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The Odessa File

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The suicide of an elderly German Jew explodes into revelation after revelation: a Mafia-like organization called Odessa, a real-life fugitive known at the "Butcher of Riga", a young German journalist turned obsessed avenger...and ultimately, of a brilliant, ruthless plot to reestablish the worldwide power of SS mass murders and to carry out Hitler's chilling "Final Solution."

334 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 1972

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About the author

Frederick Forsyth

238 books3,420 followers
Frederick Forsyth, CBE is an English author and occasional political commentator. He is best known for thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, The Fourth Protocol, The Dogs of War, The Devil's Alternative, The Fist of God, Icon, The Veteran, Avenger, The Afghan, and recently The Cobra and The Kill List.

The son of a furrier, he was born in Ashford, Kent, educated at Tonbridge School and later attended the University of Granada. He became one of the youngest pilots in the Royal Air Force at 19, where he served on National Service from 1956 to 1958. Becoming a journalist, he joined Reuters in 1961 and later the BBC in 1965, where he served as an assistant diplomatic correspondent. From July to September 1967, he served as a correspondent covering the Nigerian Civil War between the region of Biafra and Nigeria. He left the BBC in 1968 after controversy arose over his alleged bias towards the Biafran cause and accusations that he falsified segments of his reports. Returning to Biafra as a freelance reporter, Forsyth wrote his first book, The Biafra Story in 1969.

Forsyth decided to write a novel using similar research techniques to those used in journalism. His first full length novel, The Day of the Jackal, was published in 1971 and became an international bestseller and gained its author the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. It was later made into a film of the same name.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
August 18, 2018
”Had he asked, he would have learned that of the crimes against humanity committed on the German side between 1933 and 1945, probably 95 percent can accurately be laid at the door of the SS. Of these, probably 80 to 90 percent can be attributed to two departments within the SS. These were the Reich Security Main Office and the Reich Economic Administration Main Office.”

 photo Waffen20SS_zpshltgwkgb.jpg
Waffen SS hat insignia.

President John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated, and Peter Miller, ace reporter, finds himself following an ambulance, almost in a daze from the news from Dallas, hoping that the vehicle shrouded in klaxon noise will lead him to a good story. If not for pulling over to hear the radio broadcast about Kennedy, he would not have seen the ambulance, or heard of Salomon Tauber or Eduard Roschmann, and forty months later the republic of Israel would probably have ceased to exist.”

The fickleness of fate is always interesting to contemplate. If Peter had been too tired or just wanted to go home to explore the bountiful curves of his stripper girlfriend, he would have never read the diary of Salomon Tauber or discovered something more motivating than just a good story to send him on a deadly, dangerous search for an SS commander named Eduard Roschmann, otherwise known as The Butcher of Riga.

 photo Roschmann_zpsti7oyiiv.jpg
The Butcher of Riga, Eduard Roschmann. As the war was coming to a close he couldn’t shuck that SS uniform any faster.

First problem Miller has is that no one cares. They have been saturated with horrific, Jewish stories and tales of Nazi atrocities. His usual editors just aren’t interested. People, especially German people, want the past to be relegated to history.

Second problem is that he quickly discovers that there are two groups overtly interested in what he is investigating with diametrically opposed aims. There is ODESSA, which is a group established to specifically help SS officers disappear after the war by creating new identities for them and providing them with travel documents to escape Germany and certain persecution. The other group has shadowy ties to MOSSAD, and they are not interested in putting SS criminals in jail, but in executing them.

Third problem is how does he get one group to help him infiltrate the other group without becoming a pawn or ending up dead.

Everyone keeps asking why a 29 year old nationalist who had nothing to do with the war is so determined to find Roschmann. As it becomes clear why ODESSA is so determined to protect Roschmann, Miller realizes he is in the middle of a much bigger conspiracy than he could have imagined. A conspiracy that could have dire consequences for Israel.

”You’re not Jewish, Miller. You’re Aryan. You’re one of us. What did we ever do to you, for God’s sake? What did we ever do to you?”

Is Miller only trying to pull the pieces of the puzzle together for a story, or does he have a greater motivation? You won’t find out, dear reader, until the final pages of the book.

 photo Roschmann20false20ID_zpssa2lvdbq.jpg
Roschmann’s false Argentinian papers.

Frederick Forsyth does such an amazing job blending fact and fiction that it is nearly impossible to find the seams that tie the two together. He uses many real people and real circumstances to build his plots around. In 1974, this book was made into a movie starring Jon Voight that exposed the real Butcher of Riga. After the film was released, Eduard Roschmann was arrested by the Argentinian police. He skipped bail and fled to Paraguay where he died in 1977. Good for you, Mr. Forsyth. Your work almost brought a true monster to justice. Forsyth’s plots are certainly compelling and always leave me pondering the implications of what would have happened if. . . .

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Pramod Nair.
232 reviews194 followers
November 11, 2015
‘The Odessa File’ from Frederick Forsyth is one of the most successful and engaging thrillers written with the hunt for Nazi’s after the World War II as the central theme. The novel is a clever blend of historical facts and real life personnel’s with a fictitious story line and is written with the high level of detailing and decent pace that is usually associated with the works of Forsyth.

Forsyth as an author of realistic thrillers

Frederick Forsyth, CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), was born on 25 August 1938, and was a RAF pilot and journalist before becoming an author of high octane thrillers. [Image Source]

In an interview given to BBC 2 months back, Forsyth revealed his associations with MI6 as an ‘asset’, when he disclosed that he was reporting back to the ‘Secret Intelligence Service’ during his stint as a freelance reporter covering Biafran War in Nigeria during the late 1960s.

”For the last year of the Biafran War I was sending... both journalistic reports to the media and other reports to my new friend” [refering to the intelligence officer who approached him to report back about the truth of the situation regarding the death of children during the civil war] “The Foreign Office was denying that there were any dying children and they were passionate in supporting the dictatorship in Lagos, and it was, oddly enough, MI6 that had a different viewpoint.”

These associations and access to inside stories would have certainly helped him in his background researches while writing his books. The research that is undertaken, along with the real life experience he had as a journalist is noticeable in his works and the technical detailing that he employs while describing locations, events, tradecrafts and equipments makes his thrillers - which have a feeling of non-fiction investigative reports - realistic and highly engaging. The most noticeable realistic detailing in his books are seen in the scenes in which the tradecraft of espionage is employed; – the methods used for communication between the agents and their handlers like use of dead drops, one-time-pad based encryption; the methods employed by assassins and operatives to infiltrate through national borders; the methods employed by agents in acquiring arms once behind enemy lines; the use of technology for electronic eavesdropping and visual surveillance; descriptions of the use of shell companies usually hiding behind a crazy trail of paperwork’s looping back through continents by both intelligence agencies and nefarious organizations for fronting their operations and for funneling large volumes of hard to trace money – Forsyth’s use of real life methods makes these descriptions add to the immense enjoyment factor of his books.

In an interview that he gave to ‘The Guardian’ in October, 2015, he expressed that he was getting more and more detached from the technology and tradecraft of modern times and he felt like a dinosaur while doing his research for the 2013 thriller, ‘The Kill List’.

“The world is becoming very technically complex. I can’t understand half of it...
...The way GCHQ do it now, the way they are listening to half a snatched conversation in Yemen; the way a man in Nevada can steer a drone into a car containing a top ISIL man and he is gone in a puff of smoke perceived by none in the middle of nowhere... it is a new warfare beyond me, and past me. I am another generation.”

- Source

Taking account of ‘The Guardian’ interview, his best works in my opinion as a fan, is those novels, which relate to the timeframe of the cold war and works related to events before the cold war. He was mixing solid facts, history, his experience and his imagination to create genre redefining thriller novels. It may be his close association with the ‘scene’ as a journalist and as an intelligence ‘asset’ during that timeframe, which make those novels stand out brightly among his works.

The Odessa File – The Novel

Published in 1972, The Odessa File describes the story of ‘Peter Miller’, a fictitious German reporter and his quest in tracking down ‘Eduard Roschmann’ - the commandant of the Riga ghetto during 1943 and who was responsible for numerous murders and other atrocities – who had managed to escape from Germany in 1945 after the war. From a chance encounter that Peter Millar has with the diaries of ‘Salomon Tauber’, a Jewish Holocaust-survivor who has committed suicide, he comes to know about Tauber’s life, his stories in the Riga Ghetto and about the atrocities performed by "The Butcher of Riga", Eduard Roschmann.

Miller’s attempts in persuading government machinery in tracking down ‘Roschmann’, is turned down without much explanations. So he decides to trace ‘Roschmann’ himself and he is driven by both the guilt that he feels for the acts of his forefathers and by a personal motive, which adds to the suspense of the story. His search for ‘Roschmann’ pulls him in to the gray world of secret societies, assassins, vigilante agents, intelligence agencies, deception and personal revenge, and with the detailing and flair associated with Forsyth’s style of narration, the reader is in for a thrilling ride made out of history and fragments of imagination.

The first seeds of idea behind ‘The Odessa File’ came to Forsyth in 1970, when he was given a three-book deal by ‘Hutchinson’, his publisher after the successful submission of the manuscript of ‘The Day of Jackal’. Furiously searching his mind for a theme, he decided to base his new book on the rumor stories he had heard about ‘Odessa’ - a global organization, which specialized in supporting ex-Nazi’s – from his journalist days.

…let’s think manhunt… Nazis… manhunt… Eichmann… been done, done to death, can’t make a novel on Eichmann, ten years ago, let’s try something different…

…a story about a notorious and savagely brutal Nazi camp commandant, who has disappeared after 1945… a hunt for his is being carried out, not by the Jews or the West German authorities, but by one single [German] reporter, an investigative reporter… he’s just so utterly horrified by what his forefathers did that he decides to hunt the man down himself.

[Source: ‘Hunting Evil’ by Guy Walters]

Simon Wiesenthal [Source]
Forsyth visited Simon Wiesenthal - Holocaust survivor, an Austrian writer and Nazi hunter, who dedicated most of his life to tracking down and gathering information on fugitive Nazi war criminals – in Vienna for gaining more insights into the project that he was undertaking and it was Wiesenthal who gave Forsyth the idea to use ‘Eduard Roschmann’ as the ‘savagely brutal Nazi camp commandant’ in his novel. Wiesenthal, himself makes an appearance as a character within the novel and it is from him that Miller gains knowledge about "ODESSA".

The “Butcher of Riga”

The protagonist of our novel comes to know about ‘Eduard Roschmann’ and the life at the Riga Ghetto through the diaries of ‘Tauber’. Riga, the capital of Latvia was a main centre for Latvian Jews with many cultural, religious, social and political institutions. In mid 1941, Germany invaded Soviet Union and within days Latvia was under German occupation.

From the very first day of the occupation, the systematic persecution of Latvian Jews began and a whole string of crimes and atrocities by both the occupying German forces, especially the task force ‘Einsatzgruppe A’ and Latvian collaborators like 'Arajs Kommando' .

A map which accompanied a secret report entitled "Jewish Executions Carried Out by Einsatzgruppe A", prepared by their commander Franz Walter Stahlecker. It shows the number of Jews executed in the Baltic States and Belarus in 1941. Latvia is marked with 35,238 killings.

All Jews were registered and the Jewish workers were concentrate in a ghetto and one anti-Jewish decree after another followed and by October 25, 1941 all Jews - about 30,000 - were forcefully concentrated in the small 16-block area in the Maskavas Forštate suburb of Riga. Everything valuable were stolen from them and the Ghetto was sealed off with a high barbed wire fence and Latvian guards were stationed around the ghetto perimeter. Around 30,000 people had to live in the extremely horrible conditions of this compound, which was totally cutoff from the outside world.

Riga ghetto in 1942 [Source: German Federal Archive]

Then began a series of massacres and on November 30 and December 8 and 9, the Nazis shot about 27,500 Latvian Jews from the ghetto at pre-dug pits in the nearby forest of Rumbula. The few survivors who remained were formed into a small Ghetto. After the massacre, in the next three months, trainloads of Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were transported into the original Ghetto. In March 1942, about 3740 of these new inhabitants – mostly elderly, the sick and infirm and children – were lured for relocation with a false promise that they would receive easier work at a resettlement facility near a former town in Latvia called Dünamünde. Actually such a facility never existed and they were trucked to woods north of Riga, shot, and buried in previously dug mass graves.

Eduard Roschmann’ was one of the chief perpetrators behind this war crime incident known as the ‘Dünamünde Action’. In January 1943, Roschmann became commandant of the Riga ghetto. Even though he is not described as a psychopath like his predecessors, Roschmann too was a murderer and was responsible for numerous murders and other atrocities within the camp. In 1944, sensing the approach of the Soviet forces the SS personals of the Latvian concentration camp systems escape to Danzig by sea taking with them several thousand concentration camp inmates, most of whom perished during the journey.

He was arrested in 1945, but managed to escape war crime charges by disguising himself as an ordinary POW and was released in 1947. He was again arrested after being identified as the SS member but in 1948 he managed to the prison and fled Germany to Argentina onboard a ship using faked Red Cross identification papers.

Argentine identification document believed to be issued to Eduard Roschmann, under the alias "Federico Wegener"

In 1960 he was charged with several cases of war crime atrocities and a warrant was issued in his name. A lot of diplomatic tussle between Germany & Argentina ensued demanding his extradition, but before anything definite happened in Argentina regarding his extradition, he managed to escape to Paraguay and died there in 1977. Some historians argue that Roschmann was not as blood-thirsty and notorious as Forsyth has portrayed in the book and the actual “Butcher of Riga” was Rudolf Lange, the commander of the SD in Riga.

Whatever may the truth regarding him being called as the “Butcher of Riga”, it is a fact that while Roschmann was the commandant of the Riga Ghetto a lot of mass and individual murders happened both inside and outside the Ghetto.

The Jon Voight starring, 1974 movie adaptation of 'The Odessa File' directed by Ronald Neame. It is believed Roschmann was tipped off originally to the Argentine police by someone who watched the movie at the cinemas

The book and the 1974 movie adaptation based on the novel played a large part in making his war crimes known to the whole world.

The secret network of ODESSA; is it real?

When it comes to the existence of The ODESSA ('Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen') meaning “Organization of Former SS Members”, there are two opinions. There are people who believe such an organization exists or existed and a large number of historians who believe the claim is purely a fiction. It was supposedly formed as a Nazi network set up towards the end of World War II by a group of SS - Schutzstaffel, the paramilitary organization which operated under Hitler and the Nazi party - officers as an organization that can co-ordinate and facilitate the escape of SS members after war from being captured and prosecuted.

It was Wiesenthal, who made the claim about such an organization when he recounted his talks with an Abwehr officer during the Nuremberg trials and descriptions about this organization is found in his memoirs. Claims about ODESSA gained global popularity when Forsyth used the information provided by Wiesenthal about the organization in ‘The Odessa File’. But the actual existence of such an organization with the name ODESSA was never proved and many historians believe that such an organization did not exist.

But that doesn’t mean that such networks that helped former Nazi members and SS officers to escape from Germany did not exist at all. Many such loosely structured organizations, resembling ‘old-boy networks’ did exist and they provided financial, documentation, transportation and settlement assistance as part of the escape of a large number of former Nazi members just after the war. Many of these groups had no central co-ordination or had reaches world-wide; they operated as small cells which assisted each other in fleeing from Germany after war and many utilized the utter chaos that existed in Europe just after the war to flee to many parts of South America, Europe and Middle East. Some of them slipped out with the full knowledge and benevolences of allied powers – oh! Yes, that too sure happened.

One interesting fact is the flood of ‘Nazi’ sightings – reports of sightings of wanted war criminals -, which happened in the years following the war and from the late 40s, 50s and later years; most of these sightings were induced by hysteria or were fake, but there were many actual sightings too and dossier after dossier of heavily redacted but de-classified documents from intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies across the globe, point to the fact that many of the most wanted Nazi members managed to safely transport themselves to all corners of the globe just after the war.

Now coming back to the novel:

The level of technical detailing and history may feel a bit of overdone for some readers, but this is a true classic work in the thriller genre, that can give fans of historic thrillers volumes of fun.

Note: The Odessa File’ was read almost two decades back, but after a recent acquaintance with Forsyth’s reminiscences through ‘The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue’ and his revelations of being part of the world of espionage – almost all of his fans suspected this for a long time due to the highly realistic nature of his thrillers -, I felt an urge to add some of my notes to the books I have rated on GR from the author. This is the first review in this series. Written: Nov - 9 - 2015
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
October 16, 2011

Nazis........"Here"....... Photobucket
International Intrigue........"Present"....... Photobucket
Secret Societies.........."Here".......... Photobucket
Nazi Hunters/Israeli Mossad.........."Here, Sir".......... Photobucket
Interesting Plot.........."Present".......... Photobucket

Compelling Main Character.........Uh, Compelling Main Character......Anyone.......Main Character we care about......SHIT..... Photobucket

Excitement and Suspense.........hello....Excitement, Suspense.....Anyone.....has anyone seen any hint of excitement or suspense in this book......anywhere at all.....come on people......
Photobucket Photobucket

Oh dammit, crap, hellsville!!...don't do this to me!!!!!!!

On paper this book had 4 or 5 stars written all over it and I really thought I was going to love it. A well-written political thriller involving the hunting down of a Nazi war criminal and a worldwide secret organization of former SS members trying to reclaim power...what exactly is not to love?

Apparently, much, because in the end, it fell shorter than "Mini Me" which left me floating in disappointment.

The title of the book is derived from the German Acronyn O.D.E.S.S.A (Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen) which means Organization of Former Members of the SS. The novel postulates that there is a world-wide organization of former Nazis established prior to the end of World War II to assist SS members in escaping Germany for places of safety (e.g., Argentina). The organization has since become a “behind the scenes” power broker that continues to dream of reclaiming world power.

The book takes place in 1963 shortly after the Kennedy assassination. There are two different plot threads in the story. The primary plot involves a German crime reporter named Peter Miller who comes into possession of the diary of a Jewish holocaust survivor who has recently committed suicide. The diary details the man’s 4 years in a Nazi concentration camp called Riga and the brutal atrocities committed there by Eduard Roschmann (known as the “Butcher of Riga”).

Miller decides to determine if Roschmann is still alive and to track him down. Almost immediately, he begins to face resistance from his superiors and local law enforcement and the influence and machinations of ODESSA are slowly revealed.

The second plot thread involves ODESSA trying to assist Egypt (in the build up to the Six-Day War ) in creating rockets that can be used to destroy Israel). The plan is to use warheads containing radioactive material that will kill everyone in the Jewish state. However, in order to succeed, the warheads will need a highly efficient guidance system as the rockets will need to hit precise locations in Israel in order to accomplish its goal. This guidance system is being produced by ODESSA inside Germany.

Throughout the story, we are given extensive background (through the diary) of the atrocities committed by Roschmann and his eventual escape at the end of World War II (the book is worth reading for this alone as the experiences documented here are tragic and heart-breaking but very, very authentic). We are also given significant information on the creation and evolution of ODESSA which is quite interesting. The book is also well written and the historical details included were compelling though at times very disturbing to read.

In the end, there were two things that I thought the story lacked. The first was an engaging main character. I thought Peter Miller, while well drawn, was not quite as interesting as watching paint dry. I just never really cared what happened to him so it took a lot of the enjoyment out of the story. The second thing the book lacked, which may very well be related to the first, is any real excitement or suspense. As the plot moved forward, there were no “edge of seat hanging” moments or anything even close to it. I would have settled for a cheap thrill. This along with characters I didn’t care about made the story feel slow and very plodding.

Overall, while I loved the idea of the book, the execution was too pedestrian for me to give it more the 3 stars. Now take this same set up and have a “James Bond” type hero working with a small group of smart super spies attempting to smash S.P.E.C.T.R.E ODESSA and save the day....that would be EPIC!!!

This one...good not great. 3.0 Stars.

Profile Image for Gary.
941 reviews205 followers
January 23, 2021
Set in the early 1960's in West Germany with some scenes from Israel and Nasserite Egypt , this electrifying book has all the elements of a good historical spy novel - suspense,danger,action,human drama as well as a lot of food for thought.We come across a lot of interesting real figures from the time such as Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and the head head of MOSSAD Meir Amit as well the evil psycopathic SS Officer Eduard Roschmann who in the novel is hunted by a young German journalist , Peter Miller We also read about statesmen and nation builders at the time such as West German Chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhardt , Israeli leaders David Ben-Gurion , Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir as well the warlike Egyptian dictator Gamel Abdel Nasser.The novel itself begins with the news of the assasination of John F Kennedy But the ordinary grassroots characters too are equally believable from Millers simple but good hearted and beautiful girlfriend Sigrid Rahn to the Israeli agent Uri Ben Shaul alias Josef to doctors and nurses,civil servants ,secretaries and housemaids. The novel is largely based on a true story and includes several important lessons from history.It lays bare the satanic evil of the Nazi SS while also oulining that ordinary Germans are good people ,as described in the novel by excerpts from the diary of holocaust survivor Salomon Tauber which is a very instructive and insightful piece in itself.It also shows the high level of cooperation between Nazi exiles and Arab states in their evil plans to destroy the tiny state of Israel The attempt to do so still continues today and should be exposed for what it is -naked anti-semitism and hatred.
Profile Image for Overhaul.
271 reviews609 followers
May 16, 2023
Odessa es una organizacion secreta de antiguos miembros de las SS. Un joven periodista aleman investiga las razones del suicidio de un viejo judio que deja unos Diarios acusadores contra el jefe de un campo de exterminio.

Y ello le obliga a sumergirse en un torbellino de aventuras que lo llevan hasta su propio pasado familiar..

La ODESSA a que se refiere el título no es la ciudad del sur de Rusia ni el municipio de los Estados Unidos.

Es una palabra compuesta por seis siglas que, en alemán, significan: «Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen», y en español: «Organización de Antiguos Afiliados a la SS.»

Como sabrá la mayoría de los lectores, la SS era el ejército dentro del Ejército, el estado dentro del Estado, ideado por Adolf Hitler y mandado por Heinrich Himmler, que, durante el régimen nazi que gobernó Alemania de 1933 a 1945, estaba encargado de misiones especiales. Teóricamente, estas misiones tenían por objeto defender la seguridad del Tercer Reich, y en la práctica servían a la realización de las ambiciones de Hitler, que consistían en librar a Alemania y a Europa de los elementos que él consideraba «indignos de vivir», en esclavizar a perpetuidad a las «razas inferiores de las tierras eslavas» y en exterminar a todos los judíos, hombres, mujeres y niños, que hubiera en el Continente.

Para la ejecución de estas misiones, la SS organizó y consumó el asesinato de unos catorce millones de personas, es decir, seis millones de judíos, cinco millones de rusos, dos millones de polacos, medio millón de gitanos y otro medio millón de individuos de extracción diversa, entre los que se contaban-aunque casi nunca se habla de ellos-cerca de doscientos mil alemanes y austríacos no judíos.

Estos eran desgraciados con taras mentales o físicas y los llamados «enemigos del Reich»

La SS hizo de las dos siglas de su nombre y del signo de los dos rayos de su estandarte, el símbolo de la abyección más inhumana en la que jamás haya caído organización alguna.

Cuando aún no había terminado la guerra, sus jefes superiores,comprendiendo que ésta estaba perdida, y previendo el rigor con que los seres civilizados juzgarían sus actos cuando llegara la hora de rendir cuentas, se prepararon en secreto para desaparecer e iniciar una nueva vida.

Con tal fin, sacaron del país, de contrabando, grandes contingentes de oro de la SS, que fueron depositados en cuentas bancarias numeradas, se expidieron falsos documentos de identidad y se abrieron vías de escape. Cuando, por fin, los aliados ocuparon Alemania, la mayoría de los asesinos había huido.

La organización que constituyeron para llevar a cabo la fuga era ODESSA. Una vez conseguido el primer objetivo de los asesinos, o sea, huir a latitudes más hospitalarias, la ambición de estos hombres se incrementó.

ODESSA existe, y los de la insignia de la calavera continúan ligados a ella.

Esta organización, creada por cinco magnates alemanes, ideó al menos tres rutas de evasión, más conocidas como 'ratlines'o líneas de ratas, a través de las cuales los criminales de guerra nazis huían.

ODESSA no fue la única organización secreta que existía para ayudar a los ex-miembros de las SS a huir de Alemania. Se incluyen la CIA, varios gobiernos latinoamericanos y una red de clérigos católicos con base en Italia.

El hecho de la escapatoria de los nazis no sólo de se le atribuyen a las actividades de una organización clandestina como ODESSA, sino también al caos de la postguerra unido a una incapacidad de la iglesia católica y la Cruz Roja para verificar a todas las personas que acudían por ayuda. Este descontrol provocó que más de 800 altos cargos del estado nazi entraran con pasaportes de la Cruz Roja Internacional.

Este libro del autor Frederick Forsyth es uno de los thrillers más exitosos escritos con la búsqueda de nazis después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial como tema central. De hecho es lo mejor que encontraréis.

Una caza, una meta. La ⚖️.

Una combinación muy inteligente de los hechos históricos y personales de la vida real con una historia ficticia, escrita con un alto nivel de detalle y un ritmo adecuado.

La historia sigue a un joven periodista alemán que se topa con el relato de un superviviente de un campo de concentración judío recientemente fallecido que estaba convencido de que el supervisor de su campo (que fue responsable de decenas de miles de muertes) todavía estaba vivo y prosperaba en Alemania de la posguerra de 1960.

Así comienza una búsqueda de Odessa que tiene repercusiones de lo más significativas en todo el escenario internacional, muy bien integrado en el flujo de la historia real.

El libro engancha desde el principio cada hilo que su autor creó desde que el protagonista encuentra el diario es una buena organización con un fin. No parar. Como nos presenta el pasado y los crímenes cometidos, te empuja a seguir leyendo. Narrado de manera ágil aunque no es un libro largo la historia cumple. Entretiene muchísimo.

El uso de múltiples personajes. Los puntos de vista también se utilizaron hábilmente para brindar un mayor contexto de los eventos del libro y así elevar las apuestas por encima de la simple búsqueda de un ex oficial nazi.

Ver porqué todos estos personajes actuaban como lo hacían y esto enriqueció la historia.

Muy recomendable..✍️🎩
Profile Image for Sonia Gomes.
308 reviews94 followers
May 6, 2018
ODESSA File shows us a very dark and brutal side of humanity. Although I do not know a single Jew, I have wept over and prayed for the millions of Jews killed during the Second World War.

I have heard arguments that the Holocaust is just another ‘casualty’ of War.
It is amazing that despite a full fledged war raging all around the world, the Germans had the time, the patience, the resources and the desire to annihilate millions of men, women and children. What is chilling about the Holocaust is the cold precision with which the SS and Gestapo hunted and rounded up the Jews and other ‘undesirables’ and murdered them or in their words, 'exterminated them' as one would vermin and other pests .
Every aspect of the annihilation was planned meticulously, from the rounding up to the extermination in gas chambers or crematoria.

When you think that it is people going to such lengths to murder their own friends and neighbors your mind does a blank, it refuses to think, to accept that there can exist such people. But sadly they do.

What is even more amazing is that there were people who also went to a great deal of trouble to hide, help and aid the Jews or 'undesirables' their friends. What gives simple men this tremendous courage knowing if they were caught, a certain death awaited them.
What is amazing too is the trouble, countries and friends went succor the Nazis when they were fleeing Germany at the end of the War. We do know that the Nazis were accepted with open arms in many Latin American countries.
Were these leaders so compassionate? Was greed that motivated them?
Do we all have a price?
If and when we take a good look at the Holocaust, read about it, maybe put ourselves in the shoes of the victims, difficult but yes, in the shoes of the perpetrators, we are faced with a host of questions that we should ask ourselves.

A holocaust victim once asked unable to comprehend the enormity of what had happened to his family, friends, neighbours “Where was God?”
And he got a reply “Where was Man?”

Just today, my friend Lilo wrote:
'But don't forget: Not all Germans were Nazis. And once Hitler was in power, non-Nazis were totally helpless. It took Hitler only a few weeks to turn Germany into a bomb-tight police state. And once this was accomplished, every opposition or dissent was equivalent to suicide.'

And I reply with great humility,
Yes Lilo, I agree. What do I know of being so frightened, so frightened that I cannot think straight, let alone stand up to the might of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, but through all that, despite being frightened out of their minds, despite being in grave danger, terrible danger to their own lives, many Germans did save Jews.
There are no words for such heroism.
Thank you Lilo, for showing me another angle.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,325 reviews65 followers
July 6, 2015
After the formidable tour de force of "The day of the Jackal" Forsyth returns with his "The ODESSA file" (Organisation Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehorigen). And it is a brilliant thriller about a post WWII German journalist his gets his hands on a diary of a Jewish man that survived the horrors of Riga. And if you knew never anything about some of the horrible crimes committed during the last great war you find out galore of the crimes committed by the Nazis especially by those of the SS.
The book sets Peter Miller out on a search for the commanding officer of the Riga death-camp and as only Forsyth can write it we find out how difficult it is in even a post WWII Germany to find out about war crimes. Even I as a kid was somewhat surprised while playing with German kids when I was younger about the collective guilt that was still carried by the German people (this was the early seventies).
We meet some once famous people like Simon Wiesenthal who explain about the SS excesses and how they organised to disappear before the war was over and how the Wehrmacht was used to win time at the losing end of the war for the SS to lose themselves sometimes even in plain sight.
This thriller set in a post WWII Germany resembles a nightmare of the variety of sheer unbelievably reality. I was always surprised how few big and responsible Nazi bigwigs were actually brought before a court of law. This book goes some way explaining it.
The thriller aspect of the book was very well done and puts you on the edge of your seat. The motivation of the main character is revealed at the end, which is why I subtracted one star as I figured it out quite early on in the tale and it took some away from the thriller aspect.
The sideshow about the rockets in Egypt, influential former Nazis still at large in Germany and the Israeli secret service made this a brilliant thriller that was difficult to stop reading. So I finished it in one long and way to warm summer day (37 degrees Celsius in the shade).

This was one of the early Forsyths' I never got to read when I was younger with me buying a set of the three early Forsyths' in hardcover it was bound to be the first one to be read as I had never done so before.
Forsyth is perhaps one of the better thriller writers of this era and well worth a reading if you have not done so before. The story he weaves are full of scary details and yet very well written and difficult to stop to read once you have started it.
Profile Image for Terence M - [back to abnormal].
501 reviews174 followers
August 19, 2018
Hunting Nazis, particularly SS Nazis, still had some cachet when "The Odessa File" was written in 1972 and the deeds of famous Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, who had aided the Mossad division of the Israeli Secret Service in identifying and capturing Adolph Eichmann only twelve years earlier, were in the news quite regularly.

I read "The Odessa File" years ago, in the seventies, after reading "Day of the Jackal". Remembering recently that I had enjoyed "The Odessa File", I decided to read it again. It was an ok second read, but I think maybe my memories of films I saw, books I read, parties I attended, forty and fifty years ago have dimmed somewhat, but at least I still have them!

2 stars - just.
Profile Image for John Culuris.
173 reviews72 followers
May 2, 2021
An early work from the father of the modern espionage thriller, and it contains my biggest pet peeve: a protagonist doing something incredibly stupid. And it’s okay. Peter Miller is a reporter, not a trained undercover agent. Through the convergence of bad luck, laziness, entitlement, and not truly believing all the precautions taught to him were necessary, he blows his cover almost immediately. The story never really hinged on this anyway. It’s about how the diary of a Holocaust survivor who killed himself leads to the investigation of The ODESSA, a real-life Nazi organization that used stolen wealth to further their twisted philosophies. To varying degrees Forsyth always used fiction to expose reality. He is always entertaining while doing so.
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews376 followers
February 1, 2016
This book struck me as rather similar to 'The Day of the Jackal'. They were international thrillers that made a few tweaks to history to serve an exciting new history and encompassed a wide range of characters. However, where 'The Day of the Jackal' failed because I had already seen the movie, my ignorance of this movie helped keep the book's tension ratcheted up. And really, that is the most appealing part of this book: the tension. What plans will go awry, how will small, seemingly insignificant, events impact the much greater flow of history, who will live or die kept me heavily engaged with the story. In 'The Day of the Jackal' these questions had already been answered for me because of the movies. In this case I was genuinely concerned that at any point the the alleged protagonist could be killed and one of the other characters would pick up where he left off. Really riveting stuff.

So where 'The Day of the Jackal' took a historical counterfactual with events immediately after an attempted assassination of French president Charles De Gaulle 'The Odessa File' decides to follow a counterfactual of the existence of an international organization, Odessa, dedicated to protecting and enriching former Nazi SS members. I say counter factual because, while many former Nazis were certainly aided in fleeing Europe post war, it is unlikely there was one overarching organization that did all of it.

The story follows a young German journalist who stumbles across an account of a recently deceased Jewish concentration camp survivor who was convinced his camp's overseer (who was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths) was still alive and prospering in post-war 1960's Germany. Thus starts a hunt for Odessa that has significant repercussions on the international stage all nicely folded into the flow of actual history.

What I really enjoyed about this book is how every character had their own motivations and pursued them. Even people on ostensibly the same side had their own agendas and were more than happy to use their erstwhile allies to achieve them even if that meant screwing said allies over or getting them killed. It was also refreshing to see the bad guys actually be competent but also constrained by circumstances. These were all not powerful Nazis who turn out to be incompetent (you've got to have some smarts to outlast the Kennedy administration while being hunted internaitonally) but rather a highly organized network of fanatics who faced the same sort of technological and informational constraints a everyone else.

It was a pretty even match-up throughout the book which nicely contributed to the book's tension. The use of multiple characters; points of view was also deftly utilized to give the reader a greater context for the events of the book and raise the stakes above the simple hunt for an ex-Nazi officer. It was great to see why all these myriad characters were acting as they did and it really enriched the story.

While there were a lot of characters there wasn't really a ton of characterization. Like 'The Day of the Jackal' Forsyth gave plenty of background history to the important characters he introduced, but apart from the Journalist we don't really get a deep dive on any other characters. This is fine by me because the suspense of the story kept me turning pages instead of the characters and the Journalist pulled enough character development weight to carry that aspect of the story.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys thrillers, historical fiction, or WWII history. I have a feeling that, if 'The Day of the Jackal' is any guide, seeing the movie ahead of time will significantly degrade the experience, so read the book first.
Profile Image for Maciek.
562 reviews3,317 followers
May 15, 2011
I've been crawing a good espionage novel, and after a quick glance at my shelf decided that Frederick Forsyth was my man. Chosing between The Day of The Jackal and The Odessa File i chose the latter, because it had all the ingredients of a good yarn - World War 2 and its aftermath, spies, intrigue, the SS...

First published in 1972, The Odessa File is about, well, the Odessa, a secret organization that unites the ex SS-men. After reading a journal left by a Jew who comitted suicide, young journalist Peter Miller is determined to infiltrate the organization and find one man - Eduard Roschmann, "the butcher of Riga". And so begins a work which should be one of the finest examples of political fiction, knowing the author's reputation and the notoriety of his subject.

Except it's not, not really. The plot is sewn with a thick thread and some of the coincidences and strokes of luck are eyerolling; the characters are stereotypical and rather wooden, as if they came from a cheap drama; all the tropes are present, complete with a beautiful sport car and completely unecessary sex scenes (the woman is beautiful, and never says no). The twists are predictable; the interesting information about the Odessa is buried in a plot that's relatively slow-moving and arrives at a finale where the protagonist's luck is almost of miraculous quality.

Still, it's a good yarn, and the fact that the real Eduardo Roschmann was brought to public attention because of it and had to flee to Paraguay makes it even better. Not at all a bad way to spend some hours.
Profile Image for Charlie Hasler.
Author 2 books209 followers
December 20, 2022
4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It is the first Forsyth novel I have read.

However, I found the history inputs and then back to the story parts quite awkward to read at times, I would have preferred an authors note at the end to cover all that.

I found the diary harrowing, the coldness and the cruelty of the Nazis depicted goes beyond the beyond, albeit fiction, the reality I am sure was just as desperately horrific.

Last point, I would of liked the bastard Roschmann to of got it at the end, but, as I am sure was/is the case; evil may not always prevail, but it can slip out the back door from time to time.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stephen.
288 reviews6 followers
July 18, 2012
Well, I’m glad I stuck with this book through the first 100 pages or so. I usually set my limit at 100 pages. If a book shows little or no promise, or if it simply drags to an extreme degree, or if it’s just a jumbled mess, it has 100 pages to turn the ship around. This is a rule I set for myself a few years ago after realizing that I had slogged my way through too many worthless books while books I actually wanted to read gathered dust on my shelf.

I mention all of this because roughly 100 pages into The Odessa File very little had happened. It was pretty dry. But I knew something (or at was pretty sure I did): Frederick Forsythe can tell a pretty good story. So I stuck with it, and was almost immediately rewarded for my stick-to-it-iveness.

The beginning of the novel takes its time building up a foundation. It defines characters, recounts events, presents shady villains, and introduces our hero. But in doing this, it takes a long time to get our hero involved enough in the story to reach his goal. And while establishing this narrative foundation is at times tedious, it ultimately pays off in a fun and detailed manhunt that goes on for the rest of the novel.

Forsythe, again, presents a great and compelling thriller, and the pages turn pretty quickly once things get going. This was a fun read.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
940 reviews
August 2, 2015
Fast-paced thriller about a reporter finding evidence of SS officers hiding in post-war Germany. The author did alot of research into that time period, and reading about it was very interesting. The sections about the reporter and his stripper girlfriend weren't that well-written, but were thankfully brief. A quick and thrilling read.
Profile Image for Ileana.
158 reviews14 followers
September 23, 2021
«—Herr Wiesenthal, que yo sepa usted es el primer judío con quien realmente he tenido una larga charla. Tauber dice una cosa en su Diario que me sorprendió: dice que no hay lugar para una culpa colectiva. Pero a nosotros, los alemanes, nos dijeron durante veinte años que todos éramos culpables. ¿Cree usted eso?
—No —dijo llanamente el cazador de nazis—. Tauber tenía razón.
—¿Cómo puede usted decir eso, si matamos a millones de personas?
—Porque usted, personalmente, no estaba allí. Usted no mató a nadie. Como dice Tauber, la tragedia está en que los auténticos asesinos no han sido llevados ante la justicia.» [p. 197]

No suelo leer novelas de este género (policial) pero ésta me gustó mucho. Me mantuvo al borde del asiento durante casi todo el libro. Hubieron situaciones que me parecieron algo inverosímiles pero eso no me impidió disfrutar la historia. Voy a incorporar más policiales a mi lista de lectura.
Profile Image for Sheila.
498 reviews3 followers
July 28, 2019
I read first time in January 1987 it was a very good read I like this author. I will be reading a few more books of this author that I have not read. I re-read this book. It is a very well researched and has more facts with little fiction. The book is about holocaust when thousands of Jews were killed and some Germans too. The author narrative is great and keeps the suspense to the end. This book is worth giving the readers time and I personally assure anyone who wants to read it you will not be bored. Give it a try.
Profile Image for Ujjwala Singhania.
212 reviews47 followers
December 18, 2021
My second book by Forsyth after the The Day of the Jackal. I read Killing Floor by Lee Child and The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth back-to-back. And though both are top fiction-thriller writers, the writing style and the story framework couldn't have been more different. Where Child's story is purely fictional with the protagonist characterization evolving slowly, Forsyth bases his stories with important historical backdrop, and the story develops taking the theme of a key historical event.
Highly recommend this book to all the fiction-thriller readers out here.
Profile Image for Paul Bartusiak.
Author 5 books49 followers
August 18, 2013
A paperback copy of The Odessa File has been sitting on my bookshelf for probably fifteen years; I can’t even remember anymore how I originally obtained it- probably at a used book sale (I always jump at the chance of picking up spy novels from some of the masters of the genre). There was a hesitance to read it for a long time (obviously), and I’m not really sure why. I think it must have been because for some reason I kept confusing it with the movie version of Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil that I saw a long time ago. After all, they’re both stories about post World War II and Nazi hunters.

Well, I was finally in the mood to give it a try, and I’m really glad that I did! It became pretty clear to me that this was a story or movie that I had neither read nor seen before, and it was hard to put down once started. I finished it in just a few days, which is not easy for me given my hectic schedule. Forsyth has a great style, more direct that one of my favorites, John Le Carre, and he can really carry an emotional punch in just a few lines. There’s one passage that I won’t forget for a long time:

“You’re from Buenos Aires?” he asked.
“Where from, then?”

Without knowing the context of this dialogue, one may not feel the tension in the lines, but in the context in the story, it was awesome. A writer only dreams of being able to convey such power in a scene while using such few, carefully chosen words.

In brief summary, the main character, Peter Miller, is a sort of accomplished tabloid reporter. He chases an ambulance in Germany and arrives at a home where the resident, an old man, committed suicide. The police chief passes on to Miller the diary of the dead man, and this leads to an investigation and chase which is really quite fun to follow.

I’ve read some other reviews that state this is not even close to being Forsyth’s best novel, and so I suppose I’ve got some great reading to look forward to. The Day of the Jackal, the original directed by Fred Zinnemann, is probably one of the best espionage/political thriller movies of all time, and I had the great pleasure of seeing it many times over during a period when film was front-and-center in my life, so I’ll put some of Forsyth’s other novels in line before that one, but it’s always great when one finally discovers such a great thriller writer, even if it did take several decades.
Profile Image for ALLEN.
553 reviews120 followers
June 9, 2020
THE ODESSA FILE (1972) was British author Frederick Forsyth's second novel (the first was THE DAY OF THE JACKAL). This one is set in the weeks following John Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and concerns a complacent Hamburg photojournalist (played in the movie by Jon Voight) who stumbles across the diary of a recently deceased concentration-camp survivor and, partly for humanitarian reasons and partly for reasons of his own, seeks justice for the decedent and publicity for the cause of bringing World War Two criminals to light.

Partly based in fact but mostly in conjecture and fiction, THE ODESSA FILE proceeds along two tracks: the journalist is out to expose ex-Nazis while they are out to do him in; at the same time a larger philosophical issue arises as to whether entire societies can be implicated in collective guilt, or just the individual actions of individual evil. It is a question well worth asking today, and between the covers of this novel it makes for a marvelous fast-paced read. Even at nearly fifty years' remove this book is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
968 reviews101 followers
October 21, 2014
When a young German journalist comes across a diary written by a deceased elderly Jewish man, he is overwhelmed by the brutality described inside it. He determines to track down "the butcher of Riga"-- a notorious Nazi responsible for thousands of deaths during World War II. His quest leads him to a sinister organization named Odessa. Taut, well written and suspenseful, this book is hard to put down.
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews217 followers
October 16, 2015
Wow someone just recommended this to me and it reminded me that I read it during High School for one of my classes. Good book if I remember correctly. Few Nazis, some conspiracies etc. Not Forsyth's best but a good one.
Profile Image for Melanie.
29 reviews
July 9, 2009
I love holocaust novels; partly because they are so emotional to me and also because the stories are so heroic.
Profile Image for Erk.
481 reviews50 followers
January 23, 2021
เอาไปเลย 5 ดาว ถ้าจะเขียนดีขนาดนี้ สนุกมากๆๆลุ้นจนนั่งไม่ติดเลย Frederick Forsyth เขียนฉากไล่ล่าได้ดีมาก ไม่ได้บู๊แหลกอะไรเลย แต่เขียนบรรยายได้สนุกเหมือนกำลังนั่งดูหนังมันส์ๆสักเรื่อง(แปลได้ถึงพริกถึงขิงด้วย) ประทับใจมาตั้งแต่ The Day of the Jackal แล้ว มาเรื่องนี้ยิ่งชอบเข้าไปใหญ่

ในวันเดียวกับที่ JFK ถูกลอบสังหาร ปีเตอร์ มิลเลอร์ นักข่าวหนุ่มชาวเยอรมันได้พบกับบันทึกของชายชราเชื้อสายยิว เล่าถึงความโหดร้ายในค่ายนรกของนาซี ในบันทึกยังบอกอีกด้วยว่า หัวหน้าค่ายคนนั้นยังมีชีวิตอยู่อย่างสุขสบายดี ด้วยความคับแค้นใจจึงได้ออกตามล่าและต้องการนำตัวมาลงโทษให้จงได้ (จริงๆมิลเลอร์มีแรงจูงใจที่มากกว่านั้นซึ่งจะเฉลยในตอนท้าย)

ในการตามหาเบาะแสนั้นก็ไม่ใช่เรื่องง่าย ในเมื่อองค์การโอเดสซา (องค์การของอดีตสมาชิกเอสเอส) เป็นองค์การที่พวก SS ตั้งขึ้นเพื่อช่วยในการหลบหนี ยังคงแทรกซึมทั้งในและนอกประเทศ แม้มิลเลอร์จะบ้าถึงขนาดปลอมตัวเป็นอดีตเอสเอส แต่ก็ไม่วายโดนรู้ทันเสียก่อน งานนี้ไม่รู้จะลุ้นอะไรดี ระหว่างมิลเลอร์เจออาชญากร ss หรือมือสังหาร ss จะเก็บมิลเลอร์ได้เสียก่อน

เล่มนี้ก็ไม่พลาดเจาะลึกและสอดแทรกเรื่องราวของนาซีและหน่วยงาน SS ซึ่งจะได้พบทั้งชื่อและรายละเอียดแน่นๆแต่เข้าใจง่าย ถ้าชอบแนว Thriller หรือสนใจเกี่ยวกับนาซี ซึ่งหลังสงครามได้ส่งผลอย่างไรต่อชาวเยอรมันบ้าง เล่มนี้สามารถบอกเล่าได้ส่วนหนึ่งเลย

"มึงยังมีหน้า ไอ้หน้าด้านๆนั่นแหละ มาบอกกูว่ามึงเป็นเยอรมันรักชาติ
กูจะบอกให้ว่ามึงเป็นอะไร มึงและพวกเหี้ยๆของมึงเคยเป็นและยังเป็น
อย่างที่ไม่เคยมีมาก่อนเลย ประวัติศาสตร์ของพวกเราต้องสกปรก"

:-ขออภัยในความไม่สุภาพ แต่เขาแปลมาแบบนี้จริงๆ
Profile Image for Luís.
1,863 reviews519 followers
July 5, 2020
The infamous Nazi organization ODESSA, internationally famous for its war aids after the Second World War, is discovered in its labyrinths by a journalist researcher.
The German journalist finds a common thread when investigating the reasons for the suicide of an old Jew, finding some accusing documents of the deceased against ahead of a Nazi extermination camp.
All this immerses him in a vortex where, surprisingly, he must face facts of his family past.
Forsyth's novel is compelling, forcing the reader to understand both the characters and the action, especially in this case where what is fictional merges with the reality of what was that horror of genocide.
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,129 reviews269 followers
October 31, 2020
I don't like the storytelling structure: Something happens, and then we get a huge historical background story. A new chapter starts, something else happens, and then we get another huge info dump.

If you can put up with this type of structure you will probably like it, but it's too tedious for me. I'm reading more about the story than I'm reading of the story. It's too bad, because the blurb makes it sound so much more interesting than it is.
Profile Image for Ricky.
337 reviews7 followers
February 28, 2010
Fredrick Forsyth sets out a wonderful human story with wonderful drawn characters. This has some great twists and turns and the writing is top quality. Once you start reading this great book you get hooked straight away, needing to find out answers like the main character does. This is a great thriller from a top writer.
Profile Image for Asghar Abbas.
Author 4 books188 followers
April 1, 2016

Not your typical guilt trip about that horrendous chapter in history

and the amazing twist at the end, proved that.

Superb and refreshing.

An ending that Fatherland by Robert Harris lacked, thus made that book's plot a little simplistic.

But this ?

Still amazed by it.

Profile Image for Craig.
689 reviews39 followers
July 21, 2011
A German reporter in the 60's gets a lead on German concentration camp officers who have escaped detection, many of whom hold prominent industrial and political positions. For personal reasons, he tracks them down. It is a thriller.
Profile Image for Avi B.
126 reviews22 followers
March 29, 2013
I have seen the film a few times and feel that the film is better than the book which is strange as its usually the other way round. It didn't hold the suspense that the film had.
Profile Image for KOMET.
1,088 reviews128 followers
April 23, 2013
This novel has all the key elements of heart-stopping drama at its most intense that has made a name for Frederick Forsyth the world over.

The story begins in Hamburg in the early evening hours of November 22nd, 1963. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX, a few hours earlier, and the news of that foul act has just reached the eyes and ears of every German. One of them is a freelance journalist nearing thirty: Peter Miller. Seated placidly in the comfort of his beloved Jaguar XK 150 S sports car, cigarette dangling from his mouth, Miller is set on going home for some good loving with his girlfriend Sigrid ("Sigi") a lovely and alluring cabaret dancer, and a good meal before sleeping. But from behind comes the harsh shrill of a siren from an ambulance. For Miller, "[a]mbulances meant trouble, and trouble could mean a story, particularly if one were first on the scene and the whole thing had been cleared up before the staff reporters arrived. It could be a major crash on the road, or a big wharf fire, a tenement building ablaze, with children trapped inside... Miller always carried a small Yashica with flash attachment in the glove compartment of his car because one never knew what was going to happen in front of one's eyes."

And so it proved within the walls of a shabby rooming house in a working class area of Hamburg. There, amid a number of police securing the scene and examining the contents of a room, which smelt heavily of gas, was found the lifeless body of a man in his 50s. He had a tired, greyish, shrunken appearance. Miller, upon showing his press credentials, tries to ascertain what is going on --- initially without success as the police are being tight-lipped. But then an old high school friend, a police inspector named Brandt, comes down the stairs of the rooming house, dressed in mufti. They meet and briefly chat.

A few days later, Miller receives a call from Brandt, offering something for him in reference to the rooming house incident. It is a diary, a testament from the dead man, a German Jew named Salomon Tauber, who had been transported to Riga in the summer of 1941 and placed in the Jewish ghetto established there by the Germans and run by the SS in the person of Captain (Hauptsturmführer) Eduard Roschmann [a real historical figure]. Miller is riveted by the story that Tauber tells, in which he painstakingly recorded his experiences there. For 3 years, Tauber had lived so close to death, sadism and inhumanity as personified by Roschmann that, upon being shipped back to Germany in 1944 as the Soviets were about to retake Riga, he is determined to see Roschmann brought to justice for his crimes. But, upon the war's end the following year, Roschmann disappears, assuming the identity of a corporal in the German Army and spends 2 years in a POW camp. Eventually, he makes his way to his native Austria, where, after almost being found out, is helped through a network of people sympathetic to the SS, and escapes to Argentina, where he assumes a new life and career.

Several years later, feeling more secure, Roschmann returns to Germany, and by chance, is spotted by Tauber one night among friends in the middle of 1963 while on the streets of Hamburg. The old memories flood back to the surface of Tauber's consciousness. A deepening despair drives him to suicide.

Miller is so much affected by Tauber's diary that he resolves to find Roschmann and bring him to justice. What he doesn't anticipate is the opposition and hazards he will soon face, courtesy of ODESSA. Odessa is a well-organized network of former SS officers not unlike the Mafia, possessing considerable wealth and contacts within industry and various ministries of the German government.

Forsyth offers a fascinating exposition of how the SS, even as Germany was hurtling towards defeat in late 1944 and 1945, gathered up a sizable portion of the wealth it had taken from many of the Jewish dead of the Vernichtungslager (killing centers) it ran, placed much of their liquid assets in Swiss bank accounts, and made their way out of Germany. (I invite the reader of this review, if curious, to read other sources to learn about the network of people and institutions that willingly assisted SS officers to escape the clutches of the Allies.) So, once Germany began to re-establish itself and rebuild its society and economy, Odessa also benefitted from the postwar prosperity.

Miller applies his considerable investigative skills in trying to uncover Roschmann and in the process, learns that the unofficial attitude in some government circles in West Germany is to keep more or less mute any ongoing efforts to expose war criminals. The general desire among most Germans is to put the memories of the Third Reich and the war firmly in the background. Odessa gets word of Miller's efforts and sends one of their men to advise him to desist from further digging into Roschmann's background. Roschmann is a key figure in Odessa's ongoing endeavor of supplying Egypt with a coterie of German rocket scientists, who are at work there in developing missiles to be used against Israel. Miller, undeterred by threats, travels first to London and then to Vienna, where he meets the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal (another real historical figure), a Holocaust survivor who has devoted his life to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.

Eventually, with the help of Israeli agents, Miller agrees to try to infiltrate Odessa by assuming the identity of an SS officer whose war crimes were recently brought to light, necessitating that he go on the run. {This SS officer --- Rolf Gunther Kolb --- had recently died from a severe form of intestinal cancer. But the Israelis, through their German contacts, are able to alter the medical records to reflect that Kolb's cancer went into remission and Kolb himself had left the clinic of his own volition.)

At this point, the drama goes into overdrive and has a lot of twists and turns. I invite the reader of this review, if stirred into a frenzied state of curiosity, to read this novel and be entertained, educated, and THRILLED.
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