Every Man Dies Alone / Hans Fallada

Published in 1947 and based on a true story, Every Man Dies Alone dramatizes a working class couple’s decision to oppose the Third Reich after their son is killed at the Front. Their act of resistance was a simple one, and in no way threatened the power of the Nazi government. Over the course of two years, they dropped hundreds of postcards around Berlin, encouraging its citizens to wake up and speak out against the war. Almost all of the cards they scattered were turned into the authorities. Clearly, they failed in their attempt to reach a broad segment of the population. This novel addresses the question of whether or not such an insignificant act had any importance at all. For the Gestapo, who spent a great amount of manpower in capturing and finally executing the couple, their act was seen as a major threat. Fallada uses this uneducated couple to show how, on a larger stage, the Nazi Party forced the majority of German citizens to compromise their moral beliefs for fear they would lose their jobs, be sent to prison, or killed. He shows how the government used intimidation to keep dissidence in check.   Otto and Anna Quangel, the working class couple, are the centerpiece of the book. But just as intriguing are the other characters Fallada portrays. Be it their neighbors, the investigating officers, or others who picked up their postcards, he shows how easily people abandoned their ideals for self-preservation. The author knew this first hand, having censured his own writing to remain in good standing with the Nazi party. Only a handful of the characters did preserve their moral integrity, although most did so at the cost of their own lives. By showing these small acts of resistance, the novel suggests that these dissidents did not die in vain. These individuals are the representations of a better Germany, the foundation upon which the country could build following Hitler’s defeat. The failure of Otto and Anna’s efforts matters not in the least; that they remained true to their moral beliefs is what proves truly inspirational. In this saga, Fallada vividly portrays the monsters in the Gestapo, the petty informers who only cared about their own skins, and the few who dared to resist tyranny. It makes for a compelling read, showing a side of World War II that few books have taken the time to explore.

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