The Collaborators: Three Stories of Deception and Survival in World War II by Buruma, Ian
Ian Buruma

The Collaborators: Three Stories of Deception and Survival in World War II -- Ian Buruma

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Ian Buruma's spellbinding account of three near-mythic figures--a Dutch fixer, a Manchu princess, and Himmler's masseur--who may have been con artists and collaborators under Japanese and German rule, or true heroes, or something in between.

On the face of it, the three characters in this book seem to have little in common--aside from the fact that each committed wartime acts that led some to see them as national heroes, and others as villains. All three were mythmakers, larger-than-life storytellers, for whom the truth was beside the point. Felix Kersten was a plump Finnish pleasure-seeker who became Heinrich Himmler's indispensable personal masseur--Himmler calling him his "magic Buddha." Kersten presented himself after the war as a resistance hero who convinced Himmler to save countless people from mass murder. Kawashima Yoshiko, a gender-fluid Manchu princess, spied for the Japanese secret police in China, and was mythologized by the Japanese as a heroic combination of Mata Hari and Joan of Arc. Friedrich Weinreb was a Hasidic Jew in Holland who took large amounts of money from fellow Jews in an imaginary scheme to save them from deportation, while in fact betraying some of them to the German secret police. Sentenced after the war as a con artist, he was regarded regarded by supporters as the "Dutch Dreyfus."

All three figures have been vilified and mythologized, out of a never-ending need, Ian Buruma argues, to see history, and particularly war, and above all World War II, as a neat story of angels and devils. The Collaborators is a fascinating reconstruction of what in fact we can know about these incredible figures and what will always remain out of reach. What emerges is all the more mesmerizing for being painted in chiaroscuro. In times of life-and-death stakes, the truth quickly gets buried under lies and self-deception. Now, when demagogues abroad and at home are assaulting the truth once more, the stories of the collaborators and their lessons are indispensable.

Author: Ian Buruma
Publisher: Penguin Press
Published: 03/07/2023
Pages: 320
Binding Type: Hardcover
Weight: 1.15lbs
Size: 9.37h x 6.14w x 1.18d
ISBN: 9780593296646

Review Citation(s):
Library Journal Prepub Alert 10/01/2022 pg. 15
Kirkus Reviews 12/01/2022
Publishers Weekly 01/23/2023
Booklist 02/01/2023 pg. 8
Library Journal 02/01/2023 pg. 84