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Inside the Fourth Reich

Inside the Fourth Reich

Erich Erdstein


It's hard to take this book seriously: I only came to read it after finding in a second-hand bookshop for 20p. There may be a grain of truth to some of it, but it's most eye-catching assertions have been contradicted by reality.

Erdstein positions himself as being central to one of the war's most critical early incidents: the Battle of the River Plate, where he records his suggestion to the British embassy that they fake news of the an impending arrival of a British battle fleet to spook the captain of the Graf Spee into scuttling his ship – which he obligingly does. Not content with this, Erdstein manages to uncover a cache of weapons buried by the crew in place of their fallen comrades. These early successes set him up for an extended career in espionage and (later) law enforcement, first in Uruguay and Argentina, and later in Brazil. It is here that he encounters both Martin Bormann and Joseph Mengele, managing to shoot the latter dead.

So far so good except... We now know that Bormann died in Berlin at the end of the war, an eye-witness story confirmed by DNA evidence, which calls Erdstein's assertion of a fingerprint match somewhat into question. We also know that Mengele was identified (again) by his DNA, and that he died while swimming, not from a gunshot.

This could just be a case of adding some eye candy to round-out a narrative, but it does call into question the rest of the book, which would actually (if true) stand as an interesting, if not particularly gripping, account of police work against real Nazis in South America in the war's aftermath.

1/5. Finished 27 December 2016.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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