Byline: Arnold Beichman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Viewing the Nazi leaders on trial at Nuremberg, George Orwell wrote: "Somehow the punishment of these monsters ceases to seem attractive when it becomes possible; indeed, once under lock and key, they almost cease to be monsters."
In a sense, William F. Buckley Jr.'s latest novel, "Nuremberg: The Reckoning," has de-monstered the major German war criminals who went on trial at Nuremberg between 1945 and 1946 without de-monstering their criminality. In Nuremberg, the ancient city where Adolf Hitler once held his lynch-mob rallies, there were in 1945 no Holocaust deniers. What had happened to 6 million European Jews was a fact. Looking at the 24 top Nazi leaders, some in military uniform, in the courtroom sitting in two rows, raised an unanswerable question: How could they have done what they did? Soldiers killing soldiers, well, yes, but soldiers killing babies in their mother's arms, how was it possible? And yet, we're seeing similar horrors again with the suicide bombers in beleaguered Israel.
Mr. Buckley's 15th novel deals with the Reinhard family on the eve of World War II. Axel Reinhard, a talented civil engineer, is preparing to take Annabelle, his wife, and their 13-year-old son, Sebastian, on what is planned as a short trip to America but which, it is implied, could well be a permanent stay. Just before the departure, the Gestapo intervenes. Axel is told by a Gestapo officer that his wife and son can sail away on the S.S. Europa but the price of their freedom to travel will be as follows: Just before the gangplank is raised Axel is to sneak off the ocean liner and remain in Germany to help the Third Reich on its building projects, including as it turns out, extermination camps.
The novel is Mr. Buckley at his best and at his most ingenious. Its focus is the trials of the leaders of a criminal conspiracy seen through the eyes of young Sebastian, now 19, and a U. …