Literature / The Odessa File

Frederick Forsyth's second most famous novel, published in 1972 and adapted two years later into a film directed by Ronald Neame and starring Jon Voight and Maximilian Schell. Said film also features Mary Tamm, who would later appear in Doctor Who.

ODESSA, as stated by Forsyth in the foreword, has nothing to do with the Ukrainian port, but is the acronym for "Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen", in English "Organization of Former Members of the SS", an organisation that may or may not have existed to protect former SS members.

Set in 1963 (starting on the night of the Kennedy assassination), the novel follows Peter Miller, a German journalist investigating the suicide of a Jewish man in Hamburg. Miller acquires his diary and sets out to find Eduard Roschmann, the former commandant of the Riga concentration camp. As he does, he discovers a plot to destroy Israel using German electronics and Egyptian bio-weapons...

This work contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The film is a rather loose adaption.
  • Anonymous Ringer, averted: Eduard Roschmann, aka "The Butcher of Riga", really existed. The movie, where he is killed, led to his arrest, unlike in the book. Roschmann fled to Paraguay and died in 1977.
    • It also features as a character the late, great Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • Author Filibuster: Miller's speech to Roschmann denouncing Nazism, both for its obvious evils and for permanently destroying Germany's reputation. This echoes Forsyth's own comments in the book's foreword.
  • Butterfly Effect: It is stated that if Miller had not seen the ambulance, Israel would have been destroyed by bio-weapons in the Six-Day War of 1967.
  • Cool Car: This leads to Miller being exposed as The Mole, as the Nazis remember his distinctive car.
  • Driving Question: Why does Miller insist on hunting down Roschnmann?
  • Foreshadowing: Miller always refuses to answer when people ask him why he wants to track down Edward Roschnmann.
  • Idiot Hero: Miller does a huge number of things that should, by all rights, get him killed at various points throughout the story. His Plot Armor saves him each time.
  • It's Personal: that Wehrmacht captain Roschmann shot? His name was Miller.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Miller isn't acting out of the goodness of his heart.
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title
  • Nazi Hunter: Several of these, ranging from the protagonist to the Jewish vigilante group he encounters, as well as some real life cameos such as Simon Wiesenthal.
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • Wham Line: I'm sorry for them. But not that sorry.
  • You Killed My Father: The real reason Peter Miller assists the Mossad in infiltrating ODESSA.