Book Review: Every Man Dies Alone – by Hans Fallada

Recently I published a post about a crackpot who walked around with  a T-Shirt with this slogan:

Those members of the armed forces obeying the orders of Obama are traitors of the United States and our constitution.

This comment would have resulted in a trial for high treason in Nazi Germany and the offender would have been executed by guillotine.

I finished the book Every Man Dies Alone recently. It was the first major book in decades that I have read in the original German language. This gave me added insight and color and an understanding of many of the subtleties that surely would have gotten lost in the translation.

The story is fictional, but it is based on real events, real people, whose names are actually shown in imaged documents. It takes place in Berlin in the period between 1940 and 1943, at the height of  the Hitler regime, before losses in the war started wearing the regime down.

If you have ever wondered how an entire country of 60 million plus people could have turned evil, attacked all its neighbors, killed 6 million Jews, devastated all of Europe, you should read this book. It all becomes understandable and obvious. A criminal and nefarious leadership started instituting totalitarian practices, slowly at first, and deliberately and systematically as it went. Children were brainwashed to spy on their parents. Over time, every bad apple enlisted with the dark side, where brutality, sadism, corruption and murder were completely accepted, as long as they benefited the ruling elite. Every thug got a uniform, and that uniform, without any checks and balances, authorized him to brutalize the citizenry as he saw fit. The acts were done by the military,  who controlled everything, including the police, the court system, the business establishment and the social system.

Those that didn’t agree with what was going on could not only not publish their opinion, they could not even speak it to anyone, since they never knew who was a snitch. Your own family and “friends” could have been undercover spies. Fear permeated all of society. Pretty soon, half  the country was busy arresting and locking up, and often executing, the other half.

In Every Man Dies Alone, the protagonists are the little people. Field hands, children, shop keepers, factory workers, housewives, policemen, detectives. The Germany of the Nazi regime comes to life through the eyes and feelings of the “small” people. We get to watch their lives, their fears, pains, the little joys left to them, and their perishing.

One message I took away from this: Freedom of speech is hugely important. Secrecy and non-transparency is the start of  totalitarianism. It is a slippery slope, from hiding the truth, government lying to the people – like about WMD in Iraq – to slow subjugation of the people and their rights. There are people in our country today who are willing to start walking on this slippery slope just because there might be a terrorist in our judicial system who slips through the cracks of a technicality.

Read Every Man Dies Alone and then tell me if you are willing to take the risk of allowing the slightest type of censure, seeing what it can lead to within just a few short years of abuse.

Rating: ****

One thought on “Book Review: Every Man Dies Alone – by Hans Fallada

  1. Kristen Aliotti

    very interesting – so right about freedom of speech – and so true, about transparency and how dangerous the lack of it can be – just reading Scott McClellan’s book on his days in the Bush White House as press secretary – he was on the inside with a lot of the thinking and planning – clearly, Bush’s advisors failed him – instead of questioning his policies, they went along, and figured out how to make it work – when they should have questioned the wisdom, etc – they failed him – and he certainly failed us – he wanted these countries to have “freedom” (!) but knowing that would not justify war to the American people, they trumped up the WMD issue – and the Valerie Plame revelation came straight out of the White House – all to discredit a critic – it is a tragedy that that war went forward – a total failure on the part of journalists covering the White House – a lot was no examined, their role was not played honestly – the biggest mystery for me is how so many people could say it would have been OK, if they had just found WMDs!! – when in fact, there was no imminent threat and Saddam had nothing to do with Sept 11 – that whole issues was so phoney, how could people not have seen that? does it mean a lot of this lock-step following is already happening? i think it does – tonight i was saying to myself, Why am i feeling melancholy? – and then i remembered the time spent listening to the story of the lead-up to the war, and i knew what it was – what a tragedy – how are we going to turn this war ship around? it’s going to be slow if it happens at all

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