direct interviews conducted by the
While the authors don't prove Heim's guilt (again, there was no trial),
the circumstantial evidence they provide makes it hard t conclude he was
actually innocent. And we do know for a fact that he worked at the
Mauthausen concentration camp in 1941. The accusations against him came from
prisoners who were there. The question, "If he was innocent, why did he
run?" would seem to indict him, but that doesn't prove his guilt. In the USA
today, people are routinely put on death row even thought they are innocent
and running from the authorities when you fear you can't get a fair trial
makes a whole lot of sense.
The search for him actually outlasted him, and even after his death was
reported the investigation did not stop. That might seem crazy, but the
authors explain why this was the case. Nazi hunters had, many times before,
been thrown off the trail by faked deaths.
It also might seem crazy that so much effort was devoted to finding a
person who was really a small fry. But again, the authors explain why this
was the case. As old Nazis died off, the list of Nazis to chase down got
smaller. The leaders, being among the oldest, had mostly died off by the
1960s. Heim (who was relatively young during WWII), rose to the top of the
list by process of elimination.
There were several other such oddities and questions that the authors
explained. This book brought not just new facts about the Nazis, but new
nuances about why certain things happened. Gaining a deeper level of
understanding is never a bad idea.
This book drills down into a part of world history that is worth
exploring. I put it on my "recommended reading" list.
Note: I reviewed the softcover bound galley, not the actual hardbound
book. There may be minor differences, but the copyediting quality of the
softcover version was extremely high. The version I reviewed ran 250 pages
(including the Prologue) and was divided into a large number of small
chapters (typically a few pages at most).