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In February 1945 the US Air Force launched the largest day time bombing offensive against Berlin, dropping over 2,250 tons of bombs on the German capital.
The Reichsbank, Germany’s state bank, received 21 direct hits. This left the building badly damaged, its vaults unsafe and meant that most of its contents were at risk.
The German authorities made the decision to take most of the Reichsbank’s treasure away and hide it for safekeeping. Some $200 million US in gold bars, weighing around 100 tons, plus much of the paper currency reserves, as well as a great deal of foreign currency (approximately $4 million in US currency alone) was sent in trains from Berlin.
All this loot was placed in a salt mine at a place called Merkers. This was captured intact by the US Army. After this disaster, the Germans spent the next six weeks transferring their remaining bullion and currency reserves around what remained of the Reich in armoured trains, an area that included parts of northern Italy, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany, looking for somewhere safe.
Much of the treasure actually either ended up back in Berlin, was stolen, disappeared or, was captured, mainly by American troops and the SS.
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Review by Travis Starnes
While I have read a lot of historical fiction set during World War II this one takes an interesting perspective on the genre by having the entire point of view take place from the German side. The story focuses on a group of plotters within the Nazi military and government and their often competing schemes to steal a shipment of gold and escape Germany just ahead of the invading allied armies.
Colin Fulton definitely knows his history and it is clear he has done a good amount of research for this book. He takes a series of real events, all of which he lays out in an appendix at the end of the book, and places his story around the edges of history that remain a mystery in real life. He takes this one step further by not only using well-known figures from history as a supporting cast but also lesser known but equal real members of the German government. Of all the historical fiction I have read Fulton has gone the furthest in grounding his story in real history, and the book is all the better for it.
One of the things I struggled with early on in this book was the characters. Not that they were poorly written. Nearly all of the major and supporting fictitious characters in the book feel very fleshed out and believable. The issue is that most of the protagonists in the book are people who by their very nature it is hard to like. One of the main characters in the book is an SS officer who keeps track of and account for all of the money stolen off the murdered prisoners in the concentration camp. It is difficult as a reader to sympathize and feel a connection to a character like that. To be fair as the book progressed Fulton managed to make the characters work out in a believable and satisfactory way without changing their evil nature. It is a tough line to walk and by the time I finished reading it I could only applaud Fulton’s success.
As a straight up thriller this book also completely succeeds. The events surrounding the attempt to escape Germany with the embezzled money really worked. It was a simple enough setup making it easy to follow yet with enough twists and turns to make it satisfying. For most of the book it is more of a psychological thriller rather than action packed adventure, but the story manages to stay suspenseful and never let up in spite of that. The pacing is solid and there were no obvious sections where the book slowed down or got off track. If anything the pacing was better than average starting at an even pace and slowly picking up speed until the climax.
My only real complaint is how some of the language was used in the book. The author clearly has a fondness for the German language, and it was a detriment. As a book written in English nearly everything the characters say is in English for the reader, yet very often the author also has them say things in un-translated German. I found this fairly distracting because the jumping between languages would mean that most of the time the Germans are all speaking English to one another. While this is obviously not the case it makes those moments when the dialogue is in German feel even more out of place. German names and identifications I can accept but there is no reason for a character whose dialog has been presented in English for a chapter then say “come here” in German. Nearly every time this happened it pulled me out of the story.
That one complaint aside this is a really solid read and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it. If you are a fan of historical fiction or thrillers do yourself a favor and pick up The Reichsbank Robbery.