Interview with Perla Divko from The Devil’s Breath by Tom Hogan

Perla Divko, along with her husband Shimon, is an Auschwitz prisoner forced by Kommandant Rudolf Höss to solve a murder (of Höss’s accountant) and the theft of millions in gold extracted from the teeth of gas chamber victims. The Divkos are a formidable team: Shimon was Chief Detective in Warsaw, while Perla was an investigative reporter. In The Devil’s Breath, the pair approaches their assignment with two goals:  to solve the murder and theft, and thus stay alive; and to get word and evidence about Auschwitz and its industrial murder to the outside world.

Q:  You and your husband are forced to help your captors and torturers. How difficult was that for you?

A:  The Kommandant tortured my husband, but he didn’t break. Then they told us that they would execute 100 of each of our barracks-mate if we wouldn’t help. I believe we were still willing to die for our beliefs, but then Divko suggested that we had a unique opportunity to get inside the workings of Auschwitz and document the mass murder happening there. That was what made working with the Nazis palatable.

Q:  You and your husband are a team of equals, a rare commodity in Europe, especially Poland.

A:  We were fortunate in that we both had established ourselves in our professions before we met. And when we first met, I had more sources and inside information than Shimon. So we met as equals, became partners, and only then got married.

Q:  Your alliance with your Nazi overseer, Graf, is again something unique in the stories we hear about the Holocaust, especially the camps. How did that come about?

A:  It began as an adversarial relationship, with Herr Graf charged with overseeing every phase of the investigation and reporting it back to his Nazi overlords. But Graf was also a human being, and once he saw the workings of Auschwitz up close, his human side trumped his Nazi loyalties. And that opened the doors to each of us being to talk to the other as equals, rather than prisoner/captor.

Q:  You had a fiery relationship with Gisela Brandt, the female SS officer in charge of camp labor. Were you ever worried that she might send you to the gas chambers for what she called your ‘insubordination’?

A:  Not really, but only because I was far more useful to her alive than dead. And while she pretended that we were allies, she was a Nazi through and through, and I knew that the moment my value to her and the Kommandant lessened, I’d be in the next transport to the gas chambers.

About the Book:

The Devil’s Breath is a fascinating new suspense novel set in Auschwitz. This murder/theft mystery takes a unique approach to Holocaust literature. Instead of the events of camp and ghetto life being the primary narrative, The Devil’s Breath uses the Holocaust as the setting for a gripping murder and heist mystery, educating the reader as it entertains.
Auschwitz prisoners Perla and Shimon Divko—she an investigative reporter, he a former lead detective in the Warsaw ghetto—are forced by Kommandant Rudolf Höss to solve the murder of his chief accountant and find millions in missing gold taken from the bodies of Jewish corpses. With Reichsführer Himmler due for his annual audit, they have a week to solve the crime or watch hundreds of their peers executed as the penalty for their failure. The investigators dive deep inside Auschwitz—the Kanada harvesting operation, the killing process and the perils of daily life, hindered at every step by multiple red herrings, the murder of prime suspects and witnesses, and the complicated relationship between Höss and his mistress, Gisela Brandt, an SS officer.
The Divkos have two agendas in accepting the case: 1) to solve the crime and keep themselves and the hostage prisoners alive; and 2) find a way to alert the world about the scope and purpose of Auschwitz. In a thrilling conclusion, they solve the crime but are sentenced to death in the gas chamber for their efforts, where in a triumphant but heartbreaking finale, they pull off one act of resistance.

Title: The Devil’s Breath ISBN: 978-1-7369436-1-8 274 pgs., Format: Paperback Price: $17.95, Kindle: $2.99 ISBN: 978-1-7369436-0-1 Pub. date: Aug. 30, 2021


About the Author
Tom Hogan grew up in post-war Germany, living in a German village with his US military family. When Tom was 8, the family visited Dachau, the original Nazi concentration camp, which prompted Tom to wonder how many of his neighbors had known about or participated in the campaign against the Jews and the resulting Holocaust. It was a question that would stay with Tom his entire life.
After graduating from Harvard with an MA in Biblical Archaeology, Tom was recruited by a human rights agency to bring Holocaust Studies into high school and college curricula. For four years he taught at Santa Clara University and traveled with Holocaust survivors to school districts and universities, bringing the lessons of the Holocaust home to new audiences.
In the late 80s, Tom left teaching to join a growing company, Oracle, as its first creative director. Leveraging his success at Oracle, he joined the VC (Venture Capital) world, where his agency, Crowded Ocean, positioned and launched over 50 startups, many of them market leaders today. He is the co-author of The Ultimate Startup Guide, which is used in graduate and MBA programs. 
He recently left the tech world to return to teaching. For five years he taught Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UC Santa Cruz. He then retired to Austin, where he now writes full-time. His first novel, Left for Alive, was described by Kirkus as “gritty and observant, particularly his descriptions of the various outlaws who populate his pages… an impressive tale about criminals that will hold readers hostage.” The Devil’s Breath is his second novel. In addition to his fiction, Hogan is a screenwriter and has written for Newsweek as well as numerous political and travel publications.

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