A penetrating character study makes the most of the military necessities imposed on Karl Brucken, a colonel of the Prussian Army tradition, whose record of atrocities brings about his deserved punishment. An ex-colonel now (1945 and later), an amputee, homeless and unable to trace his wife or five children, he is defeated in all except his overmastering pride and perhaps his underlying consciousness of guilt. His outer fortune improves: he is reunited with his family; his wife finds work as a charwoman; he scrapes a living as sandwich-man, doorman, and office boy. Denazification proceedings leave his name cleared -- if tarnished -- when he convinces the Tribunal that civilian hangings ordered by him were in principle justified as a precaution against snipers. But nothing effaces the grudging torment within that is due to his execution of his Polish mistress and it is this act that brings him his own executioner. Despite the psychological obtuseness of its hero, who in every fibre is permeated with the ideals of military service, the novel searches boldly, painfully, carefully and coolly into the concept of moral responsibility and effectively symbolizes Nazi evil. For all that it is simple, direct and forceful it may be that its endeavor is stale.