Thursday March 21, 2019
Home Lead Story Solving a mur...

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

0
//
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

Next Story

India Praised For Giving Safety To Jew Refugees This International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Two Maharajas, Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja of Nawanagar and Rajaram III of Kolhapur, established camps for Polish child refugees.

0
A conservator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's conservation and research center points out a hidden pocket on a piece of clothing worn by a prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp. VOA

By Arul Louis

India has been hailed for giving refuge to Jews fleeing the Nazi genocide, keeping with its tradition of being a haven for those escaping religious persecution around the world as the UN observed the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The president of B’nai B’rith International, Charles Kaufman, said here on Monday that India lived up to the tradition of a nation of righteousness when thousands of Jews found safety and were welcomed when they fled the Holocaust carried out by Nazis in Europe.

This was a uniquely overlooked episode that needs to be recognised, he said while speaking at a meeting here on “India: A Distant Haven During the Holocaust” that was organised by India’s UN Mission and the B’nai B’rith, a global Jewish service organisation.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said that India receiving refugees fleeing the Holocaust was in tradition of welcoming Jews that goes back thousands of years.

Anti-Semitism was a rare phenomenon in India and it occurred in 2008 in Mumbai when the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attacked the Chabad centre, he said.

pittsburgh shooting, Hate
A sign during a protest gathering on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. VOA

While Jews received refuge, they in turn have contributed to India in the arts, culture and economy, he said.

Some served in the armed forces and are treasured as national heroes, he added.

As the Nazis began their genocidal persecution of Jewish people in Europe, India was engaged in its freedom struggle, yet managed to welcome the refugees, he said.

While anti-Semitism and intolerance again show signs of re-emerging, the examples of compassion in the midst of tragedy must be beacons of tolerance, he said.

An author and expert on Jews and minorities in India, Kenneth Robbins, said that not only for the Jews, but for many others India was a place where minorities were able to flourish.

He gave the example of the Sidis, who came to India as slaves and rose to be rulers – the only instance of Africans ruling non-Africans, he said.

The several thousand Jews who fled Nazi persecution to India in the 1930s, came in several waves starting with the German Jews. They were followed by others from Italy; Austria, East and Central Europe; North Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Poland, Robbins said.

Left to right: Ukraine’s Parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, German President Joachim Gauck, Hungarian President Janos Ader, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Marina, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman light candles at a monument in Babi Yar ravine where Nazi troops machine-gunned tens of thousands of Jews during WWII, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 29, 2016. VOA

There were also those who married Indians studying in Germany and elsewhere who came with their spouses to India.

Yusuf Khwaja Hamied, the chairman of Cipla, brought down the price of AIDS medications to $6 making to affordable to millions in Africa, saving their lives, he said.

His mother was Luba Derczanska, a Lithuanian Jew who married his father Khwaja Abdul Hamied when he was a student in Berlin, he said.

Among the thousands of Jewish children who came India was Tom Stoppard, the award-winning British playwright and screenwriter. Born Tomas Straussler, he went to school in India in India after his family fled Czechoslavakia.

Stephen Tauber came to India as a child in 1937 when his physician father was offered a job by Ganga Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner, and received a visa to leave Austria escaping the Nazis.

During his time in Bikaner, he witnessed religious harmony among Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews, who respected each other’s religions.

India, Jew
Remains of Victims in the Nazi Camp, Wikimedia

Two Maharajas, Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja of Nawanagar and Rajaram III of Kolhapur, established camps for Polish child refugees.

Speaking at a Holocaust memorial ceremony earlier on Monday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that not only was anti-Semitism still strong, it was getting worse and we must “reaffirm our resolve to fight the hatred that still plagues our world today”.

“Inevitably, where there is anti-Semitism, no one else is safe,” he warned.

“Across the world, we are seeing a disturbing rise in other forms of bigotry.

Also Read: Online Hate Thriving Even After The Recent Hate Crime In The U.S.

“Intolerance today spreads at lightning speed across the Internet and social media and most disturbingly, hate is moving into the mainstream – in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike,” Guterres added. (IANS)

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)