THE BLOOD OF HIS SERVANTS by Malcolm C. MacPherson


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The 30-year quest to bring a Dutch/Nazi murderer to justice--in a moderately effective narrative that suffers from padding, excess novelization, and lack of a firm central focus. In an overly circuitous first section, MacPherson begins with a heinous war-crime in 1941 Poland, then goes back and fills in the background leading up to it. The atrocity: the murder of most of the Jews in the village of Podhorodse--ordered by a local resident/collaborator known as ""the Dutchman."" We then learn the life-story of this killer: Pieter Menten, an ambitious, handsome entrepreneur who did friendly business with some Jews in the pre-war years, carried on an adulterous affair with beautiful Maria Pistiner, but was defrauded by her wealthy father Isaac . . . and swore vengeance. So, when the Germans overran the area in '41, Menten (a Nazi spy/profiteer) not only supervised the local extermination--but personally carried out a homicidal vendetta against Isaac and his family. The book's second section, then, moves back and forth between Menten's postwar fate in Holland and the angry attempts at vengeance/justice by Bibi Krumholz--a onetime Podhorodse resident (befriended by Menten) who fled to Israel in the Thirties, became a policeman and journalist, and learned in 1945 that his whole family was murdered by Menten. Bibi tries to use the press as an instrument of justice, but fear-of-libel and evidence problems prevent the ugly story from emerging with maximum impact. Meanwhile, Menten's Dutch trial--on lesser charges--results in a semi-whitewash, thanks to friends in high places and blackmail. (Menten knows the wartime-Nazi secrets of Holland's Prince Bernard.) Then, jump 25 years ahead to 1976: new evidence and new allies help Krumholz to elicit action from the Dutch authorities, though Menten (now 77) remains audacious and slippery. And finally the old villain goes to prison, with release due in 1986. Despite 125 interviews and extensive tapings from Krumholz, ""it was extremely difficult to provide two-source verification for many"" of these events; Menten himself was not a source; and MacPherson's shallow fiction-style reduces the documentary impact while failing to generate steady drama. Still: an often-intriguing, occasionally powerful Holocaust horror-story.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1984
Publisher: Times Books