WALKING WITH THE DAMNED by Ted Schwarz

WALKING WITH THE DAMNED

The Shocking Murder of the Man Who Freed 30,000 Prisoners from the Nazis
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Tedious account of riveting events surrounding Count Folke Bernadotte's release of prisoners from German concentration camps and his subsequent assassination, by Schwarz (co-author, The Peter Lawford Story, 1988, etc.). This is a story of unlikely allies--the idealistic Boy Scout leader Count Folke Bernadotte and the sinister SS leader Heinrich Himmler--who join in an even more unlikely enterprise: the freeing of Jews from concentration camps during the final months of WW II. The problem here is that Schwarz isn't very good on people: he utterly destroys Bernadotte (even for his own uses) by failing to plant any seeds of greatness, or even growth: ``Bernadotte's even being a gofer seemed to tax Bernadotte's abilities''; he was ``a self-centered playboy''; his sister ``knew her brother was immature, a spoiled rich boy with limited intelligence.'' Bernadotte, says Schwarz, ``seemed to envision the SS a little like summer sleep-away camp counsellors gathering the children together for parents' day.'' But somehow this incompetent cut a deal with the Nazis, and Schwarz gives no clear sense of how the miracle occurred. Jumping hither and thither in a kind of quasi-epic style, Schwarz obscures his story with a good deal of retold, peripheral material on the Goebbels family, and on events like the assassination of Heydrich and the subsequent razing of Lidice. Nor is Bernadotte's ``maturing process'' very clear; it's been rendered virtually impossible by the early description. The fascinating Yitzhak Shamir, dominant presence in the Stern Gang (generally assumed to have assassinated Bernadotte), never really comes into focus either, but his motives do: Bernadotte, proceeding on the Wilsonian notion of self-determination, proposed an Arab state that would allow Jews ``special rights.'' Like Wilson, he irritated everyone, especially the Stern Gang. A huge drama full of players on the grand scale, none of whom comes alive within the confines of this treatment.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-55778-315-2
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1991




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