In This Review

By Peter Wyden
Simon & Schuster, 1992, 382 pp

Collaboration with the enemy is never a pretty subject, but the example here-that of a Jewish girl who became a "catcher" (Greifer) for the Gestapo and sent hundreds of Jews hiding illegally in wartime Berlin to certain death in the concentration camps-defies humanity. Stella, a blonde beauty, was a schoolmate of author Peter Wyden; their families were part of the highly assimilated, materially successful, secularist Jewish bourgeoisie in Berlin. Wyden's family managed to get out of Germany in the mid-1930s. Jews unable or unwilling to emigrate suffered the fate of Stella's family-penury, ostracism and, ultimately, deportation. Wyden puts Stella's crimes in the context of Jewish "cooperation" in general: the Jewish Councils in the ghettos, the kapos and Sonderkommandos in the camps. Certainly there were highly disparate degrees of damage and culpability. He also goes into the question of Jewish survival, both in Nazi Germany and in the camps, and concludes that, although luck was crucial, personality also counted. Agile, audacious young men willing to take risks were the most likely to survive. Stella's strategy for survival was determined in part by circumstances, but also by her near-psychopathic personality that seemed to relish the role of predator. A fascinating and unsettling book, certain to trouble the sleep of many.