Nazi Millionaires: The Allied Search for Hidden SS Gold by Kenneth D Alford and Theodore P Savas
|Nazi Millionaires: The Allied Search for Hidden SS Gold by Kenneth D Alford and Theodore P Savas|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: An academic look at what became of the wealth looted from the Jewish populations of Europe - and the people who tried to keep it for themselves come VE Day.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: November 2011|
We are all doubtless aware of the six million or so dead at the hands of the Nazis, both through death camps and death squads. We are all probably conscious that before they were taken to the forests to be shot, or to the train station, never to be seen again, the Jewish and other communities captured in the Holocaust were ransacked for everything they had. It started early, of course, with the denial of rights for Jewish people to own businesses, then houses, paintings, other valuables, cash - and in the end their own gold dental fillings. The story of what happened to everything is as complex as retelling the ends of six million people, but this book opens up several windows on to those stories, through the more notable examples.
Working through a build-up, we come to the first instances our authors provide, where a duplicitous partnership in Hungary exchanged riches in order to smuggle some of the Jewish people off the departure lists, and out of the ghettos. It shows the standpoint of this book - instead of a rollicking adventure focused on the money, it provides a more staid, academic look at the history and biographies of those responsible.
But eventually we see some subterfuge, as one of the more interesting cases involves lots of bullion and gems being sent to mountain redoubts in the dying days and nights of the Third Reich. The fact that quite quickly a lot of this got lost, never to be officially seen again, is one of the mysteries this book tries to unravel. The authors are quick to point out that much of the meat on these bones will never be known - should we look back at those tracing the whereabouts of Hitler's diaries, when we will never know for sure if he ever wrote them?
The proof of these tales being open-ended is given by the fact that since the loot gets passed to the Allies, it still manages to vanish - both the Americans and the Israelis seem to have had buttery fingers. This revels in Eva Braun's jewels being shepherded across Europe like much of the Jewish fortune, but can't go much further since those too are missing. And when it comes to the numerous documents, casefiles and contemporary reports that the authors would like to read and haven't been allowed to, because the USA still keeps it classified, or redacted, or itself missing... You can make a great adventurous case for pockets being lined, and the evidence being carefully made to disappear.
But that's not what this volume tries to do. Despite the hooplah of the back cover, there is little to ravish the reader here. If it weren't for the flowery metaphors the authors combine on to fill their pages, I would definitely say this tipped more towards the academic. In that case it falls down a little on other instances too - the European names look strange, at times because they haven't been proofread, at others because the editors aren't sure whether to use accents or the uglier, unaccented spellings of common nouns.
Still, I can believe the authors and all their credibility, both in what they say and the few times they come out of their tale to tell how they've unearthed this document, that public opinion, the other hidden detail, over decades of work. It remains fully readable, and is a valuable book for those studying the minutiae of Nazi/Jewish balances throughout the twentieth century. It does let itself down however on the imbalance between popular and academic - I don't ask for all the detail about the Nazi power system, etc... to be dumbed down, but the blurb certainly tries to put more gung-ho character into these stories than the authors manage.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Sometimes the greatest riches kept stashed away in private by Nazi and SS officers was the truth, even from their own families. The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather's Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation by Martin Davidson proves that to be the case in brilliant fashion.
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