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

Books on Tape. Mar. 2023. 10:42 hrs. ISBN 9780593671153. $85.50. HIST
Dutch-born Buruma (The Churchill Complex) narrates his intriguing group biography of three unrelated con artists who collaborated with their Axis enemy during World War II. Known in Japan as the “Manchurian Mata Hari,” Kawashima Yoshiko was the gender-fluid daughter of a Manchurian prince who gave her to a Japanese friend to raise; she spied on China for the Japanese during the War of Resistance. Felix Kersten, a Finnish masseur and confidant of Heinrich Himmler, made overblown claims after the war that he had saved the entire Dutch population from being deported by the Nazis. Hasidic Jew Frederich Weinreb invented a scheme to receive money from Jewish people hoping to avoid deportation from the Netherlands; he betrayed them by turning them in to the German secret police, the Gestapo. Despite the captivating content, Buruma’s unvarying, lecturelike tone while chronicling these three unconnected lives makes this mashup difficult to follow. The book is divided into themed chapters with each person assigned a number. While section numbers are briefly announced in the audio, there are no vocal clues to signal when the subject has changed, and this results in an occasionally disorienting listen.
VERDICT Fascinating information that loses each subject’s life thread in this choppy treatment.
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