Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review: Nazi Hunter - The Wiesenthal File

A trip to "half priced books" found me $15 lighter but 3 books richer. The first one I tackled was "Nazi Hunter". This centers on Simon Wiesenthal who was famously portrayed in a fictional role by Laurence Olivier in "The Boys From Brazil" (a cheese classic). He tracked down Nazis after the war as they made their escape from justice and disappeared to far away lands. He has his detractors, and some of his stories are questioned (the comments section is weird), but the man did have a great drive in keeping awareness of the Holocaust and the Nazis among us high.

The chapters on tracking Eichmann, the odd travels of Mengele in South America, the hunting of 3 separate mid-level Nazis and the story of the lone Swede who saved many lives in Eastern Europe only to be imprisoned by the Soviets are great. It reads like a movie with tracking down the movements of an escpaed Nazi, then honing in on the target, and finally the extradition and arrest. Some of these fools would set up shop, then send for their family to join them. A few stopped using fake names and IDs after a few years, as if no one would be looking for SS members after the Holocaust was exposed and the Nuremberg War Tribunals over. Concerning the human condition, what I found scary was how these Nazis could walk in and out of this life of torture, cruelty and murder with no future effects. The whip weilding female prison guard who found love and security in post-WW2 America was the perfect light switch change. Freaky. I will wrap this up with the sadness of how the Swede who saved thousands of lives languyished in Soviet prison camps for years. It was so sad to read about it. It was also sad to consider how so many in Eastern Europe traded one ghoulish totalitarian state for another horrible terror state. The Soviets were awful, and it is pointed out in this book lightly how they gladly took the old Nazi tricks and used them later. That chapters that discuss Austrian politicians and their cloudy pasts are a waste of time to me, but wrap up the career of Wiesenthal. The author is not afraid to challenge or question Wiesenthal. It is a good read, and I recommend it.

If ever in Washington and you have an empty afternoon or morning, go to the Holocaust museum. It is emotionally draining but amazing. I am glad I went, and will not go until my kids are old enough to understand. Havign met survivors and hearing my grandfathers' tales of seeing the camps, I loudly debate anyone who denies the Holocaust happened. I don't care the audience. It is often stated "it can never happen again" by politicians to say genocide will not happen again, but pretty much everyone lets it happen on their watch. From forced famines in Russia & China back in the day to the horrible genocide in Rwanda, bizarre persecution & killing in North Korea & Hollywood's favorite until Jan 20, 2009 Darfur, it is out there.

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