An entertaining account of a last-gasp Nazi effort.
The director of Hitler Youth escaped Hitler’s bunker after his suicide and attempted to organize a postwar Nazi underground movement. He did not succeed. Selby’s (co-author: Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History, 2010) narrative is partly a dual biography of Artur Axmann (1913-96), an important Nazi official, and Jack Hunter (1921–2009), the American counterintelligence officer who tracked him. Mostly, the book is a procedural. The author follows Hunter, other American operatives and their German undercover workers as they investigate, infiltrate and, finally, after less than a year, round up Axmann and several dozen members of a trucking firm that employed a remarkable number of ex-Youth personnel but did not otherwise seem threatening. While the book’s title is wildly hyperbolic, contemporaries without the benefit of hindsight had to deal with Joseph Goebbels’ fiery 1945 warnings that loyal Nazis would retreat to a well-stocked fortress and fight on until the Allies tired of occupying the Reich. This “operation werewolf” was never more than rhetoric, and Axmann quickly dropped plans for violent resistance. His group planned to build a commercial organization whose income and influence would support a revived Nazi party after the occupation. Most of those arrested were tried, imprisoned for a few years, and then released to live out their lives in a prospering West Germany.
Although this was a tempest in a teapot, readers will enjoy Selby’s account of a hitherto-obscure Nazi plot and the energetic counterintelligence that foiled it.