The Last Nazi: Josef Schwammberger and the Nazi Past

Aaron Freiwald, Author, Martin Mendelson, With
Aaron Freiwald, Author, Martin Mendelson, With W. W. Norton & Company $25 (362p) ISBN 978-0-393-03503-2
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SS Sergeant Josef Schwammberger served as commandant of three slave-labor camps and was charged with the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in the Polish city of Przemysl. After escaping from Allied custody in 1945, he fled to Argentina where he lived for 40 years before being recaptured (with major assistance from Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal). In 1992, in a Stuttgart courtroom, he was confronted by several survivors of his brutality. The testimony, some of it reproduced here, presents in horrific detail a portrait of an implementer of the Final Solution, a man who developed an appetite for cruelty. Convicted of murdering 25 Jews, Schwammberger was sentenced to spend his remaining years in a German prison. Justice was served but the authors call the highly publicized trial ``both an act of self-flagellation and an act of defiance. The unspoken message was: See? We have put ourselves through this once again. Now leave us alone.'' In Freiwald and Mendelsohn's stark and thought-provoking view, the ``dirty family secret'' of Germany's Nazi past is being dissolved by a creeping amnesia that increasingly tolerates neo-Nazi youth and those who deny that the gas chambers ever existed. Freiwald, a Pennsylvania journalist, and Mendelson, legal counsel for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Washington, D.C., have made an important addition to Holocaust literature. (Mar.)
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