The Last Man in Berlin

 

Gaylord Dold (Sourcebooks)

 

(This column first appeared in the February 5, 2004 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)

 

In 1963 Hans Helmutt Kirst's *The Night of the Generals* was translated into English from its original German. (It was later made into an excellent motion picture with an all-star cast.) That thriller portrayed Nazis in a believable context and deeply condemned their actions. Gaylord Dold's *The Last Man in Berlin* stands in stark contrast to Kirst's novel. Dold confuses character with caricature: he knows only black and white. Each of the villainous Nazis is a sex-crazed pervert (even the episodes of their individual assaults on prostitutes are strikingly similar); the hero is an army officer of "old family", the usual Nordic blond; the heroine and the chief-of-detectives are equally high-minded Jews under attack. There is no shading here and even the rise of Hitler to power that provides the background of the novel is dissected in terms of cartoonish portrayals of the senior figures. I certainly make no case for Nazi leaders (I was in the Navy opposing them for almost four years) and I am deeply disturbed by the willingness of the German people to accept and even join in their terrible treatment of minorities, but this book provides no insight whatsoever into their behavior. By the time I got well into the story, the character assassination of the villains had accumulated to the point where I found myself ready to root for the Nazi perverts. If there was ever a candidate for book burning, here it is.