There must be something wrong with me. It usually takes me upwards of eight hours to write a short three page story based on my own life. Hans Fallada, on the other hand, wrote Every Man Dies Alone (a rather lengthy novel) in just 24 days, shortly after being released from a Nazi insane asylum. The novel is based on the true story of a brave couple who took on the Nazis in their own small way. Otto and Anna Quangel, living in Berlin in the midst of World War II, began writing anti-Hitler and anti-Nazi postcards. They dropped these postcards off in the stairwells of busy office and residential buildings. They imagined their words moving from hand to hand, building a buttress of Nazi resistance that would be a catalyst in their eventual demise. The couple never imagined, however, that the postcards would bring a torrent of anxiety and fear to everone who found them, and most of them would immediately be turned in to the SS.
Of course, that is exactly what happened. After writing the postcards for some time, Otto tries to prepare his wife for the torture that awaits them
if and when they are captured. She refuses to believe that any such thing will ever occur. After all, they have been careful, they are intelligent, and they have a purpose. The same God that allowed their soldier son to die is surely on their side now. The events that eventually transpire, however, should come as no shock considering the title of the novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I initially struggled to get into it; I found the beginning and middle to be sluggish at times, but the last third of the book is phenomenal. I think the main problem lies in that during the beginning and middle, the author tried to weave in the stories of too many other secondary characters. These characters were annoying and I couldn’t have cared less about what happened to most of them. However, the end focused primarily on Otto and Anna – and these were two individuals actually worth hearing about. Knowing that this story is based on the real lives of a couple who endeavored to spread the truth about the Nazis made this story all the more inspiring and thought-provoking. Furthermore, Fallada’s living through the war himself (even if he did spend parts of it in a Nazi insane asylum for his drug and alcohol addictions) gives more credibility to his words.
I am a huge fan of Holocaust books. I found this one to be unlike any that I have read up to this point, which are often told from either the Jewish perspective or the perspective of Germans hiding Jews. This story doesn’t touch much on the concentration camps aspect of the war at all, which is perhaps why I found it an interesting change of pace.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.