Adolf 3: The Half-Aryan by Osamu Tezuka: A

From the back cover:
Now that the documents revealing Hitler’s secret have apparently been destroyed, it seems Japanese reporter Sohei Toge’s ordeal is over. But it turns out the Gestapo, not to mention the Japanese police, are still after him! Miss Ogi, his murdered brother’s dedicated school teacher, may be Sohei’s only hope! What does she know about the fate of those priceless documents?

Meanwhile, young Adolf Kaufmann has been brainwashed by the Hitler Youth, who send him to Lithuania to help the SS hunt down Jews. There he falls in love with a young Jewish woman—and he’s willing to risk everything to spare her from deportation to a Nazi death camp…

Then, in a terrible twist of fate, Adolf is ordered to execute Isaac Kamil! How can he kill the father of his best friend? But what will happen to him if he refuses?

We begin with the immediate fallout from the conclusion of volume two, in which a shootout between Toge and his foes transpired and the all-important documents were apparently lost in the sea. A couple of chapters are devoted to wrapping this up, but as the subtitle suggests, this volume actually spends the majority of its time with Adolf Kaufmann, the half-Japanese boy in training to join the Hitler Youth, whose life sucks a whole lot just now.

Even though Kaufmann has excelled in school, he still feels insecure about his place due to his heritage, an impression reinforced by special loyalty tests only non-pure students are required to perform. He gets in a few fights with a classmate over this point and when the father of his Jewish childhood friend Adolf Kamil—who, though extremely unfortunate events, comes to Europe to rescue some refugees and ends up in a labor camp—recognizes him and seeks his help, Kaufmann denies the acquaintance. Later, he meets a lovely Jewish girl and forcibly arranges her escape, sending her back to Japan to stay with Adolf Kamil, who finally makes his reapparance in this volume and ends up in possession of the documents, which weren’t destroyed after all.

I really admire how Kaufmann’s inner conflict is portrayed here. Even though he carries out some truly horrible orders, he manages to remain a sympathetic character because he is struggling so much with the persuasive power of a charismatic leader and his own inate beliefs. It’s much easier for him to hate Jews when they’re a nameless, faceless group, and one can see how even some small exposure to Hitler—as a reward for his “bravery” (really desperate self-preservation) in capturing an Asian spy, Kaufmann begins to train as Hitler’s aide—ratchets up his fervor, but when he’s one-on-one with a person, it’s no longer so easy to tow the party line. His desire to belong is understandable, as is his panic when connections to his past threaten to expose his own doubts. In these situations, he instinctively reacts to squash the threat, even when the consequences are awful.

In his introduction to this volume, Matt Thorn writes that a common theme in Tezuka’s work is criticism of the “human tendency to be contemptuous and fearful of difference.” One can really see that on display here, as Kaufmann’s turmoil shows that it’s easy to villify a group before you have attempted to know them. And once you have, then it’s hard to sustain the hate. I’m not generally one to employ lofty quotations, but this one by Longfellow is one of my favorites, and it applies: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

If I had one complaint about this volume of Adolf it’s that I can’t really care much about the fate of the documents. The human stories are far more interesting, and even the brief tale of the pub owner who nurses an injured Toge and falls in love with him over the course of a single day makes more of an impact with me than the possibility that Hitler’s shameful lineage might be exposed.

Adolf certainly doesn’t qualify as a fun read, but it is definitely a powerful one. Before this series, the only Tezuka I had read was Dororo. While Dororo is definitely good, it’s this later, more sophisticated tale that has really gotten me excited to read more of his works.

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