The Odessa File is an explosive journey of one man’s search for retribution of a crime and crimes committed decades ago. The Nazi’s state sponsored genocide of millions of people is relived through this book, specifically in the journal of the concentration camp survivor Salomon Tauber. I am surprised to hear young people announce they have no idea of the atrocities during World War Two – it is shocking to think the occurrences of the Holocaust are gradually becoming forgotten over time. We owe it to those people who lost their lives, their families and their freedom to the Nazi occupation to never forget what they went through. The Odessa File, is a disturbing tale with its foundations in actual events. This is not light reading although I would highly recommend you read this book. It is not escapism but a fictional account of a terrible atrocity that occurred just over half a century ago.
You live out the story through the character Peter Miller – a freelance German journalist. When he sniffs out a story his whole life becomes consumed with reaching a conclusion. At the beginning of the book he uncovers something called the ODESSA FILE (veiled in secrecy, the file contains information concerning the relocation and repatriation of senior German officers. Their identities a closely guarded secret allowing their escape from attempts at retribution and prosecution following World War Two.)
As briefly mentioned earlier, Peter the journalist, after reading the journal of an elderly jewish survivor of the Riga ghetto (Tauber) he decides to track down a particular Captain Eduard Roschmann commonly known as ‘the Butcher of Riga’ who was observed killing a German army officer. When the authorities fail to show any interest that the Butcher of Riga is alive, Peter takes matters into his own hands by attempting to infiltrate the ODESSA. With the assistance of the Israeli secret agency Mossad Peter completely changes his identity and becomes immersed into that of a former SS sergeant. The training is long and hard going but in the end Peter succeeds in pulling the wool over the eyes of the Odessa. The story reaches its climax when Peter Miller confronts the Butcher of Riga for his crimes.
This is one of those books that are heavily based in historical fact – the Holocaust was something I knew very little about when I read The Odessa File but have since read a lot on the subject. Even the ‘Nazi Hunter’ war criminal investigator Simon Wiesanthal was introduced as one of the characters in the book as our protagonist Peter went to him when the German authorities refused to become involved in the bringing of Eduard Roschmann to trial for his crimes of over thirty years ago.
Other great books by Frederick Forsyth include The Day of the Jackal and The Dogs of War.