Books

Practically every book in which the brutality and the mean cunning of the Nazis has been exposed, whether a book of factual statement or a book of statement disguised in the form of fiction, has been written from the outside, from a place of refuge somewhere out of Germany by an enemy of the National Socialists, avowed or anonymous. Balder Olden’s novel, “Blood and Tears,” has the special merit of having been written from the inside, on the basis of data gained apparently from men close to the most dizzying sources of power.

The leading characters are Nazis —at the beginning of the book. They believe that Hitler is salvation, that Hitler has a plan, that Hitler means work and food. It is at the gates of a prison, in which Lieutenant Hans Ruemelin has been confined by the Republican government for Nazi propaganda, that we find Gerda, his beloved, daughter of Herr von Reischach, leader of the German Nationalist Party and the fictional image in many details of Dr. Hugenberg. Ruemelin walks out of prison ready to press the fight for Hitler and although he attains a place of comparative power, episode after episode sours him, until he is forced to pay the price of revolted and dubious loyalty.

Within the large framework of this plot there are the minor stories, of what the Nazis do to the Naumann family, whose daughter Nella is the particular chum of Gerda; to Nella’s affianced, the Zionist, dragged back into captivity from within a stone’s throw of the border; to the “Aryan” von Buding, whose chief offense is that he is a pacifist; and to Volkerbrunn, trades union chief.

WOTAN’S MICKY MOUSE

But it is not so much in episodes of this character, or in the reports of the Reichstag burning, the burning of the books and the May Day rally at the Tempelhofer flying field that the particular interest of this book lies. What this book contains that I, a steady reader of such literature, have not found anywhere else, is a searing portrait of Wotan’s Micky Mouse, who can be none other than Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, disguised very thinly in these pages as Dr. Schnierwind, between whose office and that of Minister von Reischach the chief protagonist of this story serves as liaison officer.

The portrait of Dr. Schnierwind (meaning Goebbels) has all the earmarks of an inside job. The most contemptuous things said about Hitler are from the mouth of this character, who regards the adherents of Hitlerism as so many cattle. We see him dictating to two Valkyrie, a stunted, clubfooted person but endowed with tremendous vitality, intelligence and charm, but one who can turn on the spigots of hate in any direction at will. He despises Hitler and the millions who believe in Hitler. Schnierwind-Goebbels is made to talk, or talks, like an iconoclastic intellectual who has no faith and never had any. He derives his chief pleasure from his triple income as Propaganda Minister, newspaper editor and radio speaker and, apart from these, from directing the hatred of millions toward objects cold-bloodedly determined on—which he himself does not hate. It is Schnierwind-Goebbels who calls The Leader Fat Adolf and a man who became a tyrant because he lacked the proper way with women. When Ruemelin tells Schnierwind that the people believe in the Leader, Wotan’s Micky Mouse replies:

“Their belief won’t last long. You see, Ruemelin, you’re a smart chap and you’ve had three years to think it over [his prison years]. We’d got all the freshest eggs in the basket. Only the grossest clumsiness could have upset them all. Listen, first there was Nationalism. That works with any race you care to mention, from the Eskimos to the niggers in Liberia. It’s the ace of trumps every time. When they hear of the glories of their forefathers and of all the wonderful attributes that belong to themselves and nobody else, they go off their heads with delight, and when you promise them that they shall tear the other fellows limb from limb, they almost forget their empty bellies. Then we had Socialism. After all, whole continents have got drunk on Socialism and anyone who troubles to peddle it around will always find customers. Our great Leader said to himself: Chocolate is good and garlic is good, so how much better must they both be when they’re mixed together! Socialism and Nationalism both on the same plate—the man who could resist that has something more than sawdust in his skull, and you can’t say that of our people. Add to that the well-proven ingredient, anti-Semitism—the Czar of Russia saved himself with it time after time when he was nearly on the rocks…. One Jew in every hundred Germans—that’s just the right proportion if you want to work up anti-Jewish hatred. It wouldn’t work in Switzerland because there aren’t enough and it wouldn’t last long in Galicia because there are too many, but here it was just right. Then we’d been taught the whole technique of the business, had the best examples in Russia and Italy, Stalin and Mussolini together, two first class professors of dictatorship.”

I believe this book to be more factual than the fictional device would lead one to suspect. I could believe that Schnierwind-Goebbels were a creature of the author’s imagination if the author had shown equal skill with his other characters, which remain, on the whole, fairly wooden, and equally credible.

“Blood and Tears” is published in the United States by the Appleton-Century company, and not as a translation.

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