QUIET NEIGHBORS: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America by

QUIET NEIGHBORS: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ryan is former Director of the Office of Special Investigations (Dept. of Justice), which--starting in 1979--began to have some success in prosecuting Nazi war criminals living in America, stripping them of US citizenship. (Only one has actually been deported.) The bulk of this overlong, over-rhetorical, yet disturbing book, however, is about America's shameful pre-1979 record on Nazi war-criminals--virtually ""inviting"" them in after 1945, then failing to prosecute them for over 30 years. Ryan traces the problem back to the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, ""a brazenly discriminatory piece of legislation"" designed to keep Jews out--while favoring groups (Balts, Ukrainians) heavily laced with Nazi collaborators, who could easily lie their way past the naive American ""screening"" process. Then, through the Fifties and Sixties, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)--incompetent, lax, reflecting America's anti-Communist fervor and its recoil from the Holocaust reality--""never mounted a centralized, organized effort to investigate and prosecute Nazi persecutors. . . ."" Ryan recounts, in somewhat unselective detail, several of the more frustrating cases from those years, with war-criminals (including the ""Himmler"" of Croatia) avoiding deportation through INS ineptitude, legal technicalities, due-process delays, etc. More briefly, he relates his own experiences with OSI: going to Moscow to enlist USSR cooperation (documents, videotaped depositions of witnesses); the prosecution of John Demjanjuk, the ""Ivan the Terrible"" of Treblinka, who, though ""denaturalized,"" still awaits deportation; a review of the OSI record; and his 1983 investigation into US involvement in the postwar escape of Klaus Barbie--concluding that the CIC's decision to enlist Barbie as a spy ""was neither cynical nor corrupt"" (they didn't know he was a war-criminal) but that the US was responsible for delaying justice. Throughout, and especially in a longwinded summation, Ryan indulges in too much heated rhetoric, with unnecessarily florid evocations of Holocaust horror. The book is poorly organized and under-edited. Nonetheless: a solid report on the issues and problems in prosecuting naturalized war-criminals--and an unsettling indictment of yet another American failure in regard to the Holocaust.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1984
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich