Tuesday, November 16, 2021


By RealJerusalemStreets

I hesitated. At first, I said to myself--no way.

The fiction I really like to read would be a good murder mystery. However, a novel based in 1943-1944 - and in Auschwitz?

Unsettling as the concept was, the author and publisher, Tom Hogan, and his bio piqued my curiosity.

Hogan grew up in a German village with his US military family after World War II. As an eight-year-old, he visited Dachau with his family. He wondered how many of his neighbors knew about and participated in the Holocaust.

Hogan taught at Santa Clara University after graduating from Harvard with an MA in Biblical Archeology and developed curricula in Holocaust Studies for college and high school.

Along with survivors' testimonies, he presented the Shoah to US audiences.

Hogan left teaching in the 1980s, to join a growing company as its first creative director. Perhaps you may have heard of Oracle? Next, his venture capital company launched over 50 startups and he co-authored The Ultimate Startup Guide.

After leaving the tech world, Hogan returned to teaching Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UC Santa Cruz before he retired and began to write fiction.

Hogan's Heroes was the name of the American sitcom popular from 1965-1971, where during World War II, the inmates of the prisoner-of-war camp, the fictional Stalag 13, did their best to sabotage the German effort. Their escapades led to humorous results involving Col. Klink and Sargent Shultz, and these Nazis were portrayed as bumbling comedic characters. Cast member Robert Clary had a number tattooed on his arm, as the Jewish actor had really spent 3 years in a concentration camp before arriving in Hollywood.  He was often referred to as "cockroach" by the Nazis on the show, but it was a light feel-good program that always ended with Col Hogan's guys outsmarting the Germans.

Tom Hogan's The Devil's Breath is not light and not humorous. However, when the extermination camp details he has included get too heavy, readers are given a break to recover with his excellent character development. Lead characters Perla and Shimon Divko are transferred from the Warsaw Ghetto to Auschwitz and forced by Kommandant Rudolf Hess to solve a murder and a theft.

Hess is the only non-fiction character. In this genre, as opposed to memoirs, Holocaust expert Hogan is able to weave in historical information. I was at Auschwitz on a March of the Living trip years ago. Some of the facts are not only stranger than fiction, but worse as well, and I confess to skimming quickly over details of Kanada, the selection and gas chambers.

One example of adding positive information was the introduction of a drug connection along with the theft and murder of a Nazi officer in his office.  Previously I was not familiar with Pervitin , but went on to read about how it was used by the Nazis later in the war. The details in the book fit the information I found.

While The Devil's Breath is not a light read and should have trigger warnings for today's crowds, I felt it important and well done enough to share. As there are fewer survivors to tell their stories, Hogan has found a new approach to educate the public about the horrors of the Holocaust.

Title: The Devil's Breath ISBN: 978-1-7369436-1-8  

         Tom Hogan  274 pages Paperback/Kindle


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