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on 8 April 2017
This a good book, a worthwhile read. Particularly if you are a fan (like me) of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther or Luke McCallin's Gregor Reinhardt.

Although this book is a work of fiction according to the author, it is based largely on actual events, indeed the majority of the characters in the book are real people. The events in the book did happen.

The book commences with the Berlin working on the S-Bahn murders an actual event in which six women were killed in or around Berlin's rail network. An idealistic young officer, Greg Hauser, who had just arrived fresh from a fast-track course at the police college. He went on to play a key role in the investigation.

As the book develops it becomes clear that Hauser is keen to make a good impression with his bosses and follows the orders they give him. After the Ogorzow case many officers were sent to the eastern front to form police battalions who's role amongst others was to round up and exterminate Jew's.

I enjoyed the book but I found it a difficult listen in part. But it is based largely on the real life of one man., although there were thousands of others with similar experiences.
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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.
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on 23 December 2015
A thought provoking factually based book. In 1941 Berlin, a vicious serial killer is on a deadly mission. To kill and mutilate countless innocent women for his own perverted gratification. Georg Heuser is one of the detectives assigned to the case. The relentless manhunt gives him the chance to apprehend the murderer and prove his worth. Fast forward in Germany1959, this same man is about to be put on trial for crimes of unimaginable horror, in Ostland on the Russian Front. The expertly portrayed descent of this idealistic young man into a monster, is the irrefutable evidence of how minds and souls can be corrupted during wartime, when even sadistic torture and murder hold no fear of any consequences. Brilliant, will read more from this author.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 February 2015
Georg Albert Wilhelm Heuser graduates from Police college with honours and is taken on by Wilhelm Ludtke as his assistant midway through the search for the notorious S-bahn murderer. He makes his name during the hunt for the perpetrator as an Assistant Criminal Commissar and he was to go on to crack the case. He was never a member of the National Socialist Party. Membership was by no means obligatory in either the police force or even the SS. He was clean-cut, young, an excellent detective, who rose seamlessly on terms of merit through the ranks, and brought to justice one of the most depraved and feared murderers of the times. How then was it that this paragon of detective talent was, in 1961 to stand trial for murder himself?

Equally, compelling is the mystery of how Heuser (pronounced Hoyzer) ended the war in shame and disgrace, when other officers of comparable rank did not. This is not a story that has a clear-cut explanation. Rather it is embroiled in the nature of Heuser's experience of war. Heuser has killed so many people that it defies belief - some of the shocks of this story are bound up in the facts of his career, but nothing anyone could comprehend matches the degredation of how his life progressed.

Even the facts of his final actions during the war cannot be seen as the apparent acts of mercy he would claim them to be. They were grades of finite calculation, measures taken to lessen the degree of condemnation with which he knew he would be faced. How did it happen? Was it an effect of (in those oh so banal terms) - merely following the orders of his superiors? And were there some genuine moments of repentance? After all, he saved the half-Jewish son and daughters of the Lang family. Was he sick of killing or was it yet another calculation? Certainly he used them to inform on the partisans.

This is a riveting story, one that rings true, and one that also horrifies. It is based on the facts of Heuser's life, and you may wish you had never read it when it comes to his activities and those of his fellow officers in Minsk.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 November 2014
In the early 1960’s, stimulated by events such as the Holocaust and the trial of the infamous Nazi war criminal, Adolph Eichmann, American psychologist, Stanley Milgram, conducted a series of experiments demonstrating the human capacity to inflict pain and even death on fellow humans if instructed to by appropriate authority figures. The so-called ‘Superior Orders Defence’, which was used by Eichmann in common with many of the Nazis brought to trial at Nuremberg for their crimes, suggests that the actual perpetrators of the crimes were bound by an Oath of Loyalty to Hitler and, by extension, any senior Nazi interpreting his ‘will’.

This novel tells the story of one such perpetrator, Georg Heuser, a young idealistic Berlin police detective at the start of WWII, who contributes to the investigation and eventual capture of the S-Bahn serial killer who was found guilty of the murder of six women in 1941. Like all civil police Heuser becomes part of the SS, incorporating the SD, or Nazi security service under Reinhard Heydrich. As such he held officer ranks in both the civil police and the SS.

Though the story begins in 1941 the greater part outlines the role played by Heuser when he becomes part of an Einsatzgruppen, or ‘deployment group’, tasked with rounding up indigenous Jewish populations in the wake of the German occupation of Eastern Europe and Russia (or Ostland) following Operation Barbarossa, the beginning of Hitler’s ‘War of Annihilation’ on the Soviet Union. Once rounded up they would be ‘processed’ in various ‘actions’ throughout the Nazi occupation as part of the ‘final solution’ to the Jewish Problem. Heuser, though not a Nazi party member, is keen to get on and does all he can to win the approval of his superiors. If this means carrying out orders that he would normally find repugnant then he manages to justify it to himself on the grounds that he is acting on orders from a higher authority of the Nazi state in the interests of his country in the midst of a vicious war of annihilation in which both sides compete with one another to demonstrate just how monstrous they can be.

The novel is carefully researched and in Georg Heuser we come to know what it may have been like for, what may have been, in ordinary circumstances, an ordinarily decent man driven to extremes by extraordinary conditions. We all like to think, I’m sure, that we would not have followed those heinous orders but how many, I wonder, with any degree of certitude, can say how they would have behaved given the same set of circumstances? Circumstances that, hopefully, the world will never see again.

This is an astonishing piece of work, cleverly constructed and brilliantly written, to evoke within the reader just that question posed above.
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on 16 February 2015
The story is inspired by the actual events that took place during the Second World War , this makes the book more horrific when reading about the Nazis final solution to the Jewish problem. George Heuser started of as an idealist officer in the German criminal police, but in his desire for promotion he was drawn into the murder of thousand of Jews.
The slow brutalisation of of this idealist young man who was at first reluctant to carry out the murder of the Jews is very thought provoking and eventually results in him becoming a Nazi war criminal for his crimes.
An horrific book that makes you wonder what we are capable of doing when acting under orders and following the rule of government .
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on 21 October 2015
This is a well-written and well-researched book and one which the reader quickly becomes immersed in. In the opening chapters, we get to know – and like – Georg Heuser, a brilliant and dedicated young Berlin detective and as we follow our protagonist’s progression to Hauptsturmfuhrer in the SS, his role in executions of Jews and Russians is told in unflinching detail. This is a book in which every word and action is important as we question the actions, not just of German soldiers during the Holocaust, but of every soldier, in any war throughout history, whose duty is to kill.
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on 7 September 2017
This is a book that holds the reader from start to finish.anyone would wish that these actions would never be repeated regrettably they have been and no doubt will continue to be.
One small error ,Germans would not drink out of bone china cups in that era only porcelain,bone china was English until the end of the 20 th century
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on 16 January 2014
This is, quite simply one of the best books I have read over the last year, i could not disagree more with the review that only gave it 3 stars. Don't get me wrong, at times the story telling does have some - minor - faults, but they are outweighed by a gripping stroy that takes you on a journey into the human condition and its dark side. The book tackles this subject well - how do apparently ordinary people become involved in such brutal, inhuman acts? This book kept me thinking about it even when I wasn't reading it. Based on true events it a gripping read, yes its harrowing, yes its brutal, but I think this book handles this subject with dignity and depth. I read a lot of historical books (mostly on the Spanish Civil War) but I still found this book fascinating.
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on 12 January 2014
Beautifully written. Cleverly plotted. Superbly well researched. Perfectly pitched. I thought this was a first class book. A blend of all of the best aspects of a crime thriller, a historical novel, and - in parts - a love story. This is as good a read as you could hope for. This has been written intelligently and with emotional depth. It doesn't follow obvious and classical black and white patterns. You feel drawn into the awful traumas of conscience that were the reality of the time. He doesn't let the offenders off the hook for their terrible crimes but he leaves you asking yourself whether you would really have behaved a great deal better in the terrible circumstances. Empathy with an a hideous judgement hanging over it. Great book.
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