Help for writing...

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Heini
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Help for writing...

Post by Heini » 18 Mar 2007 13:51

Hello together!

I'm going to write a short story about a police detective in an alternate history world. It's based on Robert Harris excellent book "Fatherland". The story is set in Berlin around 1964.

That's why I need help with describing the police organisation of Nazi Germany in 1964.

Robert Harris gave me some good ideas, but all in all I dislike his descriptions. In my POW they aren't realistic enough.

Can you tell me some good books/essays etc. which describe a possible police organisation if Nazi Germany has won WW2, please?

Many thanks in advance!

Best wishes,
Heini

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gatordh7
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Post by gatordh7 » 20 Mar 2007 06:36

One could not really just guesstimate what the police force would have been like in the 1960's if Germany had actually won the second world war, I recommend that you just do research on what the German police force was like during the 30's and 40's. After you have done that do some research on the 60's and find out where the world stood and then you could somewhat put the pieces together yourself without any help, and find out how the German police force of the NSDAP would have reacted.

Of course if Germany indeed had won, history would have been quite a lot different, but to some degree, events would have occurred at least somewhat accordingly to how they did

You are writing this short story, so just be creative, and don’t depend on the works of others, that way what you create will be truly unique

-Gatordh7

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Sewer King
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Post by Sewer King » 20 Mar 2007 16:59

Heini wrote:Robert Harris gave me some good ideas, but all in all I dislike his descriptions. In my POW they aren't realistic enough.
I think Harris' emphasis on his characters naturally had to take away from emphasis on organizational detail.

He seemed to portray the Orpo as more like field troops (who were issued the "tinny Opels" for police cars) who worked for the smarter Kripo and Sipo (who had the more powerful Mercedes or BMW cars).

Some other authors -- and other artists for that matter -- have been cautionary about putting too much weight on background detail. It shouldn't override your good story, which is the main point.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings fantasy trilogy was once quoted about the great interest in all the details of his Middle-earth. Certainly it is a great tapestry, but he suggested that you can miss the "soup" for being too concerned about the "bones" it was made from.

To enjoy Tolkien's books a reader doesn't actually have to know the grand and sweeping mythos that its characters look back to in the stories -- you simply assume them. It is the author's job to make this assumption perfectly natural, even unnoticed. Especially for a first-time reader that knows relatively little about the background history for your story.

If a Tolkien reader later wants to know more about the deep and near-Biblical history of Middle-earth, he would read The Silmarillion. But it is not necessary, only more enriching. If a reader of Third Reich-based fiction wanted to know more about the RSHA, there are many sources for that too.

In Harris' case, some among his readership (like this forum) might already be acquainted with German police, the various Nazi personalities, and the course of the war up to 1942. That was where Harris turned WW2 history in another direction for his story. But many other readers would not know all these things. Yet it did not affect their enjoyment of the book. Nor did it take away the sense of how history can in fact turn on things, like the key to a Swiss safe-deposit box in Fatherland.

And hopefully Fatherland might cause someone to become interested in finding out more about what all those things were really like -- just as it inspired you to write your own story about what it could have been like.

Harris' depiction of the German police forces might not have seemed realistic enough, but for me they were just enough. It's conceivable that he worked along those lines. Fatherland was only one book, so there might not have been room to be as realistic as you might wish. Whereas The Lord of the Rings has 3-4 books covering years of story length to present all that rich background detail.

An even closer comparison might be British author Lindsey Davis' "Falco" murder-mystery series. These are all set in the ancient Roman Empire. Together they take you through such detail that you can almost smell the streets of the Eternal City. But there are at least 17 books in this popular series, so there is that much room to be realistic.

Getting back to Harris, I think he did an interesting job with his clash of leading police personalities like Nebe, Heydrich, and Globocnik. They went on to become still bigger power players in a long-established Nazi superpower of 1964. You notice there is also a generational clash there. Globocnik tells March "We used to ask 'Has he got guts?' and now it's 'Has he got a degree?' Christ, we didn't need degrees back in '41 on the eastern front when your piss would freeze ..."

Harris' portrait of 1964 Berlin as finished by Albert Speer is fairly good. Of course there are a lot of actual plans, models, and original ideas to draw upon for that. Speer himself later realized how overwhelmingly drab Hitler's grandiose architecture could have been in time, and I think this comes out in Fatherland too.

As you felt about his description of the police, so I had some issue with his description of how World War II ended in Europe. But that was not crucial to the story, And although I liked them, neither were the background mention of Lufthansa's Junkers jet airliners, or the launching of the new nuclear submarine Karl Dönitz.
gatordh7 wrote:I recommend that you just do research on what the German police force was like during the 30's and 40's.
This is possible, but during the 1930s the German police forces were just being taken under the SS umbrella, with caution for its conservative traditions. And during the 1940s the police was further occupied with security duties in the occupied territories. Like Fatherland, your story might instead be concerned with a long-established peacetime police force for whom those events were a generation ago.

You might find some useful background about this transformation of the police in Edward B. Westermann's book Hitler's Police Battalions: Enforcing Racial War in the East (University Press of Kansas, 2003).
Heini wrote:Can you tell me some good books/essays etc. which describe a possible police organisation if Nazi Germany has won WW2, please?
My own impression is that the German RSHA might have tended to become somewhat ossified, since Europe was occupied for so long and there were not so many enemies to fight except in unoccupied Russia. A rough comparison might be the late Soviet KGB of the 1980s. I can also picture such a generational divide there, in which the Chekists from Stalin's time might say the KGB of the Cold War has gotten too soft.

Incidentally, Fatherland was compared to Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park, which also started with a murder victim found in a public park of a totalitarian capital city. Only it was contemporary Moscow of the Soviet era.

I can't imagine that there are many books or essays projecting what the Nazi security apparatus would have been like in 1964. If there are, by definition they would already be crossing the line into fiction. Speculative, but fiction nevertheless. There is nothing wrong with that, but they would be as much subject to debate as your ideas or mine.

So, you sound like you might have enough background about German police to do so. Good luck, then! I hope this is of some help.

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Heini
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Post by Heini » 20 Mar 2007 19:02

Many thanks for your replies!

You both mentioned very good points. Many thanks for this fast help...

I think I'll give my best. Now I'm going to write... ;-)

Yours truly,
Heini

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