The War Criminal


214 pages
ISBN 1-55022-465-4
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is Canadian news correspondent for Britain’s The Army
Quarterly and Defence. He is the author of The Bantams: The Untold Story
of World War I, Jeremy Kane, and Kruger’s Gold: A Novel of the
Anglo-Boer War.


The War Criminal is told from the viewpoint of 80-year-old Horst Gerhard
Schneider, a former member of the Nazi Schutzstaffeln who personally
served the SS Commandant, Reinhard Heydrich, and took part in the mass
extermination of Jews. Horst is living in poverty in an unnamed North
American city when an investigation into the vandalism of a Jewish
cemetery reveals his true identity as a fugitive war criminal. At the
same time, Schneider suspects a 14-year-old boy of having desecrated the
graves with swastikas. He befriends the boy and, through his answers to
the youth’s fascinated questions about the Nazi regime, begins to
confront the horrific crimes he committed.

Although it is a bit of a stretch to accept that such a hardened
multiple killer would suddenly develop a guilty conscious after half a
century, The War Criminal is a timely and thoughtful exploration of Nazi
Germany’s frightful past. Most of the author’s family were murdered
during the Holocaust, which makes it all the more astonishing that he
can write with such compassion about his Nazi protagonist.


Berger, Leon., “The War Criminal,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,