A Novel of Nazi Berlin
From the publisher:
From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.
Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.
Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.
As part of the Hitler-ordered official vendetta against Jews, Gypsies, and other selected groups as part of his campaign to create scapegoats to blame for Germany’s economic woes, a council working in the city of Neurenberg passed legislation taking away German citizenship from these peoples. The laws prohibited marriage between Germans and members of the selected groups. They could not serve in the military and were forced to leave jobs and businesses. The code passed was termed the Neurenberg laws and was the law of the land between 1935 and 1945 with Nazi expansion by war taking place to rectify the damage theoretically done by these groups.
Harald Gilbers adroitly takes us back into the height of the effects of these laws in a very compelling novel set in the period cited. The appearance of a serial killer in Berlin in 1944 brings up a conundrum for the police working in Berlin at this point. Certain factors point to the killer being a member of the Nazi party elite. Since no disparaging information could be issued about high level party members to avoid “misleading” the people the police were stymied in their pursuit of the killer.
A unique solution was forced on the police. They had to reactivate Richard Oppenheimer who had been a member of the Berlin detective squad. He had been forced to resign his post with the police due to the fact that he was Jewish. He still lived-in Berlin due to his marriage to a woman who was ethically acceptable since she was a purebred German. It also developed that Richard had been one of the leading detectives while active and could look for and possibly even neutralize the serial killer without having to bring up the individual’s place in the Nazi party.
Gilbers is very adept at breathing life into the characters involved in his book. He is also extremely adept with a description of the method used by the killer in disposing of the women (all victims were females.) It is not an easy task to read about the horrors visited upon the victims by the killer. I did understand the reason for this would probably be to allow the reader a better understanding of the degenerate behavior of an individual that is mentally not human.
Germania is a unique novel in using a policy of discrimination against several groups by a leader who was undoubtedly insane running the show. It is also well written with a good plot. The book is certainly a good reason to start looking for Gilbers next book.
1/2021 Paul Lane
GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers. Thomas Dunne Books (December 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250246936. 352 pages.