18A Federation Star January 2014
Racial hatred survives the embers of the Holocaust By Philip K. Jason, Special to the Federation Star The Tenth Witness, by Leonard Rosen. Permanent Press. 288 pages. $29.
et in 1978, the second Henri Poincaré Mystery is actually a prequel to the award-winning All Cry Chaos (2010). It relates the events that change the young Frenchman from an ambitious engineer working frantically to establish a viable business into an Interpol agent. It is a dark, painful story about the aftermath of the Holocaust and the racial hatred that enflamed a continent. Phil Jason We meet Henri and his partner Alec as they put specially designed structures in place to assist a shipwreck salvage operation. Their contract has taken them to the Wadden Sea at the edge of Holland, working for the giant insurance company that insured the sunken ship and hopes to recapture its losses. The steel used in this operation was ordered from Kraus Steel, a post-war industrial giant that has sprung out of a wartime enterprise that supplied steel needed for the Nazis war effort. It is Henri’s fate to run across the lovely, intelligent Liesel Kraus, who enjoys spending time as a tour guide in this part of Holland that is near a Straus family estate. She and her brother Anselm are heirs to the Straus
fortune, though Liesel is mostly ocbeen without his concern. cupied with community relations and Though warned away charitable projects. from looking into the famAnselm is interested in maximizily’s past, and even physiing income, and this means developcally attacked, Henri cannot ing technologies to recycle steel from keep himself from pursuing sunken vessels. Such operations, the truth. He seeks out docand others, take advantage of lax uments in various archives regulations in third-world countries, that bring him closer and allowing Kraus Steel to use what is closer to the horrors of virtually slave labor and horrendous Otto’s operation. Moreover, he seeks working conditions to exact huge out the witnesses who are still alive profits. in order to substantiate their veracity. As Henri’s guarded engagement Perhaps they signed the document with Liesel’s family develops, he finds only to save their own lives. reason to suspect some kind of crimiHe has an additional motive. nal (war crime) complicOne of the names on the ity of the Straus steel list is familiar to him: enterprise with Nazi raJacob Zeligman, a man cial repression, abuse and who was a friend of murder. He has doubts Henri’s “Uncle Isaac.” about what went on in Isaac Kahane was a Jewthe combined Straus facish neighbor and friend tory and slave labor camp of Henri’s parents who at Drütte, officially the played a special role in Reichswerke Hermann young Henri’s life. It Göring munitions factory. now seems as if Isaac, Leonard Rosen He questions the glorious too, was a survivor of the biography of Otto Straus that daughter Drütte’s slave labor operation that enLiesel shares with him. riched the Krause family. Henri needs Something just isn’t right – espeto bring justice to those who once cially that part about the ten Jewish tortured this beloved family friend. witnesses who testified under oath Finding the tenth witness, the that, given the wartime circumstances only one left as others are murdered and the workings of Hitler’s regime, during Henri’s pursuit, is his main Otto was a fair and even generous man hope of achieving his goal. who made their lives much less painOn several occasions, Henri’s ful and arduous than they would have dangerous mission brings him into
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contact with an Interpol agent, Serge Laurent, who has spent years working a parallel investigation. They are helpful to one another, and it’s no secret, given Mr. Rosen’s earlier novel, that Henri eventually becomes an Interpol agent. The Tenth Witness is a gloriously literary thriller. The author’s handling of dialogue, interpersonal relationships, Henri’s powerful attraction to Liesel and his equally powerful revulsion at her family’s activities (both in the past and the present), the splendidly drawn settings (including Buenos Aires), and the clockwork plotting all contribute to a high-level achievement sure to bring Leonard Rosen more acclaim and more readers. With great sensitivity and skill, Mr. Rosen brings each reader closer to a personal understanding of the undying power of racial hatred – a beast that he suggests lies within us all to a greater or lesser degree. Philip K. Jason is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. He reviews regularly for Florida Weekly, Jewish Book World, Southern Literary Review, and other publications. For more of Phil’s insights and reviews, as well as literature/publishing links, visit his website at www.philjason.wordpress.com.
Monthly newspaper of the Jewish Federation of Collier County