Tuesday December 10, 2019
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Solving a murder in a Nazi bastion, escaping the Stasi

But as there are a couple of Nazis who are not so bad, our hero also shows that anyone with some dignity and honour can keep his mooring amid the direst evil

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Prussian Blue is a must read book which offers different perspective. IANS
Prussian Blue is a must read book which offers different perspective. IANS
  • Prussian Blue is a novel by Philip Kerr
  • It is set in World War II
  • Thr book is an interesting read

Title: Prussian Blue (Bernie Gunther Series); Author: Philip Kerr; Publisher: Quercus

Some men can never outrun their past. It is not that their wrongdoings cannot be forgotten, but rather that their unique abilities which even their enemies, spanning the spectrum from Nazism to Communism, recognise and seek to utilise for their own ends. As with this outspoken, irreverent but capable German ex-policeman.

Bernie Gunther has survived over over two decades of Nazi rule, World War II’s Russian front, Soviet captivity, the Cold War’s lethal attentions — from all its sides — service to Juan Peron and the American mafia in Battista’s Cuba, and now just wants a quiet life.

Not Nazi were bad. youtube.com

But his eccentric fate hasn’t yet finished with him, even in 1956. And in his latest appearance, Gunther learns — yet again — that the pathology of power remains the same, though the name, uniforms and even ideology may change, and today’s oppressed can easily become — and inevitably do — tomorrow’s oppressors.

Fleeing Berlin after a complex intelligence operation where he got even with those kicking him around — with the help of a dangerous figure from his pre-war past — Gunther tries to live obscurely as concierge in a small hotel on the French Riviera. But soon, his unlikely helper — Erich Mielke, the dreaded second-in-command of East Germany’s Stasi — personally appears and threatens him to undertake a mission.

This entails going over to Britain and poisoning — by thallium no less — a covert woman agent, whom Gunther had deftly outsmarted in his previous outing (“The Other Side of Silence”, 2016). And just to keep him on his toes, Mielke has his men arrange a near-fatal hanging for him.

But our hero is not one to give in tamely. While he goes along with Mielke’s assignment knowing the men wished upon him to “help” will eventually be his executioners, he escapes from the train taking them towards the English Channel. The Stasi men are soon on his trail and since their leader is someone who knows Gunther too well — a former pre-war Berlin police colleague who was his aide in investigating a crime in Adolf Hitler’s hilltop Bavarian retreat in 1939 — keeping ahead will not be too simple.

As Gunther flees across France with the French police too on his trail, his mind travels back to April 1939 when another dreaded boss sent him to solve a serious crime in Hitler’s holiday home, just before the Fuhrer visited it for his 50th birthday.

A top engineer overseeing construction and renovations has been shot dead right on the terrace of special tea house planned as a surprise for Hitler and now his close aide Martin Bormann wants the matter to be solved expeditiously without any fuss, so there is no threat to the Fuhrer’s life.

But as Gunther finds out, there is no shortage of suspects given the greed, graft, jealousy, turf fights and more going on between Nazi bigwigs in this Nazi citadel and a mass of resentful local residents, dispossessed of home or property for the Hitler retreat.

Given the high stakes involved, will he be allowed to investigate the case to its logical conclusion and identify the truly guilty or will any scapegoat do?

Flipping between the hazardous 1939 investigation and the nervous 1956 flight, Philip Kerr, in the 12th installment of his most captivating series, brings our wise-cracking, sardonic but resourceful hero back to life in all his tarnished, tired but still irrepressible form.

Also Read: Book Review: ‘Blitzed – Drugs in Nazi Germany’- Straight dope about the Fuehrer and the Nazi war machine

While it is a thriller twice over, the real worth is the uncompromising light it shows totalitarianism in — especially Nazism, which despite its much touted high ideals, could not advance from the ambition, greed and conceit of its principal leaders. Stalinist Communism, with its readiness to employ former Nazis and be as violent, doesn’t come far behind.

Kerr also scores in his vivid but unflattering portraits of top Nazis — from the boorish Bormann to the devious Heydrich and their system of violent loot or just violence. Apart from the insight into workings of Nazism, there is an unforgettable insight into normalisation of terror and casual brutality to gain and keep personal power.

But as there are a couple of Nazis who are not so bad, our hero also shows that anyone with some dignity and honour can keep his mooring amid the direst evil. That is why Bernie Gunther’s exploits are a must read. IANS

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USS Missouri Undergoes Renovation ahead of World War II End Anniversary

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that the battleship will undergo repairs to its aft superstructure that are expected to be completed in August

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USS Missouri, world war II
FILE - This Nov. 11, 2004, file photo shows The USS Missouri's main battery of three 16-inch/.05 caliber gun turrets in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. VOA

A section of the USS Missouri is being repaired as part of a $3 million restoration project to address rust and other deterioration on the Pearl Harbor memorial ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The 887-foot (270-meter) Missouri was the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that the battleship will undergo repairs to its aft superstructure that are expected to be completed in August.

Last year, a $3.5 million renovation was done on the tallest portion of the superstructure. Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, said rust is an ongoing issue for the historic ship.

USS Missouri, world war II
FILE – In this Sept. 2, 1945, file image provided by the U.S. Navy, F4U and F6F fighter planes fly in formation over the USS Missouri while the surrender ceremonies to end World War II take place aboard the U.S. Navy battleship in Tokyo Bay. VOA

About 12,000 square feet (1,100 square meters) of steel will be sandblasted and painted, and some 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) of steel will be replaced. Five hundred gallons of paint will be used. “These parts of the ship have not been [sand] blasted and painted in 30 years since the ship was recommissioned in the 1980s, so it’s well past time to do it,” Carr said.

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A week of activities is being planned in September 2020 at the Missouri as well as the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum to honor the end of the war. Carr said almost all of the Missouri’s main deck will have new teak by the surrender anniversary on Sept. 2, 2020.

More than 2,000 sailors and Marines were aboard the ship for the ceremony that Gen. Douglas MacArthur said was intended to “conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.” (VOA)