Tue Oct 30th, 2018 at 06:16:02 PM EST
Based upon the Gestapo files of an actual case, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2009 ISBN 978-1-933633-63-3) is about a middle-aged, working class couple who resist the Nazis in 1940 Berlin. Otto and Anna Quangel drop postcards and leaflets in mailboxes and in public places protesting Hitler's government and the war. They know what they are doing can and probably will result in their capture, torture, and death by the Gestapo. They also know what they are doing is a very small disturbance in the larger world; but they must do something. After the death of their only son in the war, they have nothing to lose.
The daily atmosphere of Nazi rule is described so you feel the constriction of the limited choices, always on the edge of violence, every person had to make, every moment of every day. Everyone is alone in a world where everyone is an informant.
Fallada stayed in Germany throughout the war though he was blacklisted by the Nazis and institutionalized for a time. He reportedly felt he was something of a collaborator. Every Man Dies Alone was Fallada's last book. He died before it was published. The book was not translated into English and released until 2009, becoming a surprise success. With the wave of authoritarian nationalism and tactical cruelty by despots washing around the world right now, it is a difficult book to read though, perhaps, a necessary one.
We are, it seems, always a few years away from extermination camps in any society and I think I could make a reasonable case that, all my life, there was and is almost always attempted genocide happening somewhere in the world.
Quotes from Every Man Dies Alone
(page 9) Not that she's [Eva Kluge, Karlemann's mother] a political animal, she's just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she's of the view that you don't bring children into the world to have them shot. Also, that a home without a man is no good, and for the time being she's got nothing: not her two boys, not a man, not a proper home.
(20) Because you could see it with your eyes closed, the way they were making separations between ordinary citizens and Party members. Even the worst Party member was worth more to them than the best ordinary citizen. Once in the Party, it appeared you could do what you liked, and never be called for it. They termed that rewarding loyalty with loyalty.
[footnote] Winter Relief Fund was a Nazi-organized charity collected during the winter months. Pressure to contribute was considerable, and armbands and pins were distributed for public display to identity donors - and thus non-donors. Much of the money was siphoned off by the Party, and scholars have noted that it kept the populace short of extra cash and acclimated to the idea of privation.
(43) Father of Karlemann: "On his last furlough he showed me a photograph that a comrade took of him. He was proud of it. There's your Karlemann, and he's holding a little Jewish boy of about three, holding him by the leg, and he's about to smash his head against the bumper of a car."
(64) For an instant, Baldur Persicke [Hitler Youth] thought the game was up. But then he remembered one of his maxims, Shamelessness wins out...
(78) [footnote] Jewish women were forced to change their names to Sara by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 (also known as the Nuremberg Racial Purity Laws); Jewish men were forced to call themselves Israel.
(132) He might be right: whether their act was big or small, no one could risk more than his life.
(146) In the year 1940, he had not yet understood, our good Harteisen, that any Nazi at any time was prepared to take not only the pleasure but also the life of any differently minded German.
(153) "Show me one that isn't afraid!" said the brownshirt contemptuously. "And it's so unnecessary. They just need to do what we tell them."
"It's because people have got in the habit of thinking. They have the idea that thinking will help them."
(157) In other words, the Quangels were like most people: they believed what they hoped.
(223) That was all his superiors really cared about: something had to be done, even if it was the wrong thing, as the whole pursuit of Kluge [father of Karlemann] was wrong. It was the waiting around the gentlemen couldn't endure.
(278) "Thoughts are free," they said - but they ought to have known that in this State not even thoughts were free.
....They had failed to understand that there was no such thing as private life in wartime Germany.
(284) "They just need to overcome their fear. At the moment, their fear of the future the Nazis are creating is still less than their fear of the present. But that will change before too long."
.... "Second, my dear chap, you ought to know that it doesn't matter if there's a handful of you against many of them. Once you've seen that a cause is right, you're obliged to fight for it."
(288) Eleven of his workforce, including two men who had been at the furniture factory for twenty years, had disappeared without trace: either in the middle of the shift or they hadn't come to work one morning. He was never told what had become of them, and that was further evidence that they had spoken a word out of turn somewhere and been packed off to a concentration camp.
(289) But sometimes out of that dullness a terrifying rage would explode like the time a worker had fed his arm into the saw and screamed, "I wish Hitler would drop dead! And he will! Just as I am sawing off my arm!"
(292) "Danger," he said. "There's always danger, Anna; otherwise, it's not fighting...."
(352) [Detective] Escherich once felt very secure. He once thought nothing could happen to him. He worked on the assumption that he was completely different from everyone else. And Escherich has had to give up these little self-deceptions. It happened basically in the few seconds after SS man Dobat smashed him in the face and he became acquainted with fear. In the space of a very few days, Escherich became so thoroughly acquainted with fear that now there is no chance of him forgetting for as long as he lives. He knows it doesn't matter how he looks, what he does, what honors and praise he receives - he knows he is nothing. A single punch can turn him into a wailing, gibbering, trembling wretch, not much better than the stinking coward of a pickpocket who shared his cell for a few days and whose hurriedly rattled off last prayers are still ringing in his ears. Little better than that. No, no better at all!
(355) His parsimony, his "confounded miserliness" prevents him from destroying them, but also his respect for work; everything that constitutes work is sacred to him. The destruction of work is a sin.
(359) They all sense the threat hanging over each one of them. Because there is not one among the eighty men there who has not in some way opposed the present government, at least by a word or two! Each one is threatened. Each life is at risk. They are all terrified...
(368) Besides, she seems to belong to the minority that respond to threats with increased obstinacy. There's nothing to be gained by knocking her about.
(370) "Half the population is set on locking up the other half. Well, it can't go on like this much longer. At any rate, I will remain here; no one is about to lock me up..."
He smiles and nods.
"The worse it gets, the better it will be. The sooner it will all be over!"
(418) She had delicate hands, the hands of an old child...
(458) Everyone is guilty. You just need to probe for long enough, and you'll find something.
(483) A double standard. Clemency is for Party members, not for members of the public.
(501) The gravel was a dream gravel, the crunching of stones underfoot was a sound in a dream...