Hartov (In the Company of Heroes) bleakly depicts the fate of the Mischlinge—half- and quarter-Jews who fought, sometimes of their own free will, for the Third Reich—in this rich if detached novel. In spring 1944 Shtefan Brandt, young adjutant to SS Colonel Himmel, fears he may not survive the war after Himmel begins volunteering his brigade for some of the war’s bloodiest battles. Born into a family of Jewish heritage, Shtefan (at least on paper) is now a Catholic. But if his true identity were to come out, it would likely be a death sentence. As the war teeters toward defeat for the Germans, Himmel, who believes the war is lost, lets his trusted assistant in on his plan to steal a fortune and flee Europe after the Allies claim victory. Shtefan is attracted to Himmel’s mistress, Gabrielle, who is also embroiled in Himmel’s plans. As Gabrielle and Shtefan get closer and the war closes in, they plot a life away from Himmel and the Nazis that involves stealing the fortune for themselves. Hartov’s book isn’t short on emotion, but the narration lacks immediacy and the characters’ often calm, rational demeanors tend to feel out of step with the tense and deadly situations confronting them. Despite this, the wealth of details about Shtefan's dangerous position as a Mischlinge makes for an engrossing account of a lesser-known side of the war. (Apr.)
This review has been corrected; an earlier version stated Shtefan was from a Jewish family and planned to steal Nazi gold.