I’m not certain I’ve ever read about such a self-serving, morally corrupt, pretend good deed doer, and fantasist that eclipsed even The Former Guy as I did in this book.
Konrad Morgen – yet another Nazi who fails to meet the Aryan ideal the Nazis themselves decided was the untermensch – was a lawyer in Germany during WWII. While he claims not to have joined the Nazi party voluntarily, it’s clear he did, as otherwise he would not have been consistently promoted as he was, and he certainly would never have been in the SS.
Eventually. Morgen is tasked with rooting out corruption in the SS, which only makes sense if you’re a completely twisted jackass. Most of what was deemed corruption dealt with stealing from the luggage left behind by Jews and other “undesirables” and the absurdly termed “illegal killing” – that is, killing inmates outside the defined policies under which the camp operated. While I can see how the Nazis would be able to separate the two, it makes my brain hurt to do so.
Morgen bounces around from camp to camp: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and other camps, investigating any thievery or murders. He is, as one might surmise, astonishingly ineffective at bring many people up on charges: those people are transferred, or deemed necessary to do the heinous work they do, or have powerful friends like Himmler to step in for them. Like some of the camps (Thereisenstatd, for instance) this investigatory thing into the SS was, in my opinion, a show: an act put on so that people would see the SS was bound to certain policing, just like anyone else. Except it isn’t policing if you’re investigating yourself, and there are few charges and fewer punishments involved.
There is one documented death sentence handed out from his investigation, involving the commandant of Buchenwald, Karl Koch. Koch’s sadist and equally evil wife was also found guilty, but face no serious punishment for her part.
Morgen lays claim to attempting to charge a slew of other people, from Eichmann to Dirlewanger to Mengele, but there seems to be no “there” there, as he claims his investigations suffered interference at all turns. Shocker.
The most outlandish of Morgen’s claims, however, come after he war. As he is questioned by the military tribunal and testifies at various trials, Morgen paints himself not only as a paragon of justice – he tried to stop the thefts of items that now belonged to the Reich and tried to stop the so-called illegal killings and use of the punishment bunkers in the camps! – but also someone working inside the system to stop the Holocaust itself.
What he was in reality: someone with delusions of grandeur and a serious worker of the tribunal system, on one hand throwing other defendants under the bus, while on the other insisting that he was within the law to ignore the mass murders that were policy at that time.
It’s a sometimes infuriating read, and shares a lot in common with books about con wo/men in any sort of setting. It may also make you want to punch Nazis. If you’re already in great favor of punching Nazis, as I am, this will simply bolster that feeling.
Five out of five stars.
Thanks to Pen & Sword Military and NetGalley for the reading copy.