Review: Hunting Evil
- Published: 27 April 2010 27 April 2010
- Last Updated: 12 July 2013 12 July 2013
The Nuremberg trials, where the main war criminals were convicted and the majority by capital punishment marked in many ways the final ending of WW2. Even before the final collapse of the Third Reich in May 1945 many of those involved in war crimes had however begun preparing themselves for the new post-war era. Some fled, some took new identities and other simply vanished under the earth’s surface. After the guns had silenced some war criminals even began new careers with their former enemies, both in the West and in the East. How did these war criminals escape justice, who provided them with the abilities of living their post-war lives, and were there ever underground organizations like for example the myth ridden Odessa? And were the escapees forming the base for the new 4. Reich, that was to be established in the future to come? Countless books and movies have embedded themselves in this context since 1945, and even in 2009 this is by no way the ending of these.
Some authors however take new directions in trying to not reproduce “old established statements”, and Guy Walters in his “Hunting Evil” is surely one of these. Walters focus is on the war criminals who managed to escape, and of the more or less futile hunt of bringing them to justice. Walters gives a grappling insight in how the Allies formed special war-crimes investigation teams and their successes, or rather lack of success. By concentrating on war criminals like Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Franz Stangl – the supervisor of both Sobibor and Treblinka and finally Klaus Barbie, who as a member of the Lyon Gestapo fought communists, prevented sabotage and persecuted Jews; Walters enables the reader a sinister insight in how these war criminals were able to live their peaceful lives decades after the ending of WW2.
Walters book has myriads of aspects, not only in providing insight in how the Allies, more or less in vain, tried to capture and prosecute war criminals, but also how the Allies in the cold war era actually themselves hired many of these war criminals. Also, in his book, Walters shows how these war criminals got away, not so much with the assistance of some “larger than life” underground spider-web organization called Odessa, but mere with the help of both senior-figures in the Vatican, local groups in for instance England (!), Germany and Austria, and some even providing the escape purely by themselves. With the sinister CV men like Eichmann and Mengele had, it is amazing to read how these war criminals managed to escape legal prosecution. Though, with a mere lucky strike of discovery, Eichmann was finally sent to the gallows; but even here Walters provides an amazing background in how Eichmann not only was discovered by a mere glimpse of faith, but also how he was caught.
One of the more amazing aspects of reading “Hunting Evil” has to be Walters critical analyze of the most famous Nazi war-criminal hunter Simon Wiesenthal. One can almost describe Walters portrait of Wiesenthal as “de-thronizing”. Though Walters describes Wiesenthal as “… a liar, and a bad one at that”, Walters does however credit Wiesenthal for contributing to the remembrance of the Holocaust and it’s properly recording.
If I was to miss reading about something in Walters book, it has to be more information regarding the Eastern powers and their quest for justice regarding war-criminals. We know that for instance the former German Democratic Republic (DDR) did imprison and execute a number of war-criminals – 52 persons, but with the exception of Heribert Schwan and Helgard Hendrichs “Der SS-Mann. Leben und Sterben eines Mörders”, little is known about this – to my knowledge insofar. But as Walters himself writes in his foreword this is a book – not a website with endless capacity.
All in all, one cannot underestimate how Walters book “Hunting Evil” gives the reader new knowledge. Not only with its “packed to the rim” 412 pages, but its extra 90 pages of notes – many with website linkage (and downloadable documents!) - And a wealthy bibliography gives the reader further reasons to seek knowledge into this controversial theme.
(Reviewed by Arne Haakon Thomassen)
Thanks to the author for the review copy.