This is one of those books, which is difficult to put down. I almost missed my metro stop, a couple of times reading this. This is the story of two decent Germans in a Berlin gripped by fear. Anna and Otto Quangel are ordinary Germans trying to stay out of trouble. When they get the news that their only son, Ottochen, has been killed fighting for the Fuhrer in France, their world changes. Anna initially blames Otto for their son’s death “that’s what you get from your wretched war, you and that Fuhrer of yours!” Otto is taken aback but is spurred into an extraordinary act of resistance. He starts to write postcards with slogans against Hitler and the Nazis and dropping them around the city. At first Anna thinks the act “a bit small” but Otto replies:” Whether it’s big or small, Anna, if they get wind of it, it’ll cost us our lives.” The act soon comes to the attention of the Gestapo and Inspector Escherich, confident of his own abilities believes with a little patience he will catch the author of the cards.
The book is based on the actions of a poorly educated working class couple, Elise and Otto Hampel who left hundreds of postcards all over Berlin calling for civil disobedience and workplace sabotage. Hans Fallada was given their Gestapo file by a friend and wrote this novel in just 24 days in 1947. During the War, Fallada had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and was lucky to survive, he was the successful author of “Little man, What Now?” (1932) about the effect of the Depression on Germany and he had a difficult relationship with the Nazis, who alternated between censoring his work and promoting it.
My rating 5 out of 5