The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive by Philippe Sands

Picture the scene. You’re staying at a dilapidated baroque castle in the Austrian countryside, with thick stone walls and an overgrown moat. The septuagenarian owner, Horst, a tall, friendly man with an “embracingly guttural, warm, hesitant, gentle voice”, makes you feel thoroughly at home. Over tea he tells you about his family history: his parents’ youthful love affair; his memories of his wartime childhood; the sad loss of his father when he was still a boy.

Then, almost idly, you pick out a book from the shelves, “black cover, no title, a gilded eagle astride a swastika”. Inside is a heartfelt inscription, from Horst’s mother to his father in 1931: “Through struggle and love to the finish.” The book’s title is Mein Kampf.

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