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COLUMN: IU alumna writes nonfiction book about a German-American mystery



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“Death of an Assassin” is the true story of a German assassin who flees to America. He later dies in the Mexican American war, defending Robert E. Lee. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Welcome to chapter eight of the book column. A popular trend in readers' habits today is nonfiction literature. We are so interested in nonfiction because we want to hear other people’s stories.

It is no longer difficult to find information via the internet, so unlike those who read past nonfiction work, many of us don't read to understand a concept. We read to understand a specific situation or person. 

A new book that history buffs and mystery lovers alike will love to read about is “Death of an Assassin,” written by IU alumna Ann Marie Ackermann. 

Ackermann graduated from IU in 1982 with a degree in speech communications. 

“My favorite things about IU included the library and the operas put on by the music school,” Ackermann said. 

Ackermann moved to Germany for an internship with a law firm, met her future husband and hasn’t left. 

“Death of an Assassin” is a nonfiction story about Gottlob Rueb who assassinated the mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. After the assassination, Rueb fled to the United States, where he was killed in the Mexican-American war, defending Robert E. Lee.

“It asks the question of whether an assassin in Germany could become a hero in America,” Ackermann said. 

Thirty-seven years after Rube's death, Frederick Rupp solved the case. Rupp was also a suspect for the assassination of the mayor of Bönnigheim at one time. However, his research cleared his name and closed the cold case. 

“I have two (favorite parts), the connection to Robert E. Lee and the German investigator becoming the first detective to try forensic ballistics,” Ackermann said. 

A reward was offered for information on the assassination in 1835, but the money was never given to Rupp as it should have been. 

Ackermann wrote “Death of an Assassin” when she came across a 150-year-old diary. 

During her research for the book, Ackermann partnered with the mayor of a German town to ensure the reward money would finally be given to Rupp's family. She studied and wrote the story for two or three years before the investigation was closed and the story completed. 

One of Rupp’s descendants is set to receive the reward money posthumously in 2018 for the hard work of an ancestor. 

“As a former American attorney with experience in criminal law, I was the right person to tackle this case and track the assassin through the American archives,” Ackermann said.

Ackermann’s story comes at a perfect time because Oct. 6 is German-American Day. This holiday is a celebration of the original 13 German families that came to Philadelphia and created Germantown, Pennsylvania. It was the first German community in the 13 colonies. President Ronald Reagan created the holiday in 1983. 

Ackermann said the story of Gottlob Rueb is not an uncommon one, though it does stand out. Many European, including German, immigrants came to the U.S. to escape laws in their home countries. 

It is all part of German-American history. 

With a foot in both countries, America and Germany, reading “Death of an Assassin” would be a great way to celebrate the holiday. 

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