Sunday, February 16, 2020

Wolf - A Novel About Adolph Hitler

The possibility that a monster like Adolph Hitler could have ever been a ladies man never crossed my mind. Never. But that is exactly the way that Hitler is portrayed here in Wolf, the new fictional look at Adolph Hitler’s rise to power by authors Herbert Stern and Alan Winter. And according to the novel’s “Historical Notes” section, there is good reason to portray him that way because Hitler was not really the cold, emotional wreck of a man who was incapable of forming meaningful relationships with others that so many “esteemed” historians claim he was. Stern and Winter say that he, in fact, “forged life-long friendships with numerous people,” people to whom he was “exceedingly loyal.” This is particularly true in cases of the men who were with him from the very beginning of his rise to power - as it was true of the “stable of women” he manipulated for his own purposes throughout most of his adulthood.  

Most of the characters in Wolf were real people, but the book’s narrator, Friedrich Richard, is not one of these. Rather, Richard is a fictional, amnesiac soldier who meets Adolph Hitler in the mental ward at Pasewalk Hospital in 1918. Richard is in the hospital for treatment to help him recover his identity when Hitler, having been diagnosed as a psychopath suffering from hysterical blindness, introduces himself to Richard as “Wolf.” Both men are suffering from World War I combat-related issues. Richard is not particularly happy to have been asked by doctors to help look after Wolf, but after Wolf becomes completely dependent on Richard’s assistance for getting around the hospital, the two begin the close friendship that will last them for at least the next sixteen years.

Pasewalk Hospital - Where Hitler was treated
The sixteen years encompassed by Wolf, beginning in October 1918 and ending in August 1934, would see Adolph Hitler rise all the way from being a mere corporal whose mind has convinced his body that he is blind, to the moment that German voters decide to “anoint” him their country’s dictator. Along the way the two men’s friendship will be tested numerous times, but Richard convinces himself that by staying close to Hitler he will be able to curb the man’s worst impulses. Hitler, on his part, remains dependent on Richard and is always more willing to listen to counsel from him than from anyone else in his organization. The supreme irony of their relationship is that Richard’s good advice is instrumental in Hitler’s rise to the top of German politics – and to all that will soon follow.

Bottom Line: Wolf helps explain what many readers will have only wondered about: How did the citizens of Germany not simply allow, but actually vote, a man like Adolph Hitler into the absolute power that would lead to him becoming perhaps the greatest monster the world has ever seen. While the novel can at times read a little too much like a history book, it is in its best moments a horrifying reminder of just how easily something like this could happen again.

Review Copy courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing 

6 comments:

  1. This sounds absolutely fascinating but I assume the authors are not suggesting that there actually was such a figure in Hitler's life as Friedrich Richard? If not I wonder how such a plot occurred to them? The possiblity that Hitler was a ladies' man had not occurred to me either but he was clearly fascinating 'to' women, Unity Mitford was obsessed for instance and I'm sure there were many others.

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    1. No, they're not suggesting that there was one individual like Friedrich Richard, but what they do with the character is show how just about every time that Hitler came to some kind of crossroad in his political career he uncannily made took the path that let him politically survive and move on to the next stage of his overall plan of taking over the government. He was a great manipulator of his enemies and they didn't take him all that seriously until it was too late to stop him.

      In the novel, Hitler doesn't take any of the women seriously enough to want to settle down with any of them longterm except for his niece. And that relationship ended tragically for her. But he tried to stay on friendly terms with all of his ex-mistresses and took care of some of them financially for years. He was very loyal to the women in that sense.

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    2. Ah right, thanks for the explanation, Sam. I'll keep an eye out for this one as I'm rather intrigued.

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    3. I've come to like these fictional biographies, Cath, especially the ones that have an explanation at the end as to where reality ends and the fiction begins. If I read them carefully enough, I think I learn a lot of thing from them worth learning.

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  2. Another World War II novel? I thought you were getting tired of those. ;D

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    1. Guilty...even though this one ends just before WWII begins, I do have another WWII ARC sitting on my desk for next month's reading.

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