The best books about war criminals

7 authors have picked their favorite books about war criminals and why they recommend each book.

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The Huntress

By Kate Quinn,

Book cover of The Huntress

From a small office in Mariahilferstrasse, former reporter turned Nazi hunter Ian Graham exercises the war’s demons by narrowing his gaze on infamous war criminal Die Jägerin. While the action eventually moves to America in a cat and mouse chase.  Ian’s time in the occupied city, a side trip to Salzburg, and even a trip up the famous Riesenrad ferris-wheel are highlights of this atmospheric historical read proving that the shadows of Hitler’s Vienna and leftover Nazi sympathizers can be found under every uprooted cobblestone. 

Who am I?

I am the author of the Herringford and Watts mysteries, the Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries, and the Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese-set romances. I am also the author of The London Restoration. My non-fiction includes Dream, Plan and Go: A Travel Guide to Inspire Independent Adventure and A Very Merry Holiday Movie Guide. I live in Toronto, Canada.

I wrote...

The Mozart Code

By Rachel McMillan,

Book cover of The Mozart Code

What is my book about?

Lady Sophia Huntington Villiers works with Alan Turing’s Bombe Machines at Bletchley Park during the war attests. As part of Simon Barre’s covert team in post-war Vienna, she uses her charm and code name Starling to infiltrate the world of relics. When several influential men charge her with finding the death mask of Mozart, Sophie wonders if there is more than the composer’s legacy and finds herself drawn to potential answers in Prague.

Simon Barrington, the illegitimate heir of one of Sussex’s oldest estates, used the previous war to hide his insecurities about his past. He is in love with Sophie Villiers, and a marriage of convenience has always kept her close. Until now, when Sophie’s mysterious client in Prague forces him to wonder if her allegiance to him—and their cause—is in question.

The Nazi's Granddaughter

By Silvia Foti,

Book cover of The Nazi's Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal

While the author and I came from different sides of the same fence, I found myself empathizing with her deathbed promise, her fears, her worries, her self-doubt, and her commitment to finding, and eventually exposing, the truth. Setting out to write what should have been a fairly ‘easy’ biographical tribute to her late grandfather – hailed as a Lithuanian hero- she discovered - and uncovered - details and documents which shattered her world and confirmed “the gossip.” She began to doubt the stories she was told as a child and the people who told them- both in her Lithuanian-American neighborhood and back in the old country. What a page-turner…what agony and pain…until she finally made her courageous decision. Bravo, Silvia.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version of the Holocaust. There were very few survivors from Lithuania, and Foti’s book helps…

Who am I?

Born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War 2, Ettie immigrated with her parents to the USA. She grew up and was educated in New York City and Pennsylvania and immigrated to Israel after completing graduate school. After retiring from a career in international schools in 6 countries, she currently resides in Arizona with her husband. She is a Board member for the Phoenix Holocaust Association and devotes much time to giving presentations to youth and adults worldwide. 

I wrote...

A Holocaust Memoir of Love & Resilience: Mama's Survival from Lithuania to America

By Ettie Zilber,

Book cover of A Holocaust Memoir of Love & Resilience: Mama's Survival from Lithuania to America

What is my book about?

With the Nazi occupation of Kovno (Lithuania), her life changed forever. Zlata Santocki Sidrer was Jewish, but she survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Gone was her normal life and her teenage dream of becoming a doctor. Instead, she witnessed untold deprivations, massacres, imprisonment, hunger, and slave labor before being transported to the Stutthof Concentration Camp. Her story of the death march is a testament to her fighting spirit and the limits of human endurance. Yet the challenges did not end with liberation.

Lovingly compiled from recorded interviews and researched by her eldest daughter, Ettie, this is an account of a remarkably resilient woman who raised herself out of the ashes after unimaginable hardship and sorrow. She found love and happiness where none could be expected — a secret marriage in the ghetto and life-saving friendships. She describes escapes, dangerous border crossings, and reunifications.

The Ratline

By Philippe Sands,

Book cover of The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive

The Ratline tells the story of Nazi war criminal Otto von Wachter. The information about Wachter is gleaned from Wachter’s wife’s detailed diary and Sands’s meticulous gathering of information about him. After the war, Wachter attempts to escape prosecution through the Ratline, the route that numerous Nazi criminals took by escaping to South America. This part of the book is absolutely fascinating and reads like a spy thriller. The intrigue of who helps who, who seems to help whom, secret agents, secret double agents, and the maneuverings of the United States, Britain, and Russia leaves the mind reeling.

Who am I?

I have always known that my parents survived the Holocaust. I often listened in when they, my aunt, uncle, and their survivor friends would sit and talk of their lives during the Holocaust. I am the past president for the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s Association (now called the Phoenix Holocaust Association) and am on its Board and the Chair of its Education Committee. During this year of Covid, I have been instrumental in hosting numerous writers from around the world who have spoken, in Zoom, about their Holocaust writings and research.

I wrote...

The Birds Sang Eulogies: A Memoir

By Mirla G. Raz,

Book cover of The Birds Sang Eulogies: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Anna and Danny Geslewitz's incredible stories of survival are told by them, their daughter and their granddaughter, three generations affected by the Holocaust. Danny survived 6 years of starvation and brutality in the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, and seven slave labor camps. Danny's account of hell on earth leaves the reader horrified. Danny is near death when suddenly the Germans disappear. Living in the eastern Polish city of Lvov, Anna vividly describes life and death in the Lvov Ghetto. When it becomes clear that the Germans will kill every remaining Jew in the ghetto, she flees into Germany using Christian identity papers. After the war, Danny and Anna meet in Germany. Together, they begin a memorable new chapter of life in the US.

Anna was a poet. In her poetry included in the book, one can feel the sorrow, terror, and angst she experienced. The cover of the book shows Danny heading to the train that will take him to Auschwitz. How the author discovered this picture in 2017 is an incredible story in and of itself.

One Man's Justice

By Akira Yoshimura,

Book cover of One Man's Justice

Set in the years immediately following Japan’s surrender in WWII, this less well-known novel offers insight into how some Japanese soldiers saw their behavior: not as war criminals, but as acting in retaliation for American bombing raids. The story should not be read as an exoneration of Japanese atrocities, but rather as a window into the much larger problem of understanding an enemy’s perspective. Warning: this perspective shift is sure to make you uncomfortable, forcing you to revisit some assumptions about the “Good War.” 

Who am I?

I am a historian of international conflict who focuses on understanding the enemy. For most of my career, I have studied why we so often misread others, and how those misperceptions lead to war. The current crisis in Ukraine is just one more example of how the parties involved misunderstood each other. I believe that if we could improve this one ability, we would substantially lessen the likelihood, frequency, and severity of war.

I wrote...

A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind

By Zachary Shore,

Book cover of A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind

What is my book about?

More than 2000 years ago the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu advised us to know our enemies. The question has always been how. In A Sense of the Enemy, the historian Zachary Shore demonstrates that leaders can best understand an opponent not simply from his pattern of past behavior, but from his behavior at pattern breaks. Meaningful pattern breaks occur during dramatic deviations from the routine when the enemy imposes costs upon himself. It's at these unexpected moments, Shore explains, that successful leaders can learn what makes their rivals truly tick.

With vivid, suspenseful prose, he takes us into the minds of statesmen to see how they in turn tried to enter the minds of others. He shows how this type of mind-reading, which he calls "strategic empathy," shaped matters of war and peace. 

Apt Pupil

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Apt Pupil

Like everyone else with a pulse, I love Stephen King. So here’s a slightly underrated pull so I don’t lose my horror fan street cred. Apt Pupil is the first King book I’ve read that made me feel legitimately dirty. The creeping menace, the way he subverts your expectations, this excruciating dance of mutually assured destruction between Todd and Denker... just fabulous. Nothing supernatural, no murderous trucks or universe-vomiting turtles, just humans being mundane and evil. And you won’t have to spend the whole book wondering if King is gonna biff the ending, as he is often wont to do—he sticks the landing and it’s absolutely killer. Love it. Read it.

Who am I?

I like to create silly, fun things. This is not the kind of content I consume. If something makes me feel bad, I generally like it; if it is also beautiful, I will like it a lot. It is through the generosity of the Shepherd team that I was allowed to flip a promo for a gay dad comic into a way for me to peer pressure you into consuming media that will make you feel bad. Consider this list an aperitif for the feel-goodness of Dream Daddy, a delicate shot glass of cyanide after a hearty meal. Bon appetit!

I wrote...

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Comic Book

By Leighton Gray, Vernon Shaw,

Book cover of Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Comic Book

What is my book about?

Whether you enjoyed our game Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator, or you have no idea what I’m talking about, Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Comic Book is a silly and sweet anthology about dads being dads. Follow the beloved characters from the hit 2017 dating sim in a series of one-off adventures, from an exciting game of Dungeons & Daddies to a disastrous attempt to make a local commercial. 

Operation Paperclip

By Annie Jacobsen,

Book cover of Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America

Von Braun was one of the hundreds of Nazi scientists hunted by the Americans in the dying days of the war and brought to the U.S. to continue their research—on everything from nerve toxins to human experimentation. Heavily researched and detailed, the book’s a chilling read and ethical challenge.

Who am I?

I’m an author, playwright and science writer near Ottawa, Canada. One thing that fascinated me in writing The Stardust Revolution was how 20th-century astronomy advances were grounded in the re-use of military technologies developed in WWII. Both radio- and infrared astronomy emerged from the use of former Nazi and Allied military hardware. This is because WWII was the physicists war—their inventions determined its outcome. These five books describe the key science and technology—atomic weapons, radar, and rockets—that won World War Two and have shaped the world since. The books are a great mix of biography, narrative non-fiction, and investigative journalism.

I wrote...

The Stardust Revolution: The New Story of Our Origin in the Stars

By Jacob Berkowitz,

Book cover of The Stardust Revolution: The New Story of Our Origin in the Stars

What is my book about?

Three great scientific revolutions have shaped our understanding of the cosmos and our relationship to it. The Copernican Revolution, which bodychecked the Earth as the pivot point of creation and joined us with the rest of the cosmos as one planet among many orbiting the Sun. Then, the second great scientific revolution: the Darwinian Revolution. It removed us from a distinct, divine biological status to place us wholly in the ebb and flow of all terrestrial life. This book describes how we're in the midst of a third great scientific revolution: The Stardust Revolution.

The Stardust Revolution takes readers on a grand journey that begins on the summit of California's Mount Wilson, where astronomers first realized that the universe is both expanding and evolving, to a radio telescope used to identify how organic molecules-the building blocks of life are made by stars.

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