16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2002
"Nazi Hunter; The Weisenthal File" is an extraordinary book about an extraordinary man. The biography of Simon Weisenthal is likely to become a classic amongst Holocaust literature. Seldom does one come across a book as moving and factual as this.
Simon Weisenthal, now aged over 93 years, spent over four and a half years in Nazi concentration camps. David Levy here presents Weisenthal's story of his experiences during that era and his subsequent tireless pursuit of bringing to justice so many Nazi war criminals.
The book movingly documents how Weisenthal regularly, personally, witnessed the systematic execution of fellow Jews, who were killed for no other reason than being Jewish. Murdered indiscriminately in cold blood by people who clearly took real pleasure and delight in killing Jews.
One of the first such incidents detailed in the book is where Simon Weisenthal, together with about forty other professional Jewish men, were placed in a courtyard at Lvov. Here each Jew was forced to stand alongside a crate, facing a wall with his hands crossed & held behind his neck. Each Jew was then shot one at a time, by a single bullet in the back of the neck by a Ukrainian executioner, who after each murder treated himself to wine and food from a table placed in their midst. The body of the dead Jew then being cast into the crate.
The author tells how the massacre continued until it came close to Weisenthal's turn, when the sound of church bells filled the air. The shooting stopped immediately. Being ‘good' Catholic's the Ukrainian executioners immediately responded to the church bells calling them to Mass, leaving the prisoners locked away for the atrocities to continue later.
The author explains how Weisenthal evaded death on this occasion but Simon soon ended up in the ghetto and from there to the concentration camp at Janowska.
The author describes in detail the conditions at Janowska, where living on minuscule rations and undergoing hard labour, took a devastating toll on Simon's companions. The book describes how those considered ‘sick' were subjected to a ‘fresh air cure'. This entailed them all lying outdoors all night in the freezing sub-zero conditions. Any who moved or stood up were shot by sentries. Those who remained on the ground froze to death by morning. Many taking the ‘quick' way out and standing up...the sentries immediately obliging...shooting them dead in cold blood.
The conditions at Janowska are further described in terms of how escapes were treated. The entire, immediate family of any escapee being collected from the ghetto and imprisoned in solitary confinement for three days without light or food. When the remorse stricken escapee surrendered, he was then mercilessly beaten to death in the presence of his family. If the escapee did not return or surrender, the entire family & children were then shot dead......
The depth and detail in this book is incredible. Far too much to cover here satisfactorily.
Detailed accounts are provided of Weisenthal's pursuit of Adolf Eichman, Joseph Mengele, Franz Stangl & other Nazi war criminals. This is an incredible, priceless examination and account of the work of one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century, one of the survivors.
With the exception of his wife, Simon Weisenthal's whole immediate family were exterminated by the Nazi regime. To understand the man and his mission, you need to read this marvellous book. So highly recommended !
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2006
This book is well intentioned and should certainly be read, but it is not a work of scholarship. It is poorly written too. It is frustrating.
The book does not live up to its title. The author reveals little of Wiesenthal's files. For that, it is recommended you turn to Wiesenthal's books.
The book is poorly structured, bounding together several biographical entries, largely unconnected with one another. Some entries span a few pages, others span over one hundred. The main entries concern Eichmann, Wallenberg, Mengele, Stangl. Raoul Wallenberg the hero finds himself squeezed between mass murderers Eichmann and Mengele.
This is the sort of book that makes you want to read more, to look up details, to check facts, to find out more. It creates needs more than it satisfies them. It is a frustrating book.
The book is well intentioned, but poorly written. It consists of a string of assertions that are not backed up by references. It suffers from the weaknesses of an eyewitness account, except that the writer, Alan Levy, has not witnessed anything himself. And he does not tell us where his facts come from.
In several places, Alan Levy corrects Simon Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal's writings are full of mistakes, we are told. Alan Levy compares the two versions of Wiesenthal's memoirs to show how his views have changed over time. He corrects this or that assertion, but because he never tells us where his facts come from, this is a useless exercise bordering on the profane.
Simon Wiesenthal was not a scholar and he has often been wrong. But this is mostly because he relied on eyewitnesses' accounts and anonymous denunciations. It is also because, driven as he was by a desire to bring to justice nazi mass murderers, his strategy was to keep the hunt alive by publicizing believeable nazi spottings as well as not-so-believeable spottings. What reasons does Alan Levy have for writing such a sloppy book?
This is a frustrating book because it is full of facts we would like to check, but cannot because there are no references to the sources.
Turn instead to: Raoul Wallenberg, by Sharon Linnea. Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder, by Gitta Sereny (this is a biography of Stangl). Mengele: The Complete Story, by Gerald L. Posner. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, by Hannah Arendt. The Sunflower, by Simon Wiesenthal.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2010
This is a fantastic introduction to senior Nazis, their crimes and what happened to them after the war. Wiesenthal's biography itself is chilling as he survives again and again when others would have died. A fantastic and enlightening read.