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A Design for Extermination - an Editorial Review of "The Architect of Auschwitz"

Book Blurb:

The Architect of Auschwitz is a page-turning book whose characters will live in your thoughts long after you finish reading it. You will be entranced by the author's depictions of the characters and events that led to the rise of Hitler.

The main character is Gerhardt Stark a young German architect who has been influenced by early childhood losses. His progression from a wealthy class youth to a rapacious mass murderer sheds light on the complexity of his character. Once a skeptic of the Nazi party incremental steps lead him to participate in unimaginable atrocities. He is a highly intelligent individual who catches the eyes of Albert Speer, Heinrich Himmler and becomes a key player in the plan to create a Jew-free Europe. He creates the design and architectural plans for the expansion of Auschwitz -Birkenau.

Toward the end of the war, Gerhardt realizes he will be tried as a war criminal. With the aid of an accomplice, he assumes a new identity and devises a plan to protect himself from justice by freeing two prominent Jews from Auschwitz. He flees Europe with a great degree of stolen art and valuables from his victims to a haven for Nazi criminals in Spain. He eventually makes his way to New York where he thrives financially and socially as a prominent architect. Through a series of unpredictable events, he is uncovered by two of his victims and the search for justice involves members of the Nakam.

Author Bio:

Salvatore Tagliareni is a story teller, writer, business consultant, art dealer, and former Catholic priest. For over 25 years he has successfully engaged private and public companies in their search for outstanding performance. A gifted speaker, he is blessed with a great sense of humor and can invigorate an audience with insights on life and leadership. Salvatore was profoundly influenced by his relationship with Dr. Viktor Frankl, the celebrated psychiatrist and author of "Man’s Search for Meaning." The desire to humanize the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust was the driving force behind the novel Hitler’s Priest.

Salvatore is the former president of Next Step Associates an organizational consulting firm. For 25 years he performed strategic planning and organizational design and implementation for many large International companies such as Johnson and Johnson, IBM, Hoffman La-Roche and Boston Financial.

As a young Catholic priest studying theology in Rome, his life was forever changed when the tragic and unexpected death of his best friend led him to seek and gain mentorship from Dr. Frankl. Dr. Frankl and other Holocaust survivors changed the course of Salvatore’s life as they shared their personal horrors under the Nazi regime.

After leaving active ministry as an ordained Catholic priest in 1970, Salvatore went on to earn a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Behavior and had a successful career as an international business consultant. Salvatore lives in Washington, DC with his wife of 40 years and returns to Europe as often as possible.

Editorial Review:

The Architect of Auschwitz is a well-told story about the Nazi rise to power, the progression of the Holocaust, and more specifically one man’s indoctrination and gradual but permanent slide into immorality and evil.

The subject matter is awful which makes this a difficult read at times, but it is very much worth experiencing. The author begins with World War I, as that is the main excuse the Nazi’s used to persecute the Jews. They believed that Germany’s loss in the Great War, and the economic ramifications, were the result of a Jewish conspiracy. Gerhardt Stark, the main character, lost his father in that war. That was the main reason he became involved in the National Socialist party in the first place.

Gerhardt had never attached his father’s death to a conspiracy. It was compelling, and he saw no harm in reflecting on this view of history. He began to explore the possibility that his father died because of the greed of a Jewish conspiracy. Without letting himself decide if he believed it or not, he invited in the waiting emotion - it wasn’t just ‘war’ that had orphaned him, but identifiable villains.”

The irony is that when Gerhardt’s father was killed and his mother remarried a cruel man, his Jewish relatives took him in and treated him as their own son. He lived with his Uncle Isadore, Aunt Margret, and cousin Micah for years, but ultimately betrayed them as he chose the Nazi party over his own family.

In the beginning, there is sympathy for Gerhardt Stark, as he is only 8 years old when his father is killed in battle. As the story progresses, however, Stark rationalizes his actions and loses his humanity little by little, until there is nothing left to feel sorry for.

After rising through the ranks of the SS, spending time with the Einsatzgruppen (the killing squads), and ordering the massacre of an entire village in Poland, Stark is tasked with streamlining the termination and disposal of Jews. He becomes the titular Architect of Auschwitz, as he develops plans to expand the concentration camp, make the gassing process more efficient, increase the number of crematoria on site, and utilize the property and money stolen from the Jews to pay for the ‘improvements’ to the system.

Gerhardt left Himmler’s office realizing that this could be a tremendous opportunity for him. For a moment, he experienced some trepidation, realizing that he would be directly responsible for establishing plans for mass killing. There was a dryness in his throat and some feelings of discomfort. However, he dismissed these reactions because this request provided great visibility at the top of the organization and even the possibility that Hitler would recognize him.”

Never in the hours of conversation were there any words spoken about the victims who would arrive here and be murdered. Both Hoss and Stark acted as though they were merely expanding a manufacturing plant.”

The story does focus on Stark, but there are other important characters as well. Esther Slawinski was only 14 when her family and their entire village of Wiegrovicz, Poland was murdered by Stark and his men. She survived and was taken in by her father’s friend and his wife; they sheltered her through the duration of the war, and then helped her find her aunt and uncle in America.

Svi Contini is a talented piano player from Milan, his talents having been discovered and nurtured from the age of three. He toured and performed throughout Europe and America, but unfortunately, his talents weren’t enough to protect him and his family, and they were sent to Auschwitz in 1943.

Lorenzo Kaplan was a psychiatrist from Milan. At the time of the Nazi takeover of Italy, he was the director of Psychiatry and Neurology at the Ospedale San Marco. He was forbidden from practicing on non-Jewish patients, and in 1943 was arrested, along with his wife Ella, and sent to Auschwitz as well.

Both Svi and Lorenzo were on the same transport together and were ultimately released together by Stark. He had begun to panic as it became clear that Germany would not win the war and his precious Thousand Year Reich was not meant to be. He thought that if two prominent Jews could speak to his humanity and kindness, it would prevent him from being tried as a war criminal. He enlisted the help of his former friend, Heinrich Mueller, to create the alias Georg Baum, fake the death of Gerhardt Stark, and arrange the release of Svi and Lorenzo. That was how Stark was able to escape Germany until his past ultimately caught up with him.

Dr. Micah Goldstein, Stark’s cousin who was once like a brother to him, survived the war as well. He was intent on seeking vengeance against the man who betrayed him and his parents. He was introduced to Esther by David Bernstein, a man she had contacted to help her prove that Georg Baum was in fact Gerhardt Stark and bring him to justice. He put them in touch with Eli Kroloff, who was instrumental in finally ensuring that Stark would not get away with the heinous things he had done.

The story is long but broken up into short chapters that are each titled with the year, location, and main event. This helps to keep the flow organized and ensures that the reader is following the events properly. The book draws you in from the beginning, holds your attention throughout, and reaches a satisfying conclusion. The characters are vivid and realistic - sometimes frighteningly so. Most of the characters were given adequate background, but a little more detail as far as what happens next might have tightened the overall story. There are a few areas where it feels just a little bit rushed, and is a tough read at parts due to the subject matter but overall is definitely worthwhile.


“The Architect of Auschwitz” receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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