Tag Archives: wwii

Review: A Judge in Auschwitz: Konrad Morgen’s Crusade Against SS Corruption & ‘Illegal’ Murder (Kevin Prenger)

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.

Review: The Hitler Years: Triumph, 1933-1939 (Frank McDonough)

Have you read William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich? Are you interested in early the mid 20th century Germany and the runup to WWII? If so, this is right up your alley (as is volume two, Disaster, which I am reading now).

Triumph is an orderly, year by year examination of Hitler’s rise to power. note that it helps immensely if you are aware f the events between the Treaty of Versailles and 1933, including Hitler’s personal life during that time and the people he collects around him along the way.

Each chapter details the events occurring in that year, ranging from what Hitler and his cronies were doing, to the economy of Germany as a whole and cities like Berlin in particular, to what was happening in the arts, continued German recovery from the disastrous debt assigned to them by the Allies after WWI, government policies, and so on., Rest assured that other governments are not spared a look – the appeaser Neville Chamberlain, for instance, is there on the page. There is also time spent detailing how other countries viewed Germany and Hitler in his role. Some were convinced that everyday Germans would toss him out, while others laughed at the cartoonish thug, and others began sounding the alarms about the megalomaniac who had methodically made his way to Chancellor.

I often hesitate to use the word “comprehensive’, as typically it does not accurately describe the reality of the pages in the book, but McDonough has done an excellent and, yes, a comprehensive job of moving the reader through these formative years of complete Nazi control of Germany’s government.

Incredibly interesting as well as eminently readable, this is a fine addition to the oeuvre of WWII books that focus on Hitler.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Watching Darkness Fall: FDR, His Ambassadors, and the Rise of Adolf Hitler (David McKean)

Decades after WWI, the US people, and most of the US government, truly believed in Woodrow Wilson’s insane and unworkable isolationism stance. I understand the wish to not be dragged into some war that’s not yours to fight, but the US and everyone else on the planet have been globalists almost as soon as (most of) the map had been tentatively finalized. Backbiting Ambassadors too interested in their own machinations on higher office don’t help.

Watching Darkness Fall is primarily the story of FDR – both a Wilsonian politician and charged with pulling the U out of the Great depression – and four of his Ambassadors, posted to offices in Europe. Of the four included in this book, only one seemed to understand the threat posed by Hitler in Germany, and the great conflagration he would cause: William Dodd. He warned FDR, early and often, that Hitler was going to be a problem to our allies (especially Great Britain and France) and potentially the world at large. The others – Breckenridge Long in Italy, William Bullitt in Russia and subsequently in France, and Joseph P. Kennedy – either heaped praise on a fascist while acting like a tourist (Long), wrote what amounted to love letters to FDR (seriously!) and constantly painted a pretty picture for him, even while things were falling apart, and had the audacity to think he could speak for the US or French(!) government when the leaders fled France, all the while angling for a job as head of the war department (Bullitt), or were anti-Semites, particularly uninterested in the plight of Jews in Germany (Long and Kennedy).

It isn’t an easy read, particularly to start; there are names and history and political dealings thrown at the reader in order to set the stage. Presumably anyone reading this would have a basic understanding of the runup to WWII. If you do not, it will likely be fairly rough sailing, at least until all the characters are in place.

Once that’s complete, however, it’s easy to see – through letters, diaries, newspapers, and official government issues – just how ready some were to allow Europe and possibly even Russia go up in flames because no one really wanted to hear any bad news from abroad, much less help our own allies fight against a maniac. It’s especially troubling to read Bullitt’s missives. He was grossly unqualified and unprepared for the duty he accepted. Equally disgusting was Long, who deliberately held up visas for those fleeing to the US, especially Jews and even children, and Kennedy, who urged FDR to make people with Hitler.

The book ends rather abruptly, but by that point, I was tired of all of them and quite glad of it.

Five stars, no doubt in my mind.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.