Saturday, November 10, 2012

Flensburg: The Bizarre, Three-Week Post-Hitler Government

My novel Germania is set in Germany during the last days of the Third Reich and is about living in the strange moments that take place in the space between epochs.

On May 1, 1945, mere hours after Adolf Hitler had killed himself deep in his Berlin Fuhrerbunker, a new Nazi government was coming to life in the little north German town of Flensburg. Set up by Grand Admiral Doenitz, the head of the navy and Hitler’s hapless successor, the ‘Flensburg Reich,’ was an absurd little comic opera affair which somehow managed to hold on for three weeks before the Allies decided to unceremoniously roll it up and arrest everyone.But much of what happened in Flensburg during that three weeks was so odd it defies credulity. With the war over and Hitler no longer telling them what to think, Flensburg’s inhabitants, mostly high-ranking Nazis who’d managed to flee Berlin, were suddenly free to imagine up whatever bright, shiny postwar future struck their fancy. Neither are they hindered by their guilt or by the fact that the Allies are now walking among them.

SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler now fancies himself co-ruling postwar Europe with Dwight Eisenhower, while Hitler’s architect and armaments minister Albert Speer contemplates escaping to Greenland with a friend to hunt walrus, fish, and write their memoirs together. In a brazen attempt at reinvention, SS doctor Karl Gebhardt appoints himself as the new head of the Red Cross and wanders about easing any misery he can find. Meanwhile Rosenberg, Ribbentrop and other former top Nazi henchmen, having lost their jobs, now stumble around in drunken desperation, trying to get their hands on anything that might give them official cover, or allow their escape: ministerial appointment, diplomatic passport, submarine, medical certificate, desk, or even just a few sheets of office letterhead.

Woven among all this craziness is the story of four Jewish brothers, former Berlin vaudeville child-stars, Manni, Franzi, Ziggy, and Sebastian, known during the 1920s and 30s as the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers. Flensburg is where they find themselves reunited after twelve years apart and suddenly things start getting quite strange...
Germania was first published by Simon & Schuster in 2008, but is now also available on Kindle here.

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