In Chapter Eighteen of this resoundingly well-researched, in-depth and altogether moving book, Efraim Zuroff writes of Adolf Eichmann’s right-hand man – and the world’s most deplorable Nazi war criminal – Alois Brunner. Responsible for the deportation to numerous death camps, of 128,500 Jews (47,000 from Austria, 44,000 from Greece, 23,500 from France and 14,000 from Slovakia), Brunner is indeed a vile and odious human being, to whom the term ‘human’ need not to be applied: ‘’A fanatic Nazi, Brunner was interviewed in 1985 in Damascus by the Austrian magazine Bunte, and in response to the question whether he had any regrets, he said that his major regret was that he had not been successful in killing more Jews.’’
For this reason alone, is Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice an astonishingly important book.
People need to be reminded of the depths to which humanity will invariably stoop – particularly when influenced by a deranged and myopic ideology such as that espoused by Adolf Hitler and his cloying cronies. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg – Founding President of the National Jewish Centre for Learning and Leadership, as well as the Jewish Life Network and United States Holocaust Memorial Council – states: ‘’Zuroff gives us an understanding yet gripping narrative of a life dedicated to justice – that the perpetrators and collaborators of the most total crime in human history not live on comfortably and free. An unbelievable book and a must-read.’’
Written in such a way that one is drawn in right from the start, the author shares his inexorable good work(s) by way of enlightening his readers, rather than berating them; which, given the subject matter, would have been so easy to do. Considered in tonality and measured in manner, Operation Last Chance has a certain gentleness of touch that one invariably associates with the (gentility of this) genre.
For instance, whilst in Berlin recently, I paid a visit to the Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind. And it too, had a considered, inviting feel. One of the museum’s key supporters is the Berlin writer, Ingo Deutschkron (founder of the Inge Deutschkron Foundation, which, like Zuroff, also works to combat Nazism, anti-Semitism and racism), whose writing on Otto Weidt, is similar in approach to that contained herein: always gentle, always honest, always compassionate.
From ‘Nazis in Great Britain’ to ‘Nazis Under the Maple Leaf,’ from ‘Lithuania: A Struggle for Justice and Truth in the Land of My Forefathers’ to ‘Latvia: A Mass Murderer as a Contemporary Hero,’ from ‘A Historic Trial in the Land of the Ustasha’ to ‘The She-Devil of Majdanek,’ Efraim Zuroff has clearly left no stone unturned in his insatiable quest to bring odious Nazi murderers (such as Milivoj Asner, Erna Wallisch and Dinko Sakic) to trial.
Long may he continue to do so, and I wish him and his colleagues all the very best of continued luck in the world.
Meanwhile, Operation Last Chance (www.operationlastchance.org) was co-launched with Aryeh Rubin and the Targum Shlishi Foundation (www.targumshlishi.org). It has been active in fourteen countries across three continents, of which this imperative book is an excellent example.