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The Odessa File (1983)

The Odessa File (1983)

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4.07 of 5 Votes: 3
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0553271989 (ISBN13: 9780553271980)

About book The Odessa File (1983)

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.

***5 STAR STORY ELEMENT ROLL CALL***Nazis........"Here"....... International Intrigue........"Present"....... Secret Societies.........."Here".......... Nazi Hunters/Israeli Mossad.........."Here, Sir".......... Interesting Plot.........."Present".......... Compelling Main Character.........Uh, Compelling Main Character......Anyone.......Main Character we care about......SHIT..... 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...... 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.

Do You like book The Odessa File (1983)?

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.

Althoug it is an interesting book and incredibly catching when you take patience to read it, is a very common subject. To explain myself better when i say "common subject" im not talking about the WW 1-2 or Nazis, im talking about the "mistery" or the "conspiration" that some people love to talk about. And it gets to be really boring to always hear the same stuff most of the nazis are dead and the others where capture illegaly in other countrys and transport to others country to "make" justice. This is something that i can share now because some time has passed by but lets be realistic nazis are dead and hitler is not waiting under the surface to someday reemerge in spaceships...Putting on a side my personal opinion making an effort to be more objective i have to admit that this book is particulary good and has catching story with tons of action and conspiracy, so if you are the reader that like those things i invite you to read this one.

To be honest it's a bit dated now. The action scenes aren't exactly state-of-the-art and there's a scant desire to be PC (did that term exist when it was written?). But let's face it, Forsyth is a master thriller writer. The scenes involving the protagonist's reading of the old Jewish man's diary - when he was a victim of the Nazis - are haunting, informative and sympathetically written. But what a twist at the end! One of the best conceived. This isn't The Day of the Jackal, but it's well-plotted and enjoyable nonetheless.
—Gary Haynes

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