Books: Circles of Perdition

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"There was poor Herbert George, who, though of medium height, had the look of a Disney dwarf. His deeply lined skin was puckered into thin folds in the apprehensive expression of a chimpanzee, and his features so far departed from the normal that those who met him found themselves looking back again and again to see if they could be as they were remembered, though the total impression was by no means monstrous, merely animal and odd."

During the Spanish Civil War Herbert George had joined the International Brigade. Later he deserted. During World War II his ship was torpedoed off Narvik, and he went from one German camp to another. Then he got a letter saying that his wife in England had a baby. He thought it over for a long time and decided the baby could not be his. So one day when recruiters for the British Free Corps came around, he joined up, "just as a sad little dog, finding himself far from home in streets where they throw things, with rain falling and the dusk thickening, will follow any passerby."

Thomas Haller Cooper was a different kind of grotesque. His father was an English photographer; his mother was German. Somehow his mother had instilled in him a love for Germany. "It cannot be put down in black and white how she wove the spell about him. . . . The secret does not lie in the promise of conquest. That secret is a lyricism that extends the kingdom of the nightingale, diffuses everywhere the secret perfume of the rose. The home where this man's mother lived was distinguished from all the other red-brick and stucco houses in a shabby suburban street by the wealth of flowering bulbs, jonquil packed beside narcissus, crocus beside grape hyacinth, which crammed the bow-windows of the ground floor flat. . . . When the spring came, they made a truly German window. Loving this lovely Germany, her son joined the SS, which bled and died that there should be camps where starved prisoners fell on the bodies of their dead comrades and, if not too disgusted by the lice, ate their kidneys and livers and the soft parts of their thighs."

These traitors and their mates were sent to jail for varying terms. They will come out, says Author West, as they went in: "Unchanged in their essential and dangerous quality. . . . They will be timber for the next international revolutionary movement."

Circle No. 3. John Amery deserved a circle of perdition to himself. He was the worthless son of a distinguished father, Leopold Amery, Secretary of State for India in the Churchill government. He had been convicted 74 times on traffic charges. He had caused a scandal by falling in love with the prostitute who nightly occupied the most conspicuous spot in Piccadilly. He was a bankrupt. He had been an aide to Francisco Franco. During the war he joined the Germans and organized the British Free Corps.

His trial lasted eight minutes, for he said, in answer to the court's question: "I plead guilty to all counts."

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