Fatherland by Robert Harris
10 out of 10
Fatherland is a phenomenal, glorious novel, included on the list of 1,000 novels Everyone Must Read, in the Crime section, albeit it is a perfect combination of mystery and Science fiction, or alternative history as its Wikipedia page states, taking place in the German empire, once the Nazi regime has won World War II and defeated its enemies – there are serious fights with guerrilla along the Urals – and it is about to have a détente with the United States, with which it is engaged in a cold war, much like the one we really had, they expect a summit between Hitler – who will be seventy five in a short while – and the American president, Joseph Kennedy, the pone who had been ambassador to the UK, a period during which he had expressed anti-Semitic views – the brilliant author explains in the post script that most of the documents in the book are real, from the timetable of the trains taking the Jews to be killed, through the minutes of the infamous Wannsee Conference.
At the beginning of the book there is a ‘hand of god’ gesture that has the hero – who is a complex character, he had been involved in the killing of allies, military and civilian, as a submarine commander during World War II and only later will have become disabused, disenfranchised and ultimately disgusted with the Nazi system – taking up the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a body near a lake, in the vicinity of the housing of elite, rich functionaries and prominent business people, which turns out to belong to Buhler, a former high functionary in the regime, state secretary in territories that include Poland – which in the meantime has ceased to exist, incorporated with other states in the German Empire.
Xavier March finds many details about the death of the retired official, including the fact that he had enriched himself, benefiting from the spoils of war, selling with his partners in crime multiple objects of art, estimated at extremely high prices and thus being able to buy a small palace, much beyond the means that he had been provide with by the state – however, the Gestapo is taking on the investigation, claiming that this is state business, given the high rank of the deceased – who they claim that has drowned, against the evidence that he had been actually murdered – and we will find out that a massive cover up operation is in fact under way.
They had been eliminating over the years all the participants at the Wannsee conference, but nevertheless, Xavier March would uncover the secrets, against a powerful enemy, SS general Globus, head of the unofficial task force that kills the witnesses, with help from the American journalist Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Maguire…March and Charlie would eventually fall in love, though at the beginning they distrust each other…she had been the one to discover the corpse of Stuckart, former high official at the interior Ministry, part of the Buhler group, and she also had seen the two men that had been part of the team sent to dispatch him and his Polish lover.
Reinhard Heydrich is the head of the SS and the one to order the elimination of the attendees of the Wannsee conference, where they had discussed the details of the Final Solution aka the Holocaust – a meeting that has taken place in reality, albeit not for the lunatic holocaust deniers – from the means of killing they had used previously – such as the murder of 1,000 Jews in the forest, using guns, the mass killing with exhaust from the trucks and other ‘less effective’ methods – and they had wanted to move to murder on a massive scale, using the now infamous, monstrous death camps with the Zyclone gas and the installations made to execute thousands of people every week, with huge ovens, operated by Jewish Kapo, teams that would be there temporarily, only to be eliminated themselves after a few weeks.
The atrocious details from documents are real – although as we know, we have had no German Empire after World War II, only a very similar, if not an exact replica in the Evil Soviet Empire, lamented now by Putin and his fanatics – and we have historical evidence on data such as the amount of hair collected to be used on submarines and other places, with indications to keep only the male hair that is longer than 20 cm…the group of retired high officials that had accumulated a vast fortune – by taking it from occupied territories through Buhler, sending it to Stuckart and then using the Foreign Ministry state secretary Martin Luther to sell it and stash some of it in a Swiss bank – realized that it is in grave danger.
Therefore, they took precautions in the form of a vast stash of documents that would prove the guilt of the Nazi leaders – with the exception of Hitler himself, the monster has been careful in reality to avoid signing any incriminating evidence and clearly gave the verbal orders for the Final Solution – and should use as a strong defense and have them spared the fate of all other participants at the Wannsee conference, all of whom had met with death in so called accidents, a car bomb, assassination and more.
Spoiler alert: what has intrigued me to a high degree was the unusual ending, which goes against the usual type, in which we have a murder or a few and then the detective – it could be a few, as in The Poisoned Chocolates Case http://realini.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-poisoned-chocolates-case-by-anthony.html -is smart and finds the guilty party or parties, and here we have the hero tracking what has happened, only to be caught by Globus and his team, tortured and almost wasted, separated from his lover, Charlotte, who might find a way out to Switzerland, though we could not be sure, and then apparently given a chance to escape, as happens in most, if not all other mystery, adventure or thriller stories…
On the way to some other SS headquarters, the SS officer pretends the prisoner is urinating on himself and gives him a Luger pistol and the way out of the certain execution – the fate of Fyodor Dostoevsky comes to mind, the genius that had been sentenced to death – and he tells the readers in his Magnum opera about the feeling one has when facing death – and then pardoned – by joining his best friend, Jaeger – incidentally the name of one my best friends in the past – and the running for his life in a Mercedes limousine…yet, as he analyzes the conjecture, the hero understands that this is in fact a ruse meant to provoke him to reveal the thereabouts of Charlotte and his best friend – some friend – had been a traitor all along.
I mean this is as a brilliant as it can get, although so deeply unfortunate, since we want the main character not only to survive, but to join his lover in the free land in the consecrated tradition of the super hero, because it reflects what happens in reality, it has the final twist when we say ‘ok, so March does make it’ and the logical outcome does not betray the interest of such a consistent, moral, inspiring and so captivating novel.