Ballantine, Jul 2001, 23.95, 320 pp.
In 1942, ten men wearing SS uniforms attend a dinner party at the Thereslenstadt Camp in Czechoslovakia. Inmate Gerta Wahljek is ordered to take a picture of the event and make a copy for each man to keep as a memento of the evening. Gerta retains one picture for herself and when the war ends she takes the photograph with her to America.
Over the next five decades, Gerta tracks down nine of the participants with only Friedrich Schillinghaussen remaining unaccounted for during the entire time until now. She thinks she has located Friedrich in the cardiac gerontology unit of a Boston hospital. She tells her son of her discovery and he uses his political clout to launch an investigation into the life of Freddy Schiller, a person with no documented past and currently married to a Jewish rights activist. Will the inquiries prove Gerta correct and substantiate the activities of a man in love during wartime or will it turn into a witch-hunt of an elderly man?
THE LAST MAN is a fascinating story that demonstrates that morality is often jello-like and difficult to grasp, making it impossible to serve as judge and jury when choices are done under horrific circumstances. The climax is a believable shocker as Charles Kearney makes what seemingly is impossible possible.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner