May 1, 2014

Book Review: The Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Doctor Aribert Heim

Cute sleeping baby + Nazis. Weird combo!
This book was interesting and depressing at the same time. It's sad to think of all the people who got away with horrifying crimes because of the lack of interest in prosecuting them, and the dearth of manpower/funds given to the cause.

Part biography, part engrossing true crime story, The Eternal Nazi is a fascinating look at the hunt for Nazi war criminals after World War II, focusing on Aribert Heim, a concentration camp doctor who was never brought to justice for his war crimes. Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet have written a detailed, methodical history that explains many of the motivations of those who helped to hide Heim for nearly 50 years--and of those who pursued him.

Aribert Heim was known to have murdered many Jews at Mauthausen by injecting gasoline straight into their hearts, but was released from U.S. custody in the chaos immediately following the war's end. He married a German woman and set up a successful gynecological practice in Baden Baden. For nearly 15 years, he lived a quiet life, until rising interest in finding war criminals led to the establishment of a new police bureau dedicated to Nazi hunting. Heim fled Germany, eventually landing in Cairo, and it wasn't until 2010 that the full story of Dr. Aribert Heim's life, and how he was able to evade capture for so long, became known to the world.

In telling Heim's story, The Eternal Nazi raises the question of why so many Nazi war criminals escaped justice, and even rise to power in the postwar West German government. Despite decades-long efforts to find Heim and others, detectives were underfunded and often unsuccessful. Heim's escape story is all too representative of the postwar stories of many former Nazis.

It's crazy to me that the full story of Heim's life didn't come out till 2010! I wonder what other similar stories might come out in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure, if she can handle some Holocaust descriptions.

Have you read any good Nazi-era nonfiction lately?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness. And the post contains my affiliate links.