[UCP Books]: The Nazi, the Painter: and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road

“This surprising and artful book . . . entertains and enriches our understanding of a terrible time.”
Richard Breitman, author of The Architect of Genocide 
 
The Nazi, the Painter
and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road

 G. H. Bennett

 
Published by Reaktion Books & distributed by the University of Chicago Press
Publication date: June 1, 2012
 

ISBN: 978-1-86189-909-5 240 pages; 27 halftones Cloth • $29.00

 
 
In 2006 a canister of film was discovered in a church in the southwestern corner of the United Kingdom. Its origin was a mystery, but its contents were tantalizing—the grainy black and white footage showed members of the German SS and police, led by an unidentified fat man, building a road in the Ukraine and Crimea in 1943. The BBC caused a sensation when it aired the footage, but the film gave few clues to the protagonists or their task.
 
In The Nazi, the Painter, and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road, World War II historian G. H. Bennett pieces together the story of the film and its principal characters, unearthing an overlooked chapter of the Holocaust: a wartime German road-building project that served the dual purpose of exterminating Jewish and other lives while laying the infrastructure for a Nazi haven in the Ukraine. He tells the story of the road and its builders through the experiences of Arnold Daghani, a Romanian artist who was one of the few Jewish laborers to survive the project. Daghani describes the brutal treatment he and his fellow laborers endured, and his postwar efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Bennett also identifies the fat man as Walter Gieseke and explains how this obscure police lieutenant-commander ended up running the SS task force and became a participant in the Nazi’s final solution.
 
Recalling an important but lost episode in our history, The Nazi, the Painter, and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road is a moving and at times horrifying chronicle of suffering, deprivation, and survival.
 
G. H. Bennett is assistant professor of history at the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom, and a trustee of the Britannia Royal Naval College Museum. He is the author of ten books, including Hitler’s Ghost Ship and The RAF’s French Foreign Legion. Please contact Laura Avey for more information: lavey@press.uchicago.edu / 773.702.0376.

 

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