John (Marsden) Ehle (Jr.) Herbert Mitgang - Essay

Herbert Mitgang

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The hero of this biography ["The Survivor: The Story of Eddy Hukov"] is a former member of the S. S., one cruel arm of Nazi Germany's terror, but if he has acknowledged his past misdeeds or repented, readers will have a hard time finding where. John Ehle describes his story as a "heroic adventure on three continents" and Eddy Hukov as "one of the world's stateless persons." This language is an insult to the real refugees and displaced persons of war and a rephrasing of recent history.

Hukov was born in Lvov, Poland, of German parents. He joined the S.S., fighting bravely for them, winning the Iron Cross First Class. After learning that his family had been killed in an American bombing raid, the young Storm Trooper became a still more avenging fighter.

When Americans captured his unit Hukov asked another S.S. man to cut out from his skin the S.S. tattoo…. Hukov went underground, afraid to be discovered. He worked his way into a refugee camp, an oppressor among victims. Without papers, without the courage to face the peacetime consequences of his wartime affiliation, Hukov was ripe for the blandishments of a French Foreign Legion recruiter in Germany….

Hukov and two Germans finally escaped from the Legion. They went to Thailand, and Hukov has remained there ever since. He is a man without a passport. Free Germany will not give him one and does not want him….

Mr. Ehle, a novelist and teacher, first heard the Hukov story from a traveling friend and then pursued the story via the mails. He has done the difficult job of assembling a biography without ever meeting his subject, and has attempted to retain Hukov's style. Whether he has captured the true personality of his subject one can only guess.

Herbert Mitgang, "Looking Backward," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1958 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 30, 1958, p. 31.