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#Bookreview The Undercover Nazi Hunter: Exposing Subterfuge and Unmasking Evil in Post-War Germany by Wolfe Frank. Ed by Paul Hooley (@penswordbooks) Anybody interested in post-WWII Germany and in Wolfe Frank should read this book.

Hi all.

I bring you a book today that I promised you I’d talk about a while back.

The Undercover Nazi Hunter by Wolfe Frank
The Undercover Nazi Hunter by Wolfe Frank

 

The Undercover Nazi Hunter: Exposing Subterfuge and Unmasking Evil in Post-War Germany by Wolfe Frank. Ed by Paul Hooley

Wolfe Frank was Chief Interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials where he was dubbed ‘The Voice of Doom.’ A playboy turned resistance worker he had fled Germany for England in 1937 having been branded an ‘enemy of the state – to be shot on sight.’ Initially interned as an ‘enemy alien,’ he was later released and allowed to join the British Army – where he rose to the rank of Captain. Unable to speak English when he arrived by the time of the trials he was considered to be the finest interpreter in the world.

In the months following his service at Nuremberg, Frank became increasingly alarmed at the misinformation coming out of Germany so in 1949, backed by the New York Herald Tribune, he risked his life again by returning to the country of his birth to make an ‘undercover’ survey of the main facets of postwar German life and viewpoints. During his enterprise he worked as a German alongside Germans in factories, on the docks, in a refugee camp and elsewhere. Equipped with false papers he sought objective answers to many questions including: refugees, anti-Semitism, morality, de-Nazification, religion, and nationalism.

The NYHT said at the time: ‘A fresh appraisal of the German question could only be obtained by a German and Mr Frank had all the exceptional qualifications necessary. We believe the result of his “undercover” work told in human, factual terms, is an important contribution to one of the great key problems of the postwar world … and incidentally it contains some unexpected revelations and dramatic surprises.’ The greatest of those surprises was Frank single-handedly tracking down and arresting the SS General ranked ‘fourth’ on the allies ‘most wanted’ list – and personally taking and transcribing the Nazi’s confession.

The Undercover Nazi Hunter not only reproduces Frank’s series of articles (as he wrote them) and a translation of the confession, which, until now, has never been seen in the public domain, it also reveals the fascinating behind-the-scenes story of a great American newspaper agonizing over how best to deal with this unique opportunity and these important exposés.

https://www.amazon.com/Undercover-Nazi-Hunter-Unmasking-Post-War/dp/1526738732/

https://www.amazon.com/Undercover-Nazi-Hunter-Subterfuge-Unmasking-ebook/dp/B07R56RS7G/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Undercover-Nazi-Hunter-Subterfuge-Unmasking-ebook/dp/B07R56RS7G/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Undercover-Nazi-Hunter-Hardback/p/15678

About the authors:

About Wolfe Frank

Born on St Valentine’s Day in 1913 and a strikingly handsome man WOLFE FRANK was irresistible to women. Married five times he had a multitude of affairs many of which he graphically describes in his candid posthumous autobiography Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom (published by Frontline Books). In a packed lifetime, other than being a gifted linguist, he was also at various times, a businessman, racing driver, skier, theatre impresario, actor, television and radio presenter, journalist, salesman, financier, restaurateur, and property developer.

About Paul Hooley

PAUL HOOLEY was born and educated in Surrey. He founded a printing company that grew to be ranked amongst the industry’s top 1%. He has been a director of a building society, a private hospital and companies involved in advertising, publishing, entertainment, finance, building, transport, property and engineering. He retired from business in 1990 since when he has devoted much of his time to studying, writing and lecturing on a wide range of historical and military subjects. A former town and district councillor, he was Mayor of Bedford in 1978. Amongst other involvements he has been a magistrate, a tax commissioner and a prison visitor. He has been married to Helen for over 50 years, has three children and now lives in Dorset. He was appointed a MBE in 2003.

You can check this article about Wolfe Frank for more information and to see some pictures:

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/1052540/wolfe-frank-nazis-nuremberg-trials-hitler-lieutenants

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have read and reviewed the fascinating Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom: The Autobiography of the Chief Interpreter at History’s Greatest Trials by Wolfe Frank ( you can check my review here) and when I heard there was a second book about Frank, centred on a series of articles about post-war Germany he wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, I had to read it as well. This book is also fascinating, but I missed more of Frank’s own voice, which made the previous book so distinctive and impossible to put down. On the other hand, I appreciated the work of the editor, who does a great job of providing background and trying to tie up loose ends.

The book includes several distinct parts. First, the preparation and background to the project. Although everybody seemed interested, getting everything in place in such a complex operation, as Frank was going undercover and there were many logistical complications to sort out — we must remember Germany was divided up into four zones under the control of different countries following the war. This part includes letters and documents of the time, and beyond its interest for Frank’s biography, it also provides a good insight into how newspapers and news organizations and syndication worked at the time. The editor also provides a good background into Frank’s personal history and his biography, which will be familiar to people who have read the previous book but means those who have not will easily get a sense of who Frank was and how he came about the project.

The second part is the articles as they were published at the time, The Hangover after Hitler series. Having read the previous book, it is clear that the articles were heavily edited, and Frank was writing under clear instructions. One cannot help but wonder what he would have written otherwise, but they are interesting as documents, not only of what was happening in Germany at the time, but also of what other countries wanted to know about Germany (mostly the USA), and how the different zones of post-WWII Germany were like. It sounds as if the different countries had completely different approaches to rebuilding and reorganising post-war Germany, and although we are all aware of what happened in the case of the Russian part, I had little idea of this in regard to the other regions before I read this book.

The third part is the confession of SS-Gruppenführer Waldermar Wappenhans, the SS General Frank discovered was still living in Germany after the war, in the British section of Germany, working for the British and living under a false identity. This is one of the most interesting sections of the book, and although the editor gives his own thoughts about it in the fourth part (and it makes perfect sense to think that Frank had a lot of influence in the way the “confession” was written), this man, who fought in both, WWI and WWII, and who in the confession comes across as somebody who never questioned his duty or what he had to do, and whose main interest was to go back to active duty (despite being repeatedly wounded) because that is what true men were supposed to do, provides an account of campaigns, weaponry, and also of agreements and disagreements between the different factions and actors that will delight anybody interested in the history of the period. He does not go into a lot of detail about his personal relationships or even his own reactions (although there are some light biographical moments, some that would horrify us [he casually recounts buying a young girl, with some other officers, in Haifa], some he seems to quickly skip by) and he depicts himself as somebody who speaks his mind no matter what, often resulting in his being moved and transferred to more risky posts. (I agree with the editor, who in part four writes that Wappenhans’s testimony “is more the autobiography of a brave warrior who unquestioningly obeyed the orders of superiors than the ‘confession’ of a Nazi wanted in connection with war crimes” (p. 282).

Part four, the aftermath, was the part I enjoyed the most. Here, the editor explains what happened and how the identity of Wappenhans came to be revealed (it seems Der Spiegel got hold of the information and revealed it on the same day Frank’s article came out, and there are clues as to where they might have got the information from), and also talks about some of the people involved and mentioned in the text and what happened to them. He also asks if Frank was working for British Intelligence, and makes a good case for it (it sure would explain a few things), and there is a final conundrum as well, as there were some drawings that might or might not have been by James Thurber that turned up in the file with the articles and documents. Personally, I like the drawings.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in post-WWII Germany, in finding more about Wolfe Frank (yes, we need a movie about him), interested in Wappenhans himself, and also in the workings of international newspapers in the late 1940s. I missed more of Frank’s own words, and if anybody reads this book first, I recommend you check Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom. It is a must read.

Thanks to Rosie Croft and Pen & Sword, thanks to the editor, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

 

 

 

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NUREMBERG’S VOICE OF DOOM: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE CHIEF INTERPRETER AT HISTORY’S GREATEST TRIALS by Wolfe Frank (@penswordbooks) A must read

Hi all:

I bring you a fabulous book about one of those people that seem too big for everyday life.

Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom: The Autobiography of the Chief Interpreter at History’s Greatest Trials by Wolfe Frank

Nuremberg’s Voice of Doom: The Autobiography of the Chief Interpreter at History’s Greatest Trials by Wolfe Frank

The memoirs of Wolfe Frank, which lay hidden in an attic for twenty-five years, are a unique and highly moving behind-the-scenes account of what happened at Nuremberg – ‘the greatest trial in history’ – seen through the eyes of a witness to the whole proceedings. They include important historical information never previously revealed. In an extraordinarily explicit life story, Frank includes his personal encounters, inside and outside the courtroom, with all the war criminals, particularly Hermann Goering. This, therefore, is a unique record that adds substantially to what is already publicly known about the trials and the defendants.

Involved in proceedings from day one, Frank translated the first piece of evidence, interpreted the judges’ opening statements, and concluded the trials by announcing the sentences to the defendants (and several hundred million radio listeners) – which earned him the soubriquet ‘Voice of Doom’.

Prior to the war, Frank, who was of Jewish descent, was a Bavarian playboy, an engineer, a resistance worker, a smuggler (of money and Jews out of Germany) and was declared to be ‘an enemy of the State to be shot on sight’. Having escaped to Britain, he was interned at the outbreak of war but successfully campaigned for his release and eventually allowed to enlist in the British Army – in which he rose to the rank of Captain. Unable to speak English prior to his arrival, by the time of the Nuremberg trials he was described as the ‘finest interpreter in the world’.

A unique character of extreme contrasts Frank was a playboy, a risk taker and an opportunist. Yet he was also a man of immense courage, charm, good manners, integrity and ability. He undertook the toughest assignment imaginable at Nuremberg to a level that was ‘satisfactory alike to the bench, the defence and the prosecution’ and he played a major role in materially shortening the ‘enormously difficult procedures’ by an estimated three years.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07J9RH8TQ/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Nurembergs-Voice-of-Doom-Hardback/p/15472

About the Author

Born on St Valentine’s Day 1913, WOLFE FRANK was a strikingly handsome man who proved to be irresistible to women. Post Nuremberg he single-handedly tracked down and apprehended one of the ‘most wanted’ Nazi criminals and in a packed lifetime he was, at various times, a financial advisor, racing driver, theatre impresario, broadcaster, journalist, salesman, businessman, restaurateur, skier, and property developer.

PAUL HOOLEY was born and educated in Surrey. He founded a design and printing company that grew to be ranked amongst the industry’s top 1%. He has also been a director of a building society, a private hospital and companies involved in advertising, publishing, finance, building, transport, property and engineering. He retired from business in 1990 since when he has devoted his life to studying, writing and lecturing on a wide range of historical and military subjects. A former town and district councillor, he was Mayor of Bedford in 1978. Amongst other involvements he has been a magistrate, a tax commissioner and a prison visitor. He has been married to Helen for over fifty years, has three children and now lives in Dorset. He was appointed a MBE in 2003.

You can check this article about Wolfe Frank for more information and to see some pictures:

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/1052540/wolfe-frank-nazis-nuremberg-trials-hitler-lieutenants

My review:

My thanks to Rosie Croft and to Pen & Sword for sending me a hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review and I can’t recommend enough.

Often, when we read books on important historical subjects we feel we have learned something that others should also know about, something that should not be forgotten by the new generations, to avoid mistakes being repeated or to give credit to people who played an important role in ensuring a better future for all. This book combines both of these aspects, and much more.

Having read about the Nuremberg Trials, watched movies, and seen them mentioned often in other settings, I was curious when I saw this book. I’d never paid much heed to the role of the interpreters at the trials, but now that I’ve been doing translations for a while (and I know it’s a very different type of work), I’ve become much more aware of how important accuracy is, and in that case, with all the legal requirements and speed also playing a part, even more so. The fact that Wolfe Frank was the main and star interpreter (not that he ever says so himself, but it is an easy conclusion from the accolades and endorsements he received) at the trials would have made it an interesting book already, but his adventures and the man are fascinating in their own right.

The story of why the book had never come to light before (that links to his final years and his sad circumstances) sounds like the stuff of fiction: the memoirs of a very important and fascinating man locked up in an attic, with nobody fully aware of what was there, for twenty-five years. And then, what a life! If this was a work of fiction many readers would think that the author had gone too far stretching the suspension of disbelief. It feels as if Frank had lived several lives in one, and they all make for a very compelling read.

Paul Hooley does a great job of interfering little with the original materials, while providing sufficient information and background to ensure that the memoirs read smoothly, and we don’t need to keep searching for explanations of terminology or for details about people and places mentioned. His vast amount of research is evident but non-intrusive, and he also includes pictures to do with Frank’s life and with the trials. They all add to the reading experience, and I found particularly enlightening the drawings indicating how the courtroom worked, the places all the key players occupied, and the annotated pictures, originally from other books. Mostly, Hooley allows Frank’s words to speak for themselves, and he comes across as an intelligent, funny, witty, sharp, and matter-of-fact man, who was charming, could turn his hand at anything and do it well, knew how to get his own way often, for whom Justice (with capital letters) was truly important, but who had no great respect for rules, regulations or authority for their own sake, and could not abide fools or bullies gladly. He loved adventures and living in the fast-lane, but not when it came to putting other people’s lives at risk. He lived through some terrible events and put up with things that many of us can’t even imagine, but he maintained his dignity and is a perfect example of grace under pressure.

I cannot summarise the whole book and his life in a review, and in fact there is another book about his later adventures in Germany, which I have already secured a copy of, but if you love spy books, and are a fun of James Bond (I am not, by the way), you will want to read this book. He was not a spy, at least in the sense we have become familiar with through books and movies, but he did many of the things we would expect a spy to do, and many more. The part of the book about the trial is fascinating in its own right. The setting up of simultaneous translation, which had not been successfully used or established before, is a must for anybody interested in how international courts and organisations work at a practical level. Even though Frank makes light of many things, it is clear that he was serious about this, and he took the experience to heart (just imagine having to listen to hours and hours of descriptions of the crimes committed, while trying to do a job, and you will get an idea of how harrowing that must have been). He talks about Otto Ohlendorf, Chief of the Special Action Group in the East —this was part of the Subsequent Proceedings where he was the Chief Interpreter— and explains why he was one of the most chilling individuals he had to listen to, his pride when explaining his method of setting up the mobile gas chambers and perfecting them to make sure his staff were not affected mentally by the killings. He evidently thought he had done a great job and remained proud of it. Here is one of the few times when Frank explains how affected he was by it all:

There were days, such as that, when after my day in court I could not eat and I had to drown myself in alcohol before I could sleep; days when my reactions to anything or anyone German were not normal.

There were inevitable emotional reactions. What has remained is the realisation that a lifetime is too short for such horrors to be filed away in the annals of history as something destined to be forgotten. Forgiven, perhaps —forgotten— never. I flinch at the sickening sentimentality that demands the release of a Rudolf Hess, the application of the statutes of limitation. (Frank, 2018, p. 166)

I couldn’t agree more, and indeed it is a shame when one reads what happened to him at the end (when he couldn’t stay in his accommodation and due to his ill health he could not keep working) that he was not honoured and remembered as he deserved. At least one can hope that this book will make people become aware of him and his role, even if it is a case of ‘too little, too late’.

He was popular with women and his cavalier attitude can be problematic to read nowadays, but he recognised his own responsibility in the matter, and he does not appear dismissive or prejudiced when talking about women in a professional capacity. He could be a rogue (if we were to use a typical romantic novel definition of the word), but it seems fair to assume that he was a charming one. As Hooley very aptly summarises:

In short Wolfe Frank seems to have been a mixture of Casanova, with whom he had much in common, Cary Grant, the Scarlet Pimpernel, James Bond and Oliver Reed; and he had that rare ability to be a man’s man —a worldly-wise, educated gentleman who possesses class and admits his faults— as well as being a ladies’ man.  (Frank, 2018, p. 178)

This is an important book, a page-turner, a book that moves at fast pace, full of adventure, historical detail, and with a protagonist that even the most skilled fiction writers would struggle to improve on. Read it and recommend it. I’m sure you will.

And as a closing, I had to leave you with a lighter passage, and one that I, who lived in the UK for many years but could never fully understand the attraction cricket held for many, had to smile at. Here he had just arrived in the UK after one of his lucky escapes, was starving and hoping his friend would take him for a meal on arrival, but he was dragged instead to watch a cricket match. He’d never experienced one before.

At the match I found myself sitting next to a teacher who wanted to practice his German. For some time, I gazed at a group of men who, at first, seemed to be in doubt about what to do with themselves. They finally started to throw a ball about half-heartedly and now and then one of them seemed to arouse himself from his lethargy, to take an awkward swing at the ball with a large, clumsy lump of timber. Finally, I felt that I required an explanation. I turned to my neighbour and asked him when they would start to play? ‘Heavens’ he said with an expression of complete horror on his face, ‘what do you mean? They’ve been playing for over an hour… and this is a frightfully exciting match!’ (Frank, 2018, p. 42)

Frank, W. (2018). Nuremberg’s voice of doom. The autobiography of the chief interpreter at history’s greatest trials. Barnsley, UK: Frontline Books (Pen & Sword).

Thanks to Rosie and Pen & Sword for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling. Ah, I’ll be away from the blog and my computer for a bit, so don’t worry if you don’t see any posts for a bit. I’ll be reading and recharging my batteries! Have a great Easter!

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