R udolf Ditzen, who wrote under the name Hans Fallada , lived a chaotic life. Born in in Greifswald in north-east Germany, he was the son of a lawyer who was later appointed a judge. At the age of 18 he killed a schoolfriend in a duel, and spent much of his career in psychiatric hospitals and drying-out clinics or in prison for thieving and embezzlement to support his morphine habit. In between, he worked on the land, wrote a couple of novels and held down jobs for a period on newspapers. Fallada married in , and for a while straightened out.
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When a novel becomes an international bestseller 62 years after its original publication, there has to be something to it. It is the story, closely based on real events, of an ordinary German couple and their acts of resistance against the Nazis. I could keep this review very brief: The book has pages and I finished it within less than a week, reading every night until long after midnight. Yet the book is not overloaded and all these different strings are woven together perfectly. Anna and Otto Quangel live in war-time Berlin and are neither members of the Nazi party or their sub-organisations, nor are they overtly critical of the system.
That is, until their only child dies as a soldier at the front. The disastrous economic effects of Nazi rule and World War II and the economic incentives that this puts up for Germans play an important role throughout the book: Both the Nazi family and the thugs in the apartment block see the Jewish lady as potential prey to enrich themselves.
Once this has been accomplished, they are stealing from and cheating each other. Information is given to the police to receive monetary rewards, or suspects are blackmailed for the same purpose.
If Germans bear a grudge against the Nazis in the book, it is because they have to live on ration cards.
Another striking point about German society at that time is the dominance of fear. Not only the obvious fear from the Gestapo and the SS, but also fear of being reported to the authorities by neighbours, co-workers and even members of the own family.
The whole country is under a cloud of fear and mistrust. It might be that Hans Fallada is apt at recreating this mood, because he was one of the few German writers to remain in Germany throughout the whole 12 years of Nazi rule which also lead to him becoming a somewhat contested writer after and to observe country and society. Inspector Escherich, an intelligent detective, becomes more and more obsessed with his hunt, but it will be a long time — and some innocent victims — later that he will learn of the Quangels.
Reading these, the similarity between the true and fictional storylines is striking. Elise and Otto Hampel were sentenced to death and executed, a fate that Anna and Otto Quangel are threatened with as well. The story of the Hampels or Quangels and of other German attempts at resistance — of which there were embarrassingly few — leads to the question if the lesson shall be that resistance was ultimately futile and thus not worth the risk and sacrifice, or if there was not enough resistance?
Fully aware that any ideas about how I myself would have acted in a dictatorship are mere speculation and wishful thinking, I strongly tend towards the second view. For the Quangels at least, their resistance had become something the futility of which they blinded out but which gave them the rewarding feeling of personal courage and moral superiority. And it revitalised their marriage in a way which nothing else could have done. Hier gibt es die Besprechung zur deutschen Ausgabe.
Time after time, I am struck by the similarities between how the Nazis in Germany, and the Communists in the Soviet Union and Warsaw pact, ruled and controlled the people underneath their regimes.
I look forward to reading this book, to expand my knowledge of the civilian side of WW2. Thanks for a great review, Andreas!
Just wish I knew the German language better to read it in the original…. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account.
You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. The Happy Hermit. Skip to content. Books: My wishlist Surprise! Instagram 1. Otto and Elise Hampel after their arrest.
Like this: Like Loading About Andreas Moser Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo. Bookmark the permalink. The Editor says:. Good review, Andreas — I think we got similar things out of the book!
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Rereading: Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin
At the age of 18 Fallada had narrowly escaped a murder prosecution following the death of a friend in a failed suicide pact, and this led to the first of many incarcerations in psychiatric institutions. Towards the end of his life he was again prosecuted for making drunken threats with a gun against Anna Issel, from whom he had recently been divorced. In any society Fallada would have struggled, but he had the supreme misfortune to be born at a time when writers who wanted to avoid the attentions of the Gestapo could choose between compromise, silence or exile. Fallada's choices led at one point to his arrest by the Nazi militia, and at another to close contact with Goebbels. His writing career was unstable and full of paradoxes, just as his life was lived in intimacy with humiliation and terror.
Hans Fallada: 'Alone in Berlin'
Entrance to the Holocaust History Museum is not permitted for children under the age of Babies in strollers or carriers will not be permitted to enter. The twelve years spanning till are the dark years of Nazi domination in Germany and vast stretches of conquered Europe. The book under review presents us with a powerful canvas of the war years in Germany and specifically in Berlin. The biographical information regarding the author, his connection with the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels, and the circumstances surrounding the actual writing of the novel are fascinating in themselves, even before the reader opens the book.
The path of least resistance
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Every Man Dies Alone
An unbearably tense, deeply moving thriller set in wartime Berlin, which celebrates the quiet heroism of resistance in the face of brutality and shows the merciless human cost of conflict. Although I found reading this book more challenging than what I'm used to reading, I stuck with it and thought it was absolutely brilliant. Filled with a range of complex characters, it takes you on a journey of Excellent read, its a good read about resilience in Berlin under Nazi rule. Book starts well, but then slows down a little in the middle.