Hitler's First Victims: The Quest for Justice.pdf
From the author of the widely praised Hitler's Private Library: the remarkable story of Josef Hartinger, the German prosecutor who risked everything to bring to justice the first Nazi killers of the Holocaust.
The prosecution at the Nuremberg trials was charged with proving that the monstrous acts of the SS were not, as the defendants argued, a case of foot soldiers performing "normal duty." A key argument focused on the first killings by SS guards in the Dachau concentration camp in 1933. Now, Timothy Ryback's gripping and poignant historical narrative focuses on those events and on the investigation that followed, which exposed not only the earliest evidence of the machinery of the Holocaust, but also the remarkable courage of Josef Hartinger, a local Munich prosecutor, who openly challenged these first homicidal impulses of the Third Reich. Ryback describes Hartinger's willingness to risk everything in an unflinching pursuit of justice. And he makes clear that while Hartinger's fight couldn't stop the Nazi atrocity, his story suggests how vastly different history might have been had others acted with equal determination and personal courage.
“In recounting the compelling story of a prosecutor who sought to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes at Dachau in the early days of the Nazis’ reign, Timothy Ryback’s book is all the more startling and important for bringing to life an episode so little known. It suggests what might have been if more Germans at the time had done their professional duty with equal moral compass. ”
—Raymond Bonner, author, Anatomy of Injustice
“This is an extraordinary, gripping, and edifying story told extraordinarily well by Timothy Ryback. I read it with a sense of edifying amazement at the capacity of one good man to stand tall in the face of evil, and at the capacity of others to fall into unspeakable barbarism.”
—Richard Bernstein, author, Dictatorship of Virtue
“In this finely researched and deeply disturbing account of how Jews and Communists murdered in Dachau in 1933 became ‘Hitler’s first victims,’ Timothy W. Ryback finds a rare point of light in the courage of an obscure Bavarian prosecutor who tried to fight the escalating Nazi savagery with the rule of law. Thanks to his documented record of the atrocities taking place at Dachau, Ryback can now demonstrate how, within weeks of coming to power, the Nazis had already set off along the dark path that would lead to genocide.”
—Alan Riding, author, And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris.
“Timothy Ryback’s Hitler’s First Victims is a significant addition to the Holocaust canon. The story of the first four Jews murdered at Dachau, as well as the astonishing account of the German prosecutor (surely a precursor of Claus von Stauffenberg) who, in 1933, attempted to charge the vicious Nazi concentration camp commandant with murder, form the heart and soul of Ryback’s amazing book. The author’s research is prodigious and his accumulation of new details make the reader feel as if he is observing the first spreading of the Nazi plague through a microscope. This is history come alive in your hands.”
—Robert Littell, author, The Amateur
“In this horrifying and heartbreaking account of Dachau's early days, Timothy Ryback restores, to the murderers and the murdered alike, something crucially, necessarily missing from most Holocaust histories: their individuality. Then, by capturing, meticulously and understatedly, the retail barbarity of the place, he helps anticipate the wholesale annihilation to follow. And by recounting the striking heroism of two men—a local prosecutor and a medical examiner, simply trying to do their jobs—he allows us at least to ponder whether, had more such good Germans come forward, it all might just have been stopped.”
—David Margolick, author, Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink
TIMOTHY W. RYBACK is the author of Hitler's Private Library, which was named to the Washington Post Book World Best Nonfiction list in 2008, and The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau, a New York Times Notable Book. He has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He lives and works in Paris.