Historical Hustle


There are some things in life that we can all agree are pretty awesome. A man pulling the wool over Hitler’s eyes is arguably an incredibly awesome thing. Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer by Walter Shaprio depicts the storied life of Shaprio’s great-uncle Freeman Bernstein.

A vaudeville agent and prolific conman, Freeman Bernstein’s antics read like a fantastic Hollywood concocted tale. From promoting boxing matches, putting on vaudeville acts for his wife to perform in, gambling, and writing numerous I.O.U.s Bernstein was always working an angle to make money–even if he never actually got to see any of it while he attempted to evade the law. Perhaps as a great coincidence, Bernstein managed to meet someone in 1937 who provided him the opportunity to swindle Hitler’s nickel acquisition for armaments and handing Bernstein a story of a lifetime.

The narrative is informative with plenty of contextualizing historical facts paired with levity in the writing style. I think it was simply a corruption in the file I received for this, but the first page of every chapter was missing, which made it a little difficult to orient myself to the newest thread to the Freeman Bernstein narrative. I will say that I was a bit disappointed that the title story wasn’t really discussed until the very end of the book with most of the novel serving as exposition to paint an overdone picture of Bernstein’s character.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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