The Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Doctor Aribert Heim by Nicholas Kulish is a non-fiction book detailing the trials and tribulations of Nazi hunters in pursuit of an elusive criminal. Although the book does not reveal anything new about the era, it does make a fascinating read.
I first heard of Aribert Heim several years ago, when I read an article about him in the weekend newspaper. What struck me most about the murders was the Heim took time to mentally torment his victims before killing them with his preferred method – a shot of gasoline to the heart.
The book focuses on two men, Heim and Wehrmacht veteran Alfred Aedtner. Heim is trying to avoid capture while Aedtner works with other Nazi hunters to try and bring him to justice.
One of the disconcerting things to read about in this book was the attitude towards war criminals after the war, not only by the German people (many who refused to help, and those who did were ostracized), but also by the world governments, which chose to turn a blind eye to mass murderers in order to achieve some small cold-war victory.
The book accounts for mistakes, oversights and just plain bad luck in trying to capture Heim. The pursuers were close on his heels for a while, and Heim was sweating till his last day.
Ironically, Heim’s 30 year exile, being away from family, friends and country, was probably a much harsher punishment than he would have received if he would have simply surrendered to authorities. Heim was careful to cover his tracks and his crimes, after the war years were full with confusion and doubt and he has been already cleared once by US authorities.
A fascinating book, written in clear style with short, easy to comprehend chapters, the book provides insight on how war criminals were able to avoid persecution.
- 320 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385532431