Monday, April 28, 2014

"A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin" by Scott Andrew Selby (2014)

This is the bizarre but true story of Paul Ogorzow, one of the world’s most infamous serial killers. It is also the story of the Nazi’s; arguably the world’s biggest serial killers; and their attempt to find him in wartime Berlin. Apparently it was an “It’s okay to kill Jews on a mass scale, but don’t mess with our women” type of mentality.

It took over two years to catch this monster, in large measure because the Nazi’s couldn’t be perceived as having been stumped by the perpetrator. At first he was considered to be a Jew; why not? But then, realizing that meant the regime was not able to keep the people safe from Jews and other minorities, they began to focus on the hunt for the real killer.

The only thing they had to go on was that all the crimes; which began as nuisance type of offenses; had escalated to rape and murder. The crimes had all taken place along one line of the Berlin train system, known as the S-Bahn. The killer lived in the area as well as worked there.

The blacked out streets of the “garden area” where half of the crimes occurred, were dark for the blackout necessitated by the Allies relentless bombing. It was literally pitch black, making identification almost impossible. The living victims could only describe a vague sort of uniform. Germany was rife with uniforms at the time so it could have been any number of people.

The main concern of the Nazi’s was that the women would be too frightened to report to their jobs at the factories where the munitions and other necessities of war were manufactured. Moreover, what were the men at the front supposed to think when they heard that their loved ones were not safe at home? Would they desert? Would you blame them?

All of these things combined to keep the news from reaching the public; until the killer shifted his modus again; this time to early Sunday mornings when it was still dark. The meager clues that the authorities had all began to take shape and form. They finally had a suspect.

In the end, absent any of the modern means of detection; and with scant clues to go on; this investigation boiled down to good, old fashioned detective work.  The author’s account of the final interrogation is reminiscent of the tension found in Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart.”

Plainly written; almost too simply it seems at first; this book is a study of one particular case. But is also an insight to what justice was like under the local authorities in Nazi Germany. From all indications it was surprisingly normal if you were of Aryan descent. Paul Ogorzow was ultimately found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death by guillotine. This was a fascinating book.

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