Crimes of War by Neil Rolde tells of horrors of SS massacre in small French town

A compelling novel that takes on why massacres happen

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By Ramona du Houx 

Crimes of War, Neil Rolde’s newest novel deals with a real SS massacre of a small town in France during World War II called Oradour-sur-Glane.

“The drama here was that some of the perpetrators were French citizens—Alsatians drafted into the SS. They were put on trial in 1953 for their part—under duress, it was claimed—in the horrendous killings and destruction of that peaceful village,” said historian/author Neil Rolde.

There was a huge trial in 1953, and Look magazine devoted a big spread to it. The question is, were the Alsace soldiers forced to do it? The idea of people being forced to commit an atrocity and then being held responsible is what caught my attention. 

It has been a difficult story to tell. But I believe my current work gives the flavor, although fictionalized, that many of the non-fiction books about this incident do not.”

During the Spanish Inquisition many Cathars where tortured and murdered in the same region where the SS massacre took place, echoing the past.

“Neil tells this compelling story as if he were there—a silent witness through the centuries,” said Paul Cornell du Houx, of Polar Bear & Company, the book’s publisher.

Specific historical figures make appearances in the story.

In the novel Professor Eugene Desfosseux, a historian and self-taught ventriloquist, conjures amid the ruins figures from deep into his past and records the interviews and interrogations in a tale that epitomizes what this or any other war crime might encompass—including his own daily life of pleasures, romance and memories inflamed to a vengeance that would destroy his life’s work.

“Thus it brings up the question of what war crimes entail and thus the plural in the title.

Crimes of war are still a universal problem,” said Neil.

Upon the order of President Charles de Gaulle the town was kept as the Nazis had left it in ruins and is a national monument, which is on the cover of Crimes of War.

Crimes of War is Neil’s third fictional work.

Rolde enjoys writing novels and non-fiction to be able to impart his insights and historical information in entertaining ways for his readers.

Rolde is currently working on a new book about the War Refugee Board (WRB) following his successful biography of Breckinridge Long, Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews.

“In my reading about World War II, I would occasionally come upon mention of the War Refugee Board (WRB). In researching my biography of Breckinridge Long, the villain of restrictions on European Jews trying to flee for their lives, the WRB was cited. In the Library of Congress, there were volumes and volumes of research material on the WRB. So I decided to write a full scale history of the WRB, since there did not seem to be one,” said Neil. “It will be part of a trilogy beginning with the Breckinridge Long book, and ending with an as yet untitled volume on the natural progression from Breckinridge Long to the War Refugee Board to the creation of Israel.”

Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

Available online and at your local bookstore internationally or directly from the publisher Polar Bear & Company, polarberanadco.org. 207.643.2795. $16.95