Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Book Review: 'The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men' by Eric Lichtblau
With help from the the Catholic Church through the infamous "Italian Ratline," the CIA, FBI, the US military, and through a top secret operation called "Project Paperclip," about 1600 Nazis -- from concentration guards to high level Nazi functionaries -- were spirited across the globe to South American countries, or transported to the US and allowed to quietly settle into new lives at the end of WW-II.
This book tracks the life of one of these Nazis, Tom Soobzokov, who was settled into Patterson, New Jersey as one of the stalwart's of that community. The last half of the book tells the gripping story of his legal battle to remain in the US after the ex-Nazi concentration camp victims living in the same neighborhood, fingered him.
The first half of the book explains what happened after the war, as the contending powers were jockeying for global primacy. This, in my view is the scariest part of the book.
With weakest of possible moral rationales, that of separating the "good" from the "bad" Nazis, and with the even weaker rationale of needing to catch up with the Soviets in the spy game, the USG proved time and again that its sympathies lay with the racist murderer, Adolph Hitler, rather than with his Jewish victims.
I say this not just because of the well-known, criminally embarrassing things the USG did, such as when both Roosevelt and Truman took no action against the Concentration camps once they were discovered, or the turning away of the refugee ship containing fleeing Jews, or even the complicity with Nazi corporations in allowing Hitler to rise to power in the first place, but due to a much less well-known intensely moral crime that the book graphically illustrates.
It is little known by the public that not knowing what to do with the Jews freed from Hitler's concentration camps, the US Army actually left them in DP camps along with German prisoners of war and treated Jews from Axis countries like "enemy nationals." Here on page 3 is how the author graphically and stunningly describes the situation :
"The Allies had come at Hitler from all sides in those early months of 1945: the Russians from the East; the American and British from the West. One by one the Allied Forces discovered scenes of horror and madness in concentration camps abandoned by the Nazis. Inside the camps remained tens of thousands of survivors amid heaps of unburied corpses. Generations later the mind's eye imagines the world embracing the survivors; the iron gates swinging open at the arrival of the Allied Forces, and a mass of bone-thin victims pouring into the awaiting arms of a world filled at once with shock, guilt and joy over their rescue. Like trapped coal miners freed from a mineshaft, or a wrongly accused prisoner emerging from behind the prison walls, they were free at last. Hot meals, warm beds, showers, and doctors awaited them.
The reality is much darker.
The world did not know what to do with them? Crowded and ill-fed, the survivors were left to wear their striped camp uniforms, the same uniforms that had become such a toxic symbol of Nazi oppression. In some DP camps, they were bunked side-by-side with Nazi POWs who were held there as well -- people who just months earlier, had been their war time tormentors. Some Nazi prisoners were even put in charge of Jewish inmates at the allied camps, ruling over them in defeat. Exiled Jews in the camps who were originally from Germany, Austria, and other Axis countries, were classified and treated by the Allies, not as victims but as "enemy nationals" because of their countries of origin, no different from the Nazi prisoners jailed with them."
These two paragraphs unhinged my mind for the rest of the book. I could no longer think straight. I had been had, for I had allowed my mind to fill in the blanks?
After reading that I could only read the rest of the book in zombie mode. Tom Soobzokov's formulaic life seemed infinitesimally small in comparison to the magnitude of this disgraceful and degrading crime as military exigency.
What kind of a nation except a racist one, would not realize that the magnitude of this insult, of housing recent victims of the holocaust with their Nazi tormentors, was of an order of magnitude larger crime than the concentration camp experience itself?
Dr. Herbert L. Calhoun and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.