THE ANGEL OF ZIN by Clifford Irving


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A Berlin police-detective, ordered to solve a series of murders at a death-camp in 1943 Poland, becomes aware of the Nazi horrors and winds up aiding a camp revolt--in this simple, predictable, but plainly effective Holocaust melodrama. Capt. Paul Bach, who lost an arm while fighting the Russians and his wife in the Berlin-bombing, very reluctantly accepts an assignment to the fictional Zinoswicz-Zdroj camp (""Zin""), where someone has murdered a Polish guard and two Jewish inmate/collaborators. But, though Bach does begin diligent, shrewd sleuthing (the clues include cryptic notes in Hebrew from the killer), he is far more affected by his sudden awakening to the everyday activity at Zin: the daily extermination of 2000 newly-arrived Jews--carried out, in grim detail here, by a resident staff of Jewish laborers under blasÉ or bloodthirsty German supervision. (""What kind of men are we that we can do this?"") Meanwhile, as Bach's anger and disgust escalate, some of the Jewish staffers are secretly planning a violent rebellion--using stolen gold (originally from Jewish teeth) to buy weapons, using the previously despised camp ""whores"" (beautiful Bella, homosexual Leo Cohen) to assassinate their German-bigwig bedmates. And, when word comes from Berlin that Zin is to be closed down, with the Jewish staff scheduled for liquidation, Bach does his best to alert the inmates--and will even take up arms against his fellow Germans in the ensuing carnage, with inevitably fatal results. (The revolt/escape is largely disastrous, with a few successful fugitives; Bach's ""betrayal"" is covered up by German officialdom.) True, none of the individual elements here is especially distinctive: the death-camp revolt (modeled on the Sobibor outbreak and others) is just sketched in, in contrast to detailed non-fiction accounts; the murder-mystery, despite some intriguing detection-bits along the way, fades out limply; and Bach's good-German progress from naivetÉ to anti-Holocaust heroism is flatly dramatized. But Irving (Tom Mix and Pancho Villa) brings these three narrative lines together with energy, unfussy character-touches, and solid action--producing a solid, unpretentious Holocaust novel that touches on almost all the familiar horrors and issues.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1984
Publisher: Stein & Day