Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Fatherland

This was not quite what I was expecting from a 'Hitler won the war' novel. It's a detective story, and a very good one at that, with Hitler's Final Solution (the complete extermination of the Jews) at its centre. I was expecting something along the lines of what it would have been like for a variety of people living in such a world, which would really amount to short stories. What I got was the story of a man with doubts about the whole thing finding out what kind of world he lived in.

I would have been interested in an exploration of how it affected the US and the UK, as well as other places. Particularly given the map at the front of the book that showed western Europe as not being part of the Greater German Empire. I was impressed by the use made of the son, though I did find the ending a little unsatisfying. I should have liked an epilogue that told the story of what happened afterwards, once the report was out.

I found the use of President Kennedy for the US president rather confusing. At first I thought it meant JFK hadn't been assassinated, then I realised it was only 1964. Then I found it wasn't JFK at all, but some other Kennedy. This apparent supporter of Hitler had been the US ambassador to Britain during WWII. I'd like to find out more about him, if he was a real person (and wikipedia says he is).

The plot as a whole - Heydrich cleaning up those who know about the Final Solution once it had been done - was certainly plausible. I've always wondered (well, ever since I've known) why Hitler never put the orders in writing or put his name to them. Some argue he didn't know about it, which I think is completely implausible. Here, the suggestion is that even he found it barbaric, which I think is the most unlikely statement in the book. If Hitler found the wholesale slaughter of people barbaric it would never have happened. Of course, the fact that those slaughtered were considered less than people probably made it easier for those responsible. It still doesn't answer the question of why the order was not given in writing with Hitler's signature at the bottom.

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