Kirkus Star


The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer
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A riveting reconstruction of a fanatical National Socialist’s obdurate journey in exile and appalling second career in Argentina.

Delving into a body of interviews Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962) made with pro-Nazi Dutch war propagandist Willem Sassen in Argentina in the late 1950s, German historian Stangneth reveals the chilling mindset of the unrepentant Nazi, later carefully disguised at his trial in Israel. Eichmann’s Argentine writings and interviews were not available to Hannah Arendt when she wrote her brilliant Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). In it, she portrays the wretched former SS colonel on trial for his life in 1961 as “just a small cog in Adolf Hitler’s extermination machine” (his self-description), with none of the terrifying look of evil that an efficient engineer of the Final Solution should have displayed. Stangneth meticulously reveals how Eichmann was able to fool everyone, employing a cunning mixture of self-aggrandizement and opportunism, even during his early SS career in Austria when he was put in charge of Jewish affairs and was known as the “Czar of the Jews.” Eichmann was proud of being a man of importance, and at the end of the war, he reluctantly had to disguise himself among other displaced persons, eluding Allied capture and living for several years incognito in northern Germany as a chicken farmer. Successfully floating rumors that he had taken up with the Palestinian mufti, he threw Nazi hunters off his trail, and he was able to flee to Argentina effortlessly and with the aid of a ferocious coterie of exiled Nazis comfortably ensconced there. Stangneth masterfully sifts through the information from these lively social gatherings conducted at journalist Sassen’s home three years before Eichmann’s kidnapping by Israeli agents.

A rigorously documented, essential work not only about Eichmann’s masterly masquerade, but also about how we come to accept appearances as truth.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-307-95967-6
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2014


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