In 2006 a long-forgotten canister of film was discovered in a church in Devon, a county located in the southwestern corner of the United Kingdom. No one knew how it had gotten there, but its contents were tantalizing--the grainy black and white footage showed members of the German SS and police building a road in Ukraine and Crimea in 1943. The BBC caused a sensation when it aired the footage, but the film gave few clues to the protagonists or their task.
World War II historian G. H. Bennett pieces together the story of the film and its principal characters in The Nazi, the Painter and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road
. In his search for answers, Bennett unearthed an overlooked chapter of the Holocaust: a wartime German road-building project led by Walter Gieseke, the Nazi policeman who ended up running the SS task force, that served the dual purpose of exterminating Jewish and other lives while laying the infrastructure for a utopian Nazi haven in the Ukraine. Bennett tells the story of the road and its builders through the experiences of Arnold Daghani, a Romanian artist who was one of the few Jewish laborers to survive the project. Daghani describes the brutal treatment he endured, as well as the beating, torture, and murder of his fellow laborers by the Nazis, and his postwar efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Recovering an important but lost episode in the history of World War II and the Holocaust, The Nazi, the Painter and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road
is a moving and at times horrifying chronicle of suffering, deprivation, and survival.