The author of the acclaimed East West Street and president of English PEN returns with an investigation into the sordid family history of Horst Wächter, whom he met while researching the Holocaust in Ukraine. Horst is convinced that his father was fundamentally innocent despite his work with the Nazis—a delusion Sands debunks in research that reveals Austrian Baron Otto von Wächter's high-ranking SS post and escape from justice via "the Ratline," the Nazi escape route to Peron's Argentina.
It’s a testament to Sands — his fiercely inquiring mind, his excellent researchers, the wealth of documents and his ability to make them come to life — that the book is so suspenseful ... In the end, The Ratline is about the Nazis who didn’t escape and their descendants ... It’s a reminder that Europe to this day is populated by survivors and perpetrators of World War II — a place of tangled family histories and selective denial, but also intermittent lucidity. This important book makes clear that the more difficult work of history may not be in tracking down the ones who tried to escape, but in confronting the ones who didn’t.
... damning and meticulously researched ... There is, in Horst, a fascinating psychology to explore: what has prompted this man, who claims to acknowledge the atrocities of Nazism, to spend his life denying his father’s involvement? But Sands is a lawyer, not a novelist, and his book is a carefully researched prosecution, not an exploration of motive ... Sands has once again written a riveting and insightful historical page-turner that proves to be part History Channel, part W. G. Sebald.
This is a taut and finely crafted factual thriller, reminiscent in density and pace of John le Carré ... the mesmerising story, both of an extraordinary love that bound Charlotte and Otto and that endured even as their world was brought to ruin and a forensic investigation ... Sands is unflinching, though, where Horst cannot be. He pursues the details and we are left with the unsettling, discordant portrait of a man who is conceivably a passionate husband and devoted father, but irrefutably a war criminal with blood, including that of Sands’s own family members, on his hands. It’s treacherous terrain, but in Sands we have an incomparable guide who finds a kind of redemption on every road of the human experience, though never at the expense of responsibility or truth. The outcome is a feat of exhilarating storytelling—gripping, gratifying and morally robust.