Nuremberg – The Reckoning
by William F. Buckley Jr.
Harcourt, Inc., 2002, 366pp
Click here to see the rest of this review
On the evening of August 31, 1939 the German ocean liner SS Europa left Hamburg Germany for New York. On board was thirteen year old Sebastian Reinhard and his Mother, Annabelle. Annabelle Reinhard was an American citizen as her Mother, Henrietta Chapin, had left her native Austria to marry an American. Born and raised in the U.S., Annabelle had met Axel Reinhard, a German student at MIT, and had married and moved to Germany with him. As a result, their son, Sebastian, was a dual citizen and this was his first trip to the U.S.
On the surface, the trip was to be Axel's annual vacation with Annabelle planning to stay an extra month with her Mother and Sebastain remaining at his Grandmother's to attend high school in the U.S. The family was happy in Germany but as Hitler became more radical and talk of war more frequent, Henrietta became increasingly concerned and these concerns were shared to a lesser extent by Annabelle. The deciding moment came when Henrietta sent a letter to Axel at his office in which she divulged information from her past which, while unknown to Annabelle, put the Reinhard family at risk. The Reinhard's immediately made plans for the vacation. Rent was paid on the apartment, only things needed for travel were packed and roundtrip tickets purchased – all to keep up the charade that this was to be a "vacation". But the plan was to stay in America.
Unfortunately, the Gestapo had discovered Henrietta's secret when they had searched her father's home in Innsbruck on a different matter after the Nazi occupation of Austria. On the morning of departure, Axel was called before the local Gestapo and ordered to stay behind. Knowing that Annabelle would not leave without him, Axel contrived with the Gestapo to board the ship and slip off just before sailing.
So begins the story of how Sebastain grows to maturity with his mother and grandmother in Phoenix while his father remains behind in Germany. As war rages, Sebastain is torn between cheering American victories with his American school mates and knowing that his father, former friends and the places of his youth were in the path of Allied bombers. Further conflict arises when a letter is received from the Nazi War Ministry informing his mother that his father, who had been unable to communicate more than a couple of letters with them, had been killed in "the service of the Fatherland".
Sebastain is drafted into the U.S. Army upon graduation from high school, becomes an officer and is sent to Germany as an interpreter for the International Military Tribunal trying the Nazi leaders for war crimes in Nuremberg. He is assigned to the staff charged with prosecuting SS General Kurt Waldemar Amadeus who had supervised the killing of about a quarter of a million people in the concentration camp he commanded. It is through working on this case and talking with Amadeus that Sebastain learns the secrets of his family's past and comes to terms with the conflict of his divided loyalties during his teens.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent