The Boys from Brazil (novel)
|21 October 1976|
|LC Class||PZ4.L664 Bo PS3523.E7993|
Yakov Liebermann is a Nazi hunter (loosely based on Simon Wiesenthal): he runs a center in Vienna that documents crimes against humanity, perpetrated during the Holocaust. The waning interest of the Western nations in tracking down Nazi criminals, and the failure of the bank where he kept his center's funds, has forced him to move the center to his own lodgings.
Then, in September 1974, Liebermann receives a phone call from a young man in Brazil who claims he has just finished eavesdropping on the so-called "Angel of Death", Dr. Josef Mengele, the concentration camp medical doctor who performed horrific experiments on camp victims during World War II. According to the young man, Mengele is activating the Kameradenwerk for a strange assignment: he is sending out six Nazis (former SS officers) to kill 94 men, who share a few common traits. All men are civil servants, and all of them have to be killed on or about particular dates, spread over several years. All will be 65 years old at the time of their killing. Before the young man can finish the conversation, he is killed.
Liebermann hesitates about what to do, and wonders if the call was a prank. But he investigates and discovers that the killings the young man spoke of are taking place. As he tries to determine why the seemingly unimportant men are being killed, he discovers by coincidence that the children of two of the men are identical. It eventually transpires each of the 94 targets has a son aged 13, a genetic clone of Adolf Hitler planted by Mengele. Mengele wishes to create a new Führer for the Nazi movement, and is trying to ensure that the lives of the clones follow a similar path to Hitler's. Each civil servant father is married to a woman about 23 years younger, and their killing is an attempt to mimic the death of Hitler's own father.
Liebermann manages to work out who one of the intended targets is, and travels to warn him that his life may be in danger. However, Mengele reaches the man first, kills him, and then encounters Liebermann. Liebermann is shot but Mengele is killed by the targeted man's collection of dangerous dogs. The plan is halted, but 18 Hitler clones have already lost their fathers. Liebermann destroys the list of the 94 clones so that a younger Nazi hunter will not be able to kill what may still turn out to be harmless boys. However, the book ends with one of the Hitler clones developing what may be delusions of grandeur.
In a 2011 review for The Guardian Sophia Martelli wrote: "Although the book is now fairly dated, at the time of publication the inclusion of real or near-real characters (Mengele's nemesis Liebermann is a conflation of Nazi hunters such as Simon Wiesenthal and Serge Klarsfield, who attempted to capture Mengele in South America) must have added a chilling dimension. What scares today is Levin's premise based on biological engineering: in the 1970s, although scientifically possible, Mengele's plan belonged firmly in the realm of fiction; now it's not nearly so far-fetched."