Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Following on

The Ratline by Philippe Sands

Back in 2016 I was blown away by Sands' first book East West Street I reviewed it in the middle of the year here and it remained one of my tops books of the year when I came to do my round up.

I was a little concerned about The Ratline for two reasons - 1) it is a second book and they can always be tricky & 2) it is another book about the guilt (or not) felt by survivors of the Holocaust - would it just be too much like the first book?

Happily for me neither of my fears came true and while The Ratline does almost continue from the end of the first book (and definitely from the end of the documentary Sands made) it was completely different and taught me so much about Austria during the Nazi period and also the escape routes used by the Nazis as they tried to flee justice.

Thanks to a lot of the children's literature I've read regarding the Holocaust I was aware of how some of the history played out in Austria before, during and after the Anschluss but this has always been from the Jewish/resistance point of view and so to read about it from the other aide was equally fascinating and horrifying.

While I was aware that some high profile Nazis escaped Europe for a new life in South America I had never given any thoughts to how this happened and so read this part of the tale completely fresh. I knew that there had been complicity in some quarters - but just how much was eye opening.

At the heart of this book is Sands' relationship with the son of  SS Brigadesfuhrer Otto von Wachter as he tries to convince Sands (and the world) that his father wasn't a war criminal responsible for deaths of thousands of people.

Sands manages to tell the tale fairly and with an open mind but at the end you feel you know the truth and Sands' own feelings as well as if he'd been marching up and down in front of you with a banner.

This book has been published at the height of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and so many of the events and publicity you'd have expected to see just haven't happened, although there are some good  online interviews and reviews to hunt out. I hope that this book isn't lost in the chaos and that it wins as many accolades as East West Street. I also hope that when the paperback is released the pandemic is receding and there are some events I can get to!