The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945
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The first publication of Allied interrogations of Nazi war criminals in preparation for the Nuremberg trials.

Historian Overy (The Battle of Britain, p. 242, etc.) shows that the unique evil of Nazi Germany was as difficult to comprehend in the immediate aftermath of WWII as it is today. During the war, it was clear to the Allied leaders that Hitler, Himmler, Bormann, and their cohorts would somehow have to be held accountable once Germany was defeated. The chieftains of the Nazi State had brought “aggressive war” to a world at peace, and would be personally punished for it. This conviction, however, proved problematic. Any verdict already in before the trial would render that trial a farce. Accordingly, Churchill suggested to Roosevelt that known Nazi leaders be executed rather than tried. Somewhat improbably, Stalin insisted on a trial, and as the Allied forces neared Berlin, plans were already underway. Of course, the men of whose guilt the Allies were most certain never made it to Nuremberg: Hitler and Himmler committed suicide, and Bormann most likely was killed in a bombing. Each of the 22 left to stand trial was interrogated at length over the six-month period between arrest and formal indictment. Here, Overy presents the edited text of those sessions. It is a disturbing collection. These are not the confessions of innocents, but rather the calculated admissions of criminals intent on avoiding the gallows or preserving a legacy. Their evasions remain hauntingly effective. Even though 10 of the 22 were found guilty of crimes warranting death, much doubt remains to this day about exactly how each was involved. As Overy observes, the assignation of responsibility within the Nazi regime is a problem that still troubles historians. Was everyone but Hitler simply following orders?

To his credit, Overy puts these questions in context in an admirably crafted 200-page introduction.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-670-03008-2
Page count: 652pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2001


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