Months ago while flipping through the Quality Paperback Book Club catalog I happened to spot a short blurb promoting Guy Walters’ book on the search for Nazi war criminals. After doing a bit of research on both Amazon and Goodreads I was duly intrigued by Walters’s book and proceeded to order a copy. Unfortunately, for whatever reason QPB sent me a little postcard which informed me that they could not ship me the book. But even with that little bit of bad news I refused to give up. Several weeks after receiving their postcard I nevertheless located a copy of Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice at my local public library. After slowly making my way through at a near glacial pace I finally finished last weekend.
Walters, a London-based investigative reporter, has written an incredibly detailed and comprehensive account, (perhaps the first of its kind) of the half century long hunt for Nazi war criminals. Throughout his 2010 book Walters destroys a number of long-held myths. According to Walters, there was never a secretive group known as ODESSA which was responsible for smuggling Nazis out of Europe and into South America and the Middle East. The Allies, far from being diligent in their search and prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals, assigned little resources to the task, at times acting with indifference and even on more than one occasion recruiting them for intelligence purposes in order to gain the upper hand on the Communists. Lastly, while Simon Wiesenthal was always seen in the popular imagination as a courageous fighter working tirelessly to bring these evil characters to justice, according to Walters, Wiesenthal even though he suffered horribly at the hands of the Nazi’s was nonetheless a shameless self-promoter with such a blatant disregard of the truth it bordered on pathological lying.
I have one and only one issue with this book and that is with its editing. I commend Walters mightily on his research. While I applaud his attention to detail, sometimes, well, there’s just too much of it. By cutting perhaps 20 per cent of his presented material he would have had a much better book. In its present form Walters’s book is still impressive, but a slightly redacted version in my humble opinion would be much better.
Lastly, while QPB wasn’t able to sell me copy of Hunting Evil, I’m happy to say they could still provide me with a copy of Neal Bascomb’s 2009 book Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi. Sometime during the first part of next year I’d like to follow-up Walters’s book by reading Bascomb’s.