Adolf 4: Days of Infamy by Osamu Tezuka: A

From the back cover:
While Adolf Hitler continues to wage war on the world and the Jewish people and Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Japanese reporter Sohei Toge finally falls in love with one of the many women who has fallen for him!

Meanwhile, Adolf Kamil, a Jew living in Japan, befriends the Communist son of a Japanese MP in an attempt to deliver the secret documents about Hitler to a famous spy who will play a major role in the defeat of the Third Reich. But Adolf Kamil’s best friend, Adolf Kaufmann, by now a confirmed Nazi, is sent to Japan with orders to destroy the precious documents at any cost!

The fourth book in Osamu Tezuka’s outstanding Adolf covers a period of several years in the early forties in which Germany declares war on the Soviet Union and the presence of a Russian spy, Ramsey, in Japan presents Toge and his fellow conspirators with an opportunity to get the papers about Hitler’s Jewish blood into international hands. Most of the volume deals with arranging for the documents to be transferred to Ramsey, though love is in the air, too, as several couples discover feelings for each other. I assume this is Tezuka’s way of saying that even when times are grim, the human heart cannot be extinguished.

While he only appears in the last couple of chapters, the emotional crux of this series for me remains unfortunate Adolf Kaufmann, now a Lieutenant in Hitler’s service. In her forward to this volume, editor Annette Roman describes him as “impressionable,” which is precisely the perfect word for him. He does horrible things out of a real, though misguided, sense of devotion for Hitler, and when he realizes that the Führer has become mentally unstable, it’s a real blow to him. When he dares mention his concerns to another Nazi, the response he gets is basically, “Yeah, we know.”

Another comment Roman makes is that while Adolf can be enjoyed as a simple thriller set against the backdrop of World War II, Tezuka uses this plot to examine every “evil humans are capable of.” That’s especially true with Kaufmann’s plight. Even though he oversees terrible, terrible atrocities, we’ve seen him grow up and we know about his desperate need to prove himself worthy. His acts are evil, but it’s hard to believe that the person is the same. The other Nazis, on the other hand, perpetrate the same cruelties Kaufmann does, but without the idealization of a charismatic leader and deep personal insecurity as an excuse. Is Kaufmann really better than they are? Not ultimately, but he has been humanized by his struggle while they have not.

More turmoil is definitely in store for Kaufmann in the upcoming final volume. Unable to trust Hitler’s judgment, he refuses to obey an order to kill a renowned general pegged by the Führer as having been involved in an assassination attempt against him. For this insubordination, Kaufmann is shipped off to Poland in disgrace. It’s there that he reconnects with Lampe (of the Gestapo), who reiterates an offer he’d made before: go to Japan and destroy the documents and anyone who has knowledge of them. The volume ends on a marvelous cliffhanger as we know what Kaufmann’s mother has been up to in his absence, and how this will tie in with the task he’s been ordered to perform.

One does feel a little guilty anticipating the excitement and drama of the pending conclusion, but it’s a testament to Tezuka’s craft that he’s able to shine a light on inhumanity while simultaneously entertaining his audience.

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