Written by Helen Goltz — The 70th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz last week proved that the Holocaust is never far from our minds. Writers of fiction and non-fiction look for ways to understand what drove supposedly civilised people to commit genocide. Helen Goltz’s book is one that examines what can happen when power allows a group to believe, like the Nazis alluded to in the title, that they can recreate history.
German-American Benjamin Hoefer has written a book about his father, who fled Auschwitz after its liberation to be reunited with his son, who stayed with neighbours during the War. But someone wants to disrupt the publication of Benjamin’s book, and in the days leading up to its release footage of Holocaust survivors shuffling to their freedom is projected on the wall of a museum late at night. The ghost screening ends with a frame with the words, “Nazi, Jew hater, fake!” scratched into it.
But who is the fake, Benjamin or his father? FBI Special Agent Michael Parker and his team are brought in to find out who is behind these midnight projections, and what they have to gain from upstaging the book launch. This is an elite team of FBI investigators, and it’s not clear at first why their skills are being called on to investigate empty threats and ghost projections. Despite the secrecy surrounding the project, when Parker asks he immediately finds the answer: the FBI is investigating possible links between independent presidential candidate Ulric Adler and an influential neo-Nazi group called the New Aryan Order, or NAO. Despite being told this detail, Parker is ordered to go back to his investigation, and ignore any possible links to Adler.
So his team patrols a small Washington museum waiting for the projectionist to arrive and start showing the defaced film. Meanwhile, the NAO is planning to put their men in power in both Washington and Berlin. Their agenda has all the hallmarks of Nazism, including a breeding programme to maintain the integrity of the race. To be part of the breeding programme, members pay an admission fee of $500,000. As Parker and his team find the secret to the ghost screenings they are led to the NAO, and because of the group’s growing power they must tread carefully.
When Benjamin Hoefer is kidnapped by the American leader of the NAO and taken to Germany, Parker’s team is split across two continents – a division they can’t afford as certain members struggle with their own demons, stemming from their backgrounds and a previous assignment in London. Parker and his team must stay together and overthrow the NAO before its influence becomes too great.
Unfortunately the two plots – the book launch and the Order’s plan to build the Fourth Reich – are only tenuously related and the first is forgotten almost as soon as the second comes up. Couple that with numerous conclusions too readily jumped to, and characters who talk about action rather than take part in it, and the plotting of this novel becomes problematic. However, there are also moments of brilliance and the book’s conclusion is both exhilarating and satisfying. The Fourth Reich is a novel well worth sticking with.
Goltz is a seasoned writer with several books under her belt, across several genres, and it shows in this novel, with its interesting, convincing characters and some great scenes. The Holocaust is well-trodden ground in literature, but Goltz has managed to do something different with it.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars