The ss

Hero and villain: The Two Loves of Sophie Strom, by Sam Taylor, reviewed

Counterfactual thinking can be compelling. We imagine love affairs missed out on, tragedies averted. What if I hadn’t boarded that bus or woken from that sleep? Sam Taylor throws this thinking into a vital moment in a young boy’s life that has massive, world- historical resonance. Vienna, 1933. Nazi sympathisers burn down the flat of a Jewish family. Max Spiegelman, aged 13, escapes, but his parents burn to death. Or do they? In a parallel narrative, Max awakes from this dream into the very fire he’s just dreamed about, early enough to rescue his parents. Taylor alternates the stories of the Max whose parents survive and who remains on the

How the net finally closed on the Nazi henchman Andrei Sawoniuk

Fedor Zan was 18, working on the river closing sluices, when, on a winter afternoon in 1942, he saw his childhood friend Andrei Sawoniuk standing in a clearing outside Domachevo, their town in Belarus. Sawoniuk had lined up 15 terrified women, all wearing the yellow Jewish star. As Zan watched, hidden behind the pine trees, Sawoniuk ordered the women to strip naked, shot them in the back and kicked their bodies into a newly dug pit. Fifty-seven years later, Zan was one of a dozen witnesses to give evidence against Sawoniuk at the Old Bailey, at the only war crimes trial ever held in Britain. Though the UK lost interest

Why did the Allies dismiss the idea of a German resistance movement?

In 1928, a modest young lecturer from Wilwaukee, Mildred Harnack, née Fish, arrived in Berlin to begin her PhD in American Literature. In the febrile, polyglot atmosphere in the city at the ‘crossroads of Europe’, the media was still mocking Adolf Hitler and few took him seriously. Mildred saw, close up, the brokenness of American and German capitalism and, distantly, the apparently level playing fields of communist Russia. As the Nazis gained increasing control over the body politic, she taught an overtly socialist syllabus — Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiseret al. When, halfway through her dissertation, the university fired her, she promptly started teaching at a night school for working-class students.

The ‘unremarkable’ life of SS officer Robert Griesinger

In October 2011 Daniel Lee was at a dinner party at which a Dutch woman told a disturbing story. It concerned an armchair that her mother had recently taken for re-upholstering. The chair was something of a family treasure. As a child growing up in Amsterdam, the woman herself had always sat on it as she did her homework and it featured in countless family photographs. When her mother returned to pick up the chair, however, the upholsterer had addressed her in outrage. He did not work for Nazis, he said. The loved chair, it turned out, contained a hidden cache of SS documents, all stamped with swastikas. The woman