cover image Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld

Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld

Beate Klarsfeld and Serge Klarsfeld, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-374-27982-0

The husband-and-wife Nazi-hunting duo revisit their improbable exploits in this tumultuous memoir. Writing in alternating chapters, Beate Klarsfeld, who was born in 1939 and grew up in postwar Germany, and Serge Klarsfeld, a French Jew whose father died in a concentration camp, recount how they improvised a family business unmasking Nazi war criminals. They specialized in publicity stunts: Beate made headlines by slapping German chancellor (and ex–Nazi propaganda official) Kurt Kiesinger; the couple tried to kidnap a wanted ex–Gestapo boss living openly in Cologne and then dared German authorities to arrest them for it. They weathered jail stints and survived a car bomb, but there was quieter work too: sleuthing through archives for evidence, and running undercover ops to locate war-criminal Klaus Barbie in South America. The Klarsfelds’ rambling narrative sometimes obscures the big picture of criminality amid legal minutiae and bogs down in minor doings and awards, but at its best it gives an exhilarating picture of amateurs assuming investigative duties in search of long-overdue justice. (Mar.)