Nazis / Hunting

Ashman, Charles and Wagman, Robert J. The Nazi Hunters. New York: Pharos Books, 1988. 319 pages.

This is one of the more comprehensive books on Nazi hunting. Many of the others were written too early to do justice to the topic, or are more concerned with the use of Nazis by U.S. intelligence after the war. The authors interviewed Alois Brunner, a notorious Nazi still at large who is protected by Syria, and give new information on Kurt Waldheim's involvement in war crimes. The Eichmann, Mengele, and Barbie cases are also reviewed.

For the most part, the book sticks to the subject of its title and describes people like Simon Wiesenthal, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, Edgar Bronfman, Elan Steinberg, Israel Singer, Rabbi Marvin Hier, and Neal Sher of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations. An appendix (pages 305-310) lists all of the open and closed cases brought against Nazis by the U.S. through mid-1988. Chapters on the current status of Nazi hunting in Canada, Australia, Britain, and Germany are included, as well as descriptions of private groups such as the World Jewish Congress, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.

Charles Ashman is a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Express of London and the London Broadcasting Group, while Robert Wagman is a Washington journalist with six investigative books to his credit.

Blum, Howard. Wanted: The Search for Nazis in America. Greenwich CT: Fawcett Books, 1977. 285 pages.

In 1972 Anthony Devito, an investigator with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, was assigned to the Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan case. These were the days when the INS still handled Nazi war criminals, before jurisdiction shifted to the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations in 1979. Devito became convinced that all the problems he encountered -- disappearing files, office break-ins, denied travel vouchers, threatening phone calls to witnesses he had interviewed -- were evidence of Odessa penetration of INS. A Jewish organization gave him a list of 59 other Nazis living in the U.S., but Devito was unable to interest his bosses.

Devito resigned in 1973 and went public, and this bestseller was the result. It is written more like a thriller than a sober investigation (there are no footnotes and this edition lacks an index), but Howard Blum's reporting is solid and thorough, and he popularized the issue as few others have done. Portions of this book appeared in Esquire, and it was widely noticed by both reviewers and book clubs. Reprints by other publishers can still be found on bookstore shelves.

Bower, Tom. Nazi Gold. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998. 404 pages.

Tom Bower has written a number of books about the Nazi era and its aftermath, so this one can be considered an expert account of how Swiss bankers and bureaucrats behaved before and after World War II. The bottom line is that for the Swiss, profits came before Jews. During the war Swiss bankers routinely expropriated Jewish deposits, and accepted gold bullion looted by Germany from the treasuries of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, and Holland. Other neutral nations refused to accept the gold. Jews were even pushed back from the Swiss border to the waiting Gestapo.

The history of Allied efforts to change Swiss banking behavior was marked by countless fine-print shenanigans and outright manipulations over many years. It was only in 1995 that Switzerland began to feel serious pressure, first from Edgar Bronfman of the World Jewish Congress, and then from Alfonse D'Amato, a Republican Senator from New York. Even as late as 1997, there was some intrigue. Night watchman Christoph Meili had to flee Switzerland in the wake of death threats and take up residence in the U.S., after he saw the film "Schindler's List" and decided to rescue Holocaust-era documents from the shredder room at Union Bank in Zurich. Finally in 1998, a $1.2 billion settlement was reached between Jewish groups, Holocaust survivors, and the Swiss banks.

Higham, Charles. American Swastika. Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1985. 332 pages.

Charles Higham, a former New York Times correspondent, also wrote a book on corporate America's ties to the Nazis from 1933-1949 titled "Trading With the Enemy" (1983), but "American Swastika" is somewhat less focused. It may have been written to utilize all the material he couldn't fit into the earlier effort; each chapter in "American Swastika" is fairly independent of the others.

This book concerns noncorporate American connections to Nazis, as well as to their fifth columnists and sympathizers among the Romanians and White Russians. Over half of the book covers the period before and during World War II, and the remainder covers the Cold War period. Some of the individuals discussed include Klaus Barbie, William Bullitt, Charles Coughlin, Hamilton Fish, Allen Dulles, Reinhard Gehlen, Joseph Kennedy, Tyler Kent, Nicolae Malaxa, George Moseley, Walter Schellenberg, Otto Skorzeny, Viorel Trifa, Otto von Bolschwing, and Anastase Vonsiatsky.

Higham receive extensive help in his researches from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and utilized 28,000 pages of U.S. government documents that are now stored in the author's collection at the University of Southern California library.

Pool, James. Hitler and His Secret Partners: Contributions, Loot and Rewards, 1933-1945. New York: Pocket Books, 1997. 415 pages.

James Pool has studied Hitler for 25 years; his previous book, "Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power, 1919-1933," is considered something of a classic. Pool's work is refreshing because he starts with a broad socioeconomic perspective, and blends this in with sociopsychological and cultural observations. Frequently historians skip the infrastructural reasons behind Hitler's power, and opt for a specific angle instead of the broad picture. The entire phenomenon of Nazi Germany then becomes subsumed under some variation of The Madman Theory.

Many top industrialists and financiers in Germany made huge returns on their investment in Hitler's agenda. The spoils of various invasions, as well as profits from slave labor and confiscation of Jewish properties, insured their enthusiastic support. Hitler himself was far from ascetic -- he lived in extravagant luxury, subsidized by blatant corruption. Good old greed, power, and desperation explain Nazi Germany better than ersatz theories about the German character. Examples: the desire for "lebensraum" was largely due to food production problems; Hitler invaded Austria because raw materials were needed to continue rearmament; and Russia was invaded because the German military machine was running out of oil. Pool never tries to excuse Germany, but he does offer a fresh look at the evidence.

Ryan, Allan A., Jr. Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. 386 pages.

When Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman took over the chair of the Immigration subcommittee in January 1979, she was also an emerging power on the full Judiciary committee. Attorney General Griffin Bell had to toss her a bone, so later that year the jurisdiction over Nazi prosecutions was passed from the INS to the newly-formed Office of Special Investigations.

The first three chapters offer some background, from the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 through the 30 years of INS inaction, on to the Moscow Agreement of 1980 that gave OSI access to documents and witnesses. Other chapters treat case histories. OSI director Ryan's major success story is John Demjanjuk, who was finally deported in 1986. (As this is being written in late 1992, this case has been reopened. Former OSI prosecutor George Parker has testified that his superiors weren't interested in evidence of possible mistaken identity, and he subsequently quit the agency in disgust.) There is also a chapter on Klaus Barbie. The dust jacket describes Ryan's report on Barbie's connections to U.S. intelligence as one "which received international acclaim for its thoroughness and honesty." (Actually, most historians feel that Ryan's 200-page 1983 report was a whitewash -- see, for example, "Blowback" by Christopher Simpson.) Still, Ryan's book is valuable as a primary source for the record.

Simpson, Christopher. The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. New York: Grove Press, 1993. 399 pages. Reprinted in 1996 by Common Courage Press, Box 702, Monroe ME 04951, Tel: 800-497-3207.

It's common to read biographies of men who waged war during the first half of the century, when issues were clear and warriors could be heroes. So when Christopher Simpson takes a look at two cases of genocide -- the slaughter of Armenians in World War I and Hitler's holocaust -- it's a surprise to discover that things are not so simple. Allen Dulles, for example, helped a number of Nazis to escape, and worked for the greater glory of postwar Germany, which also meant a better bottom line for the German industrialists he represented before the war. While later claiming to be unwilling victims of the Nazis, these industrialists were happy to contract with the SS for forced labor from concentration camps, because it was profitable. They got off easy at Nuremberg; the Allies felt that rapid reconstruction would be a hedge against revolution in war-ravaged Europe.

The larger point of this well-documented book is that complicity in genocide ranged far and wide, on both sides of the front in both wars. When it came time for accountability, international tribunals were stymied by the same machinations of privilege and power that started the problem in the first place. The structure of international law is weak, and easily overruled by elites who simply want to "get on with business."

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