How one Nazi rat died trying to jump from the sinking German ship
Philippe Sands’s follow-up to ‘East West Street’ tells the complicated story of an SS man who governed Poland
Philippe Sands’s previous book, East West Street (Vintage), was a superb synthesis of family history, the Holocaust in Poland, the Nuremberg prosecutions of World War 2 crimes and the establishment of a post-war system of international justice.
Its follow-up, The Ratline (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), uses run-off research from East West Street to explore a different set of protagonists, the Wächter family, tracking the path of lawyer Otto Wächter, from his involvement in Nazism’s rise in his native Austria during the 1930s to his ascendancy to SS-Gruppenführer, governorship of Kraków and then Galicia in occupied Poland, and his attempts to flee after Germany’s 1945 surrender.
In Wächter’s hands lay the powers and mandate for destruction; his authority covered territories comprising the epicentre of the concentration and extermination camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec and Sobibór...