CITIZEN 865 by the Washington Post investigative journalist Debbie Cenziper (Hachette Books; 9780316449656, $28) is the powerful, character-driven story of the search for the men of an obscure SS training camp in Trawniki, Poland who helped the SS murder 1.7 million Polish Jews. The Office of Special Investigations (OSI), a small unit in a far-flung office inside the Department of Justice, would identify more than a dozen men who were hiding in plain sight in cities and suburbs across America, including Miami, Chicago, and New York.
Cenziper interviewed many of the unheralded and heroic government historians and lawyers – including former director of the Office of Special Investigations Eli Rosenbaum and historians Peter Black and Elizabeth “Barry” White – who relentlessly pursued these so-called “Trawniki Men” and, nearly five decades after the war’s end, helped uncover the details behind the school for mass murder where they were trained, armed and empowered by the Third Reich. She juxtaposes this hunt with the story of 2 of only 200 Jews from Lublin, Poland who evaded this same killing force and settled in the United States unknowingly alongside their former captors, and whose children contributed to Cenziper’s research. It is “a story about darkness, but also about light,” Cenziper writes.
The book has received great media attention. Here are some highlights: