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  • Hans Fallada

Alone in Berlin

This novel was first published in Gemany in 1947, but later translated by Michael Hofmann and published in 2009. It was a challenging, but by the end unbelievable novel.

Based in Berlin in the 1940’s, the war is among them and everyone is living in fear and staying out of trouble under the Nazi rule. Otto, a German man and his wife Anna, after their son dies fighting, start a small but clever act of resistance against the Nazis. They start to drop (anonymous) postcard) against Hitler and the Nazis across the city, fully knowing the death consequence if caught. They last uncaught for two years, but during the two years the Gestapo of fully aware of the situation and do everything to try and catch the people dropping these fearful postcards.

Otto and Anna aim for these postcards is for people to pass them on and join the courageous act of resistance against the Nazis. However, anyone who picked them up gave them to the Gestapo, and all but 18 were in the hands of them. A lot of the novels story was about the inspector of the investigation, and the man he falsely accused of the postcard dropping.

The novel was a slow start and I did find it hard to get into. As it got translated from German, sometimes the language was hard to read but after reading for a while I got used to it. The novel is based upon a true story and there were many characters and sometimes the names got confused and I muddled them up, so It is a book which while reading a lot of concentration is needed, but it is definitely worth it! The middle of the book was at times not that gripping, as it went off the postcard case and was more about the inspector and who he wrongly accused. This, at the end, I realised was clever as it really showed how many people the dropping of postcards affected, even though Otto thought his mission was a failure as they were all handed into the police. The smaller stories of these individuals that were affected were equally despairing but redemptive.

The novel, although incredibly sad at times, was also about courage to do what is right, even if it results in death. The characters were not afraid of death, which made the story less tragic because they were doing what they felt was just, and if that resulted in a bad consequence, they still thought it was worth it. The vast number of deaths during the war was evident and it gave a real true reality of Berlin in the time of the Second World War. What I found most interesting about the story, was that the inspector and the Gestapo against the post card droppers, and other normal Germans who didn’t agree with the Nazi rule but kept out of trouble anyway, idolised the courage that Otto and Anna had and it inspired the to do the same.

Some people think that Otto’s mission was pointless, and they did not achieve what they wished to. However after reading this book I think they achieved exactly what they set out to do, even if they themselves didn’t realised the affect they had on people.

Although at times this was a hard read, by the end I could definitely say it was the most interesting about insightful book I have ever read. I would definitely recommend it to others, because not only is it such an amazing story of courage and redemption, but it makes it even more extraordinary that it is a true story. What I loved most about the novel is these two normal Germans set out to create an effect on others, which they didn’t think they did because all cards were handed in to the Gestapo, however this book shows they did succeed this. Not only the eighteen cards that weren’t handed in I’m sure had an effect, but more that even they had a vast effect on the Gestapo and inspectors who received the cards. Moreover, having a novel written about these two people shows that what they thought was unsuccessful, ended up successful, as even in the modern day they are still having an effect of people as people read the novel based on them.

So, to fulfill Otto and Anna Hampel’s purpose of having such affect, I encourage you to read it as their courage to do such in the scariest of times deserves to be read about. It is an incredibly thought provoking novel and I encourage everyone to read it. It is definitely not a YA book but I recommend it to all age 15+

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