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Book Title: Dossier Odessa|
The author of the book: Frederick Forsyth
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 511 KB
Date of issue: January 1978
ISBN 13: 9788804285229
Read full description of the books Dossier Odessa:‘The Odessa File’ from Frederick Forsyth is one of the most successful and engaging thrillers written with the hunt for Nazi’s after the World War II as the central theme. The novel is a clever blend of historical facts and real life personnel’s with a fictitious story line and is written with the high level of detailing and decent pace that is usually associated with the works of Forsyth.
Forsyth as an author of realistic thrillers
Frederick Forsyth, CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), was born on 25 August 1938, and was a RAF pilot and journalist before becoming an author of high octane thrillers. [Image Source]
In an interview given to BBC 2 months back, Forsyth revealed his associations with MI6 as an ‘asset’, when he disclosed that he was reporting back to the ‘Secret Intelligence Service’ during his stint as a freelance reporter covering Biafran War in Nigeria during the late 1960s.
”For the last year of the Biafran War I was sending... both journalistic reports to the media and other reports to my new friend” [refering to the intelligence officer who approached him to report back about the truth of the situation regarding the death of children during the civil war] “The Foreign Office was denying that there were any dying children and they were passionate in supporting the dictatorship in Lagos, and it was, oddly enough, MI6 that had a different viewpoint.”
These associations and access to inside stories would have certainly helped him in his background researches while writing his books. The research that is undertaken, along with the real life experience he had as a journalist is noticeable in his works and the technical detailing that he employs while describing locations, events, tradecrafts and equipments makes his thrillers - which have a feeling of non-fiction investigative reports - realistic and highly engaging. The most noticeable realistic detailing in his books are seen in the scenes in which the tradecraft of espionage is employed; – the methods used for communication between the agents and their handlers like use of dead drops, one-time-pad based encryption; the methods employed by assassins and operatives to infiltrate through national borders; the methods employed by agents in acquiring arms once behind enemy lines; the use of technology for electronic eavesdropping and visual surveillance; descriptions of the use of shell companies usually hiding behind a crazy trail of paperwork’s looping back through continents by both intelligence agencies and nefarious organizations for fronting their operations and for funneling large volumes of hard to trace money – Forsyth’s use of real life methods makes these descriptions add to the immense enjoyment factor of his books.
In an interview that he gave to ‘The Guardian’ in October, 2015, he expressed that he was getting more and more detached from the technology and tradecraft of modern times and he felt like a dinosaur while doing his research for the 2013 thriller, ‘The Kill List’.
“The world is becoming very technically complex. I can’t understand half of it...
...The way GCHQ do it now, the way they are listening to half a snatched conversation in Yemen; the way a man in Nevada can steer a drone into a car containing a top ISIL man and he is gone in a puff of smoke perceived by none in the middle of nowhere... it is a new warfare beyond me, and past me. I am another generation.”
Taking account of ‘The Guardian’ interview, his best works in my opinion as a fan, is those novels, which relate to the timeframe of the cold war and works related to events before the cold war. He was mixing solid facts, history, his experience and his imagination to create genre redefining thriller novels. It may be his close association with the ‘scene’ as a journalist and as an intelligence ‘asset’ during that timeframe, which make those novels stand out brightly among his works.
The Odessa File – The Novel
Published in 1972, The Odessa File describes the story of ‘Peter Miller’, a fictitious German reporter and his quest in tracking down ‘Eduard Roschmann’ - the commandant of the Riga ghetto during 1943 and who was responsible for numerous murders and other atrocities – who had managed to escape from Germany in 1945 after the war. From a chance encounter that Peter Millar has with the diaries of ‘Salomon Tauber’, a Jewish Holocaust-survivor who has committed suicide, he comes to know about Tauber’s life, his stories in the Riga Ghetto and about the atrocities performed by "The Butcher of Riga", Eduard Roschmann.
Miller’s attempts in persuading government machinery in tracking down ‘Roschmann’, is turned down without much explanations. So he decides to trace ‘Roschmann’ himself and he is driven by both the guilt that he feels for the acts of his forefathers and by a personal motive, which adds to the suspense of the story. His search for ‘Roschmann’ pulls him in to the gray world of secret societies, assassins, vigilante agents, intelligence agencies, deception and personal revenge, and with the detailing and flair associated with Forsyth’s style of narration, the reader is in for a thrilling ride made out of history and fragments of imagination.
The first seeds of idea behind ‘The Odessa File’ came to Forsyth in 1970, when he was given a three-book deal by ‘Hutchinson’, his publisher after the successful submission of the manuscript of ‘The Day of Jackal’. Furiously searching his mind for a theme, he decided to base his new book on the rumor stories he had heard about ‘Odessa’ - a global organization, which specialized in supporting ex-Nazi’s – from his journalist days.
“…let’s think manhunt… Nazis… manhunt… Eichmann… been done, done to death, can’t make a novel on Eichmann, ten years ago, let’s try something different…
…a story about a notorious and savagely brutal Nazi camp commandant, who has disappeared after 1945… a hunt for his is being carried out, not by the Jews or the West German authorities, but by one single [German] reporter, an investigative reporter… he’s just so utterly horrified by what his forefathers did that he decides to hunt the man down himself.”
[Source: ‘Hunting Evil’ by Guy Walters]
Simon Wiesenthal [Source]
Forsyth visited Simon Wiesenthal - Holocaust survivor, an Austrian writer and Nazi hunter, who dedicated most of his life to tracking down and gathering information on fugitive Nazi war criminals – in Vienna for gaining more insights into the project that he was undertaking and it was Wiesenthal who gave Forsyth the idea to use ‘Eduard Roschmann’ as the ‘savagely brutal Nazi camp commandant’ in his novel. Wiesenthal, himself makes an appearance as a character within the novel and it is from him that Miller gains knowledge about "ODESSA".
The “Butcher of Riga”
The protagonist of our novel comes to know about ‘Eduard Roschmann’ and the life at the Riga Ghetto through the diaries of ‘Tauber’. Riga, the capital of Latvia was a main centre for Latvian Jews with many cultural, religious, social and political institutions. In mid 1941, Germany invaded Soviet Union and within days Latvia was under German occupation.
From the very first day of the occupation, the systematic persecution of Latvian Jews began and a whole string of crimes and atrocities by both the occupying German forces, especially the task force ‘Einsatzgruppe A’ and Latvian collaborators like 'Arajs Kommando' (view spoiler)[ Arajs Kommando were a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police subordinated to the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst and one among the most notorious killing units during the Holocaust; took part in the mass execution of Jews from the Riga ghetto, and several thousand Jews deported from Germany, in the Rumbula massacre of November 30 and December 8, 1941 (hide spoiler)].
A map which accompanied a secret report entitled "Jewish Executions Carried Out by Einsatzgruppe A", prepared by their commander Franz Walter Stahlecker. It shows the number of Jews executed in the Baltic States and Belarus in 1941. Latvia is marked with 35,238 killings.
All Jews were registered and the Jewish workers were concentrate in a ghetto and one anti-Jewish decree after another followed and by October 25, 1941 all Jews - about 30,000 - were forcefully concentrated in the small 16-block area in the Maskavas Forštate suburb of Riga. Everything valuable were stolen from them and the Ghetto was sealed off with a high barbed wire fence and Latvian guards were stationed around the ghetto perimeter. Around 30,000 people had to live in the extremely horrible conditions of this compound, which was totally cutoff from the outside world.
Riga ghetto in 1942 [Source: German Federal Archive]
Then began a series of massacres and on November 30 and December 8 and 9, the Nazis shot about 27,500 Latvian Jews from the ghetto at pre-dug pits in the nearby forest of Rumbula. The few survivors who remained were formed into a small Ghetto. After the massacre, in the next three months, trainloads of Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were transported into the original Ghetto. In March 1942, about 3740 of these new inhabitants – mostly elderly, the sick and infirm and children – were lured for relocation with a false promise that they would receive easier work at a resettlement facility near a former town in Latvia called Dünamünde. Actually such a facility never existed and they were trucked to woods north of Riga, shot, and buried in previously dug mass graves.
‘ Eduard Roschmann’ was one of the chief perpetrators behind this war crime incident known as the ‘Dünamünde Action’. In January 1943, Roschmann became commandant of the Riga ghetto. Even though he is not described as a psychopath like his predecessors, Roschmann too was a murderer and was responsible for numerous murders and other atrocities within the camp. In 1944, sensing the approach of the Soviet forces the SS personals of the Latvian concentration camp systems escape to Danzig by sea taking with them several thousand concentration camp inmates, most of whom perished during the journey.
He was arrested in 1945, but managed to escape war crime charges by disguising himself as an ordinary POW and was released in 1947. He was again arrested after being identified as the SS member but in 1948 he managed to the prison and fled Germany to Argentina onboard a ship using faked Red Cross identification papers.
Argentine identification document believed to be issued to Eduard Roschmann, under the alias "Federico Wegener"
In 1960 he was charged with several cases of war crime atrocities and a warrant was issued in his name. A lot of diplomatic tussle between Germany & Argentina ensued demanding his extradition, but before anything definite happened in Argentina regarding his extradition, he managed to escape to Paraguay and died there in 1977. Some historians argue that Roschmann was not as blood-thirsty and notorious as Forsyth has portrayed in the book and the actual “Butcher of Riga” was Rudolf Lange, the commander of the SD in Riga.
Whatever may the truth regarding him being called as the “Butcher of Riga”, it is a fact that while Roschmann was the commandant of the Riga Ghetto a lot of mass and individual murders happened both inside and outside the Ghetto.
The Jon Voight starring, 1974 movie adaptation of 'The Odessa File' directed by Ronald Neame. It is believed Roschmann was tipped off originally to the Argentine police by someone who watched the movie at the cinemas
The book and the 1974 movie adaptation based on the novel played a large part in making his war crimes known to the whole world.
The secret network of ODESSA; is it real?
When it comes to the existence of The ODESSA ('Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen') meaning “Organization of Former SS Members”, there are two opinions. There are people who believe such an organization exists or existed and a large number of historians who believe the claim is purely a fiction. It was supposedly formed as a Nazi network set up towards the end of World War II by a group of SS - Schutzstaffel, the paramilitary organization which operated under Hitler and the Nazi party - officers as an organization that can co-ordinate and facilitate the escape of SS members after war from being captured and prosecuted.
It was Wiesenthal, who made the claim about such an organization when he recounted his talks with an Abwehr officer during the Nuremberg trials and descriptions about this organization is found in his memoirs. Claims about ODESSA gained global popularity when Forsyth used the information provided by Wiesenthal about the organization in ‘The Odessa File’. But the actual existence of such an organization with the name ODESSA was never proved and many historians believe that such an organization did not exist.
But that doesn’t mean that such networks that helped former Nazi members and SS officers to escape from Germany did not exist at all. Many such loosely structured organizations, resembling ‘old-boy networks’ did exist and they provided financial, documentation, transportation and settlement assistance as part of the escape of a large number of former Nazi members just after the war. Many of these groups had no central co-ordination or had reaches world-wide; they operated as small cells which assisted each other in fleeing from Germany after war and many utilized the utter chaos that existed in Europe just after the war to flee to many parts of South America, Europe and Middle East. Some of them slipped out with the full knowledge and benevolences of allied powers – oh! Yes, that too sure happened.
One interesting fact is the flood of ‘Nazi’ sightings – reports of sightings of wanted war criminals -, which happened in the years following the war and from the late 40s, 50s and later years; most of these sightings were induced by hysteria or were fake, but there were many actual sightings too and dossier after dossier of heavily redacted but de-classified documents from intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies across the globe, point to the fact that many of the most wanted Nazi members managed to safely transport themselves to all corners of the globe just after the war.
Now coming back to the novel:
The level of technical detailing and history may feel a bit of overdone for some readers, but this is a true classic work in the thriller genre, that can give fans of historic thrillers volumes of fun.
Note: ‘The Odessa File’ was read almost two decades back, but after a recent acquaintance with Forsyth’s reminiscences through ‘The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue’ and his revelations of being part of the world of espionage – almost all of his fans suspected this for a long time due to the highly realistic nature of his thrillers -, I felt an urge to add some of my notes to the books I have rated on GR from the author. This is the first review in this series. Written: Nov - 9 - 2015
Read information about the authorFrederick Forsyth, CBE is an English author and occasional political commentator. He is best known for thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, The Fourth Protocol, The Dogs of War, The Devil's Alternative, The Fist of God, Icon, The Veteran, Avenger, The Afghan, and recently The Cobra and The Kill List.
The son of a furrier, he was born in Ashford, Kent, educated at Tonbridge School and later attended the University of Granada. He became one of the youngest pilots in the Royal Air Force at 19, where he served on National Service from 1956 to 1958. Becoming a journalist, he joined Reuters in 1961 and later the BBC in 1965, where he served as an assistant diplomatic correspondent. From July to September 1967, he served as a correspondent covering the Nigerian Civil War between the region of Biafra and Nigeria. He left the BBC in 1968 after controversy arose over his alleged bias towards the Biafran cause and accusations that he falsified segments of his reports. Returning to Biafra as a freelance reporter, Forsyth wrote his first book, The Biafra Story in 1969.
Forsyth decided to write a novel using similar research techniques to those used in journalism. His first full length novel, The Day of the Jackal, was published in 1971 and became an international bestseller and gained its author the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. It was later made into a film of the same name.
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