The Per­fect Nazi: Uncov­er­ing My Grandfather’s Secret Past

Mar­tin Davidson
  • Review
November 1, 2011
The sto­ry he’d always heard was how his Ger­man grand­fa­ther, who’d served in the Wehrma­cht, was saved from exe­cu­tion by a Russ­ian offi­cer sud­den­ly sick of all the killing. What he didn’t know, and what he nev­er asked, was why his grand­fa­ther had been sin­gled out for exe­cu­tion in the first place. This is the sto­ry that BBC tele­vi­sion pro­duc­er and jour­nal­ist Mar­tin David­son final­ly — at the age of thir­ty-five and after his grandfather’s death — was deter­mined to uncov­er. To lit­tle Mar­tin, Bruno Lang­behn was a jovial den­tist liv­ing in Berlin. But what he even­tu­al­ly learns is that Bruno had not been an aver­age sol­dier, but a devout, one might say born-again” Nazi offi­cer who had joined the S.A. (Stormtroop­ers) so ear­ly he was hon­ored with the old timers” Gold Par­ty Badge. Indeed, he had enlist­ed in one of the S.A.’s most vio­lent bat­tal­ions, Sturm 33, in the Char­lot­ten­berg sec­tion of Berlin, where some of the S.A.’s blood­i­est offences occurred. Lat­er, Bruno joined the S.S., sign­ing on to its most dread­ed divi­sion — the S.D, archi­tects of the Final Solu­tion. All this David­son reveals in the order of his dis­cov­er­ies as he tries to come to grips with the truth. Alas, there is so lit­tle hard infor­ma­tion on Bruno that the bulk of the book devolves into a his­to­ry of the rise of the S.A. and some of the doings of the S.S. and S.D. We rarely get insights into Bruno’s char­ac­ter or the psy­chol­o­gy of Nazi believ­ers, or the eth­i­cal and per­son­al ram­i­fi­ca­tions of fam­i­ly secrets and the lega­cy of Nazism. Nev­er­the­less, this is an often fas­ci­nat­ing and unset­tling jour­ney which many read­ers will appre­ci­ate. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, notes.

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