In their debut thriller, Freund and Von Burg examine the murderous Nietzsche-inspired ideology that motivated committed Nazis.
The story begins in 1945 as World War II is finally coming to a close. Rolf Schenker is the captain of a U-boat that has devastated the Allies with its deadly stealth. He’s asked to transport an enormous amount of gold bullion to Brazil on his submarine, but he absconds with the precious cargo—as well as his submarine and crew—to Argentina. An unrepentant Nazi who pines for the reestablishment of the Third Reich, Schenker spends almost 80 years in South America plotting its resurgence. Meanwhile, he struggles to persuade his grandson Heinz of his worldview; he decides the young man has been corrupted by his Argentine (and Christian) girlfriend and plans to have her assassinated. Schenker’s sights are more firmly fixed on geopolitics, though, and he aims to sink a U.S. carrier with the one torpedo his submarine has remaining. Heinz, committed to foiling this plot, intends to blow up the torpedo before his grandfather can reignite WWII. The authors mine the dark caverns of gruesome thought while confronting the fact that, despite Hitler’s failure, those ideas still live on in many quarters of the world. However, the story is plagued by stark implausibility. Eichmann couldn’t conceal himself in Argentina, living modestly, yet Schenker somehow manages with his mansion and pile of gold, not to mention a submarine and crew. Also, it’s never clear how Schenker intends to reinstate the Third Reich or how destroying a U.S. naval ship will accomplish that. The book ambitiously aims to investigate the mind of an unreconstructed Nazi but never gets far beyond the shopworn platitudes of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, revealing little more than a familiar combination of atheism and anti-Semitism. Also, the prose is halting and contrived: “I have felt this intention is typical of my grandfather, who remains a committed Nazi. But I’m hoping he’ll drop this delusion before the trip is over, and before he uses a torpedo that may be inert anyhow.”
Compelling goals, but this effort falls short of its mark.