By Christopher Miskimon

Felix Kersten acted as Heinrich Himmler’s personal masseur and did the job so well Himmler nicknamed the outgoing, heavy set Kersten the “Magic Buddha.” Aisin Gyoro Xianyu, also known as Jin Buhui or Dongzen, or her Japanese name Kawashima Yoshiko, was the daughter of a deposed Manchu prince. She favored men’s clothing and spied for the Japanese secret police in China. Friedrich “Freek” Weinreb, a Hasidic Jewish immigrant to the Netherlands, took money from his fellow Jews, claiming he would save them from transportation to the death camps. Instead, he betrayed many of them to the German authorities. Both Kawashima and Weinreb were brought to trial after the war, but Kersten, a Finnish citizen, was not technically guilty of any crime and so went free.

These three tales of collaboration are well-told in this new book. The narrative is smooth and transitions easily between each figure, revealing to the reader how they navigated the circumstances of their respective situations. The detail on each person’s activities is deep and informative, but the author does not forget he is telling a story of misdeeds at the least and murderous crimes as worst. This is an interesting tale of three strange and amoral people among the event of the 1930s and 1940s.

The Collaborators: Three Stories of Deception and Survival in World War II (Ian Buruma, Penguin Press, New York, NY, 2023, 320 pp., photographs, notes, bibliography, index, $30, hardcover)

More World War II Book Reviews for Spring 2023