Top critical review
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on 25 October 2017
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I have read and will continue to read books of this genre but this one left me a little perplexed. The book is well written and well crafted. I liked the movement between the earlier sections dealing with the S Bahn killer and the subsequent war crimes trial of Georg Heuser. The description of the systematic murder of Jews in Minsk is chilling. I'm not sure it's appropriate for the author to put himself in the place of Heuser and therefore attempt to justify his barbaric actions. (He was only obeying orders!)
What really spoils the book for me, and it is my personal opinion, is the totally unnecessary love scenes invented by the author. These scenes in Berlin and at the trial are an unnecessary distraction from the story. In addition, the fictionalised rape of the so called 'Mischling' and the subsequent attempts by Heuser to ingratiate himself with her and her surviving siblings neither rings true or is credible. Undoubtedly, SS officers raped women from the transport trains. If this event had any veracity then surely the victim and her surviving family would have come forward at the trial given its notoriety. My question is, 'Why put it in?'
The section regarding the conviction and sentencing of Heuser is lifted almost entirely from the trial transcripts. However, not enough emphasis is placed upon the reasons why Heuser's crimes were effectively whitewashed. By the 1960s, Germany wanted to move on from its shameful past. There was no public appetite for harsh punishment; the time for this had long since passed. No doubt if the Israelis had got him, he would have been hanged like Eichmann. Or, if he had been picked up by the Americans, in 1945 he probably would have been the recipient of summary justice just as many SS officers and soldiers were.
Just as a matter of interest, half an hour's research via the internet gave me most of the information contained in this book. Best wishes to the author who has another successful book on his hands.