Fatherland is a
bestselling 1992 thriller novel by the English writer and journalist
Robert Harris, which
doubles as a work of alternate history.
novel is based on the premise of a world in which Nazi Germany was triumphant in
World War II
The book was a bestseller in Britain upon its release, selling
three million copies and being translated into 25 different
The story begins in Nazi Germany, the Third
in April 1964, in the week leading up to Adolf Hitler
's 75th birthday. The plot follows
detective Xavier March, an investigator
working for the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), as he investigates the suspicious
death of a high-ranking Nazi, Josef
Bühler, in the Havel, on the
outskirts of Berlin.
March uncovers more details he realises that he is caught up in a
involving senior Nazi party
who are apparently being systematically murdered
under staged circumstances. In fact, as soon as
the body is identified, the Gestapo claims
jurisdiction and orders the Kripo to close its
March meets with Charlie Maguire, a female American journalist who
works for the New York
, who is also determined to investigate the case.
travel to Zürich to
investigate the private Swiss bank account of one of the murdered
Ultimately, the two uncover the horrific truth
behind the staged murders. The Gestapo is
eliminating the remaining officials who planned the Holocaust (of which the German people are not
generally aware) at the Wannsee Conference of 1942.
This is being done in order to
safeguard an upcoming meeting of Hitler and President Joseph P. Kennedy
by ensuring that the crimes of the
Nazi regime are not revealed. Maguire heads for neutral Switzerland with the evidence, hoping to publish it in the
New York Times.
March, however, is denounced by his ten year-old son and
apprehended by the Gestapo.
cellars of Gestapo headquarters at Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, March is severely tortured but does not reveal the
location of Maguire. Kripo Chief Arthur
Nebe stages a rescue, intending to track March as he meets up
with Maguire at their rendezvous in Waldshut-Tiengen on the Swiss / German border. March realises what is
happening and heads for Auschwitz, leading the authorities in the wrong
The Gestapo catches up with March at the unmarked site of
Auschwitz's completely dismantled extermination camp
. Being sure that
Maguire has crossed the border into Switzerland, he searches for
some sign that the death camp was real. As the Gestapo agents swarm
around him, March uncovers bricks in the undergrowth. Satisfied, he
pulls out his Luger
the reader to draw their own conclusions.
- Xavier March. A detective in the Kriminalpolizei and a Sturmbannführer (major) in the SS, March
(nicknamed "Zavi" by his friends) is a 41-year-old divorcé living
in Berlin. He has one son, Pili, who lives with March's
ex-wife, Klara. Both of March's grandfathers died in the First World War, his father was mortally
injured serving in the Kaiserliche Marine, the Imperial
German Navy, and his mother was killed in a bombing raid in 1944.
March served on a U-Boat in the war and
became a U-Boat captain in 1946. After the war, his marriage ended
quickly. By 1964, March is unknowingly being watched
by the Gestapo.
In the German version of the book the English name of the main
character is translated to "Xaver März", nicknamed "Xavi".
- Charlotte "Charlie" Maguire. A 25-year-old
American woman, Maguire lives in Berlin reporting for The New York Times. Midway through
the novel, she and March fall in love and begin a
- Hermann Jost. A reluctant SS cadet,
19-year-old Jost discovers the corpse which triggers March's
investigation. Midway through the novel, Jost disappears. The
official explanation is that he has been sent to the Eastern Front.
- Paul "Pili" March. The 10-year-old son of
Xavier March, Pili lives with his mother and her partner in a
bungalow in the suburbs of Berlin. Pili is
a member of the Jungvolk — the junior
section of the Hitler Youth for boys
between the ages of 10 and 14. Later in the novel, Pili denounces
his father to the Gestapo.
- Max Jaeger. March's Kripo partner, Jaeger is
50 and lives with his wife and four daughters in Berlin. At the end
of the novel, Jaeger drives the getaway car that rescues March, but
it is revealed that Jaeger was the one who had betrayed March.
- Walther Fiebes. Fiebes is a detective working
in VB3, the sexual crimes division,
along the corridor from March's office. Fiebes spends all of his
time at work, investigating (Party-defined) sexual crimes cases
including rape, adultery, and interracial
- Rudolf "Rudi" Halder. March's wartime friend,
Rudi is a historian working at the immense Central Archives,
helping to compile an official history of the German military on
the Eastern Front.
- Karl Krebs. Krebs is a well-educated young
officer in the Gestapo.
attendees of the Wannsee Conference are central to the plot, although most of them are
already dead at the time of the novel's events.
Globocnik. A middle-aged Obergruppenführer (general) in the Gestapo, nicknamed
"Globus". After March's apprehension by the Gestapo, Globus takes
over March's interrogation and torture, administering several
- Artur Nebe. The
chief of the Kripo, Nebe by 1964 is an old man living in a
sumptuous apartment in Berlin. Once Nebe ascertains the truth about
what March has discovered, he quickly weaves a ruse to dupe March
into revealing the whereabouts of the evidence.
Heydrich. Having survived the assassination attempt in Prague in 1942
(which, in reality, had resulted in his death), Heydrich has risen
to become Reichsführer-SS and
heir-apparent to Hitler. It is suggested that the airplane crash that
killed Heinrich Himmler in 1962 was
actually planned by Heydrich so Heydrich could become head of the
- Other historical characters referred to in the book include
Adolf Hitler, the elderly and
increasingly reclusive Führer of the Greater German Reich.
Hermann Göring is said to have
died in 1951 and Berlin's main international airport was
subsequently named after him. Heinrich
Himmler is said to have died in an airplane crash in 1962.
Joseph Goebbels is still in charge
of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. Winston
Churchill and Princess Elizabeth are
living in exile in Canada.
Edward VIII and
his consort Wallis reign as Emperor
and Empress of the British Empire.
Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. is the President of the United
States. Karl Dönitz is
commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine. Charles Lindbergh is the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
The world of Fatherland
Throughout the novel, Harris gradually explains the historical
development of the society. According to the novel's version of
history, the German armies on the Eastern Front
are stopped at
the gates of Moscow at the end of 1941, as in our history. Defeated
in battle but not demoralised, they launch a second major offensive
into the Caucasus
in 1942, cutting the flow of oil to the
. The first point of divergence
is that this second
offensive is far more successful. With its armies immobilised for want of
fuel, Joseph Stalin is forced to flee
to the east, and a rump Soviet government
surrenders in 1943.
second major point of divergence is that around the same time,
German intelligence (in a way never explained) learns the British have cracked the Enigma code, which is leading to the sinking
of their submarines.
They withdraw their submarines from the
Atlantic temporarily and send false intelligence to lure the
British fleet to destruction. The U-Boat campaign
against the United
Kingdom resumes, starving Britain into accepting a
humiliating armistice in 1944. Winston Churchill, King George VI and other
prominent British officials are forced into exile in Canada.
regains the throne at the helm of a pro-German puppet
tests its first atom bomb in 1946, and
fires a "V-3" missile that explodes above New York City, to demonstrate Germany's ability to attack the
continental United States with long-range missiles.
Following this demonstration of power, the United States signs a
with Germany. This results in the
Third Reich being one of the two
superpowers of the world, along with the
US, which defeated Japan, reflecting
the actual history of the war, though a year later than in actual
achieved victory in Europe, Germany annexes Eastern Europe and most of the western
Union into the Greater German Reich.
signing of the Treaty of Rome
are corralled into a pro-German
trading bloc, the European
. The surviving areas of the Soviet Union,
still led by Stalin, become engaged in an endless guerrilla war
with German forces in the Ural Mountains.
Mounting casualties (at least 100,000 since
1960 stated in the novel and that the bodies have to be shipped
back to Germany in the dead of night), have sapped the German
military despite Hitler's earlier statement (quoted in the novel)
about a perpetual war to keep the German people on their toes, like
in the novel Nineteen
. By 1964, the United States and the Greater
German Reich are caught in a Cold War
an arms race
to develop more sophisticated
and space technology
The novel takes place from April 14 – 20, 1964, as Germany prepares
for Hitler's 75th birthday celebrations. A visit by the President of the United
, Joseph P. Kennedy
, is planned as part of a gradual
between the United States and
the Greater German Reich. The Nazi hierarchy are hinted at being
desperate for peace because the German economy has been staggering
since the end of the war and the cost of fighting the war against
the Russians has led to a situation whereby German citizens are
encouraged to make even larger contributions than before to
". The Holocaust
has been explained away to the
satisfaction of many as merely the relocation of most of the
population to the East into areas where
communication and travel are still very poor, explaining why it is
impossible for most of their relatives in the West to contact them.
Despite this, many Germans are aware — or suspect — the government
has eliminated the Jews.
Greater German Reich and international politics
few pages of Fatherland feature two maps; one of the city
centre of Berlin, and another
showing the extent of the massively expanded Greater German Reich. The map shows Germany
stretching from Alsace-Lorraine (Westmark) in the west to the Ural
Mountains and the
lower Caucasus in the east.
has retained Austria (now known as the "Ostmark"), the Protectorate of Bohemia and
Moravia (formerly part of Czechoslovakia), and Luxembourg (now named "Moselland"). In the East, Germany
has annexed Poland, and Russia
west of the Urals has been
divided into five Reichkommissariats: Ostland (Belarus and the Baltic
Muscovy (from Moscow to the
Urals), and Caucasus,
along with Generalkommissariat Taurida (Southern Ukraine
and the Crimea).
cities in the expanded Reich include old German cities such as
Hamburg, Danzig and Berlin (the largest city in the world, with
a population of 10 million in 1964), but also include newly-annexed
cities such as Moscow, Tiflis, Ufa, St.
Petersburg, Kraków, Rovno, Riga, Melitopol, Gotenburg (Simferopol) and Theodorichshafen (former Sevastopol).
Berlin has been extensively remodelled as Hitler's "capital of capitals
according to the wishes of Hitler and his top architect, Albert Speer
. By 1964, the city boasts gargantuan Nazi
monuments; the Great
Hall holds over 160,000 people at the highest Nazi
ceremonies; the enormous Arch of Triumph is inscribed with the
names of German soldiers killed in the two World Wars, and
straddles the Grand Avenue, an immense boulevard lined with captured Soviet artillery and towering statues of Nazi
eagles. The Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate are dwarfed by the vast, severe, granite civil
buildings which dominate Berlin's city centre; the Grand Plaza, the
sprawling Berlin railway station,
Hitler's mammoth palace, the headquarters of the German Army, and
the parliament of the powerless European Community.
of Western Europe, excluding Switzerland, has been corralled by Germany into a European Community, formed from twelve
nations: Norway, Sweden (which has
surrendered its policy of neutrality), Finland (which has absorbed Karelia from Russia), Denmark, Great
Britain, Ireland (which appears to have absorbed Northern
Ireland from Britain), France, Spain (as in
real history led by Franco),
Portugal, Belgium, the
Italy (it is unspecified if Mussolini is still in control).
countries of Fatherland's Europe include Croatia, Greece, Romania (which has recovered Bessarabia from the old USSR), a greatly expanded Hungary (which has absorbed Transylvania from neighbouring Romania, as well
as the wartime puppet state of Slovakia and possibly still led by the Arrow Cross Party), Bulgaria (which appears to have annexed Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace from
Greece), Albania, Serbia, Iceland, and Turkey.
virtually powerless "European Parliament" is based in Berlin.
At the European
Parliament building, the flags of the member states are dwarfed by
flag twice the size of the other
flags. The nations of Fatherland'
s EC, despite being
nominally free under their own governments and leaders (such as
Franco and Edward VIII), are closely watched by Germany. The
military forces of the "free" nations of Europe are only just
sufficient to police their own territory and their colonies
. European nations are under constant
surveillance by Berlin and are subordinate to Germany in all but
Switzerland has not been annexed by the Reich and is not a
member of the European Community.
By the time the Reich had
turned its eyes to it, the stalemate of the Cold War was setting
in, and Switzerland had become a convenient neutral spot for
American and German intelligence agents to spy on each other.
Consequently, Switzerland is the last true democracy in
The novel also makes many references to the world outside of
Europe. The United States is locked in a Cold War
with the Greater German Reich.
Since the end of the war in
1946, both the US and Germany have been racing against each other
to develop sophisticated military, nuclear, and space technologies.
Japan is said to
have been defeated by the U.S. after the United States detonated
two atomic bombs on Japanese
territory. Japan seems to have recovered quickly since
its defeat and Tokyo is the
host for the 1964 Olympic
Games. The United States is said to have not participated in the Games since
1936 , but is expected to in 1964.
China is a weak
independent state — a passing reference hints at China being ruled
by a harsh government — and Sino-German relations do not seem
particularly strong. A greatly-reduced Russian rump state exists, with
its capital at Omsk.
United States supplies Russia with weapons and funds, which are
used by the Russians to wage an endless guerrilla war with German forces in the
Although German propaganda plays down the war in the east, the
death toll on the Eastern Front is severe. Africa
and the rest of Asia
still controlled by the old European colonial empires. South America
is not referred to in the
The world in 1964, according to the
A point left unclear is whether the Holocaust
was confined to Nazi-occupied Europe
or was extended to the rest of the world, particularly Palestine
. In the novel, the Nazis' Holocaust has
never been revealed, and instead the Holodomor
- the massive planned famines of
the 1930s, in the Ukraine and elsewhere in the USSR - is known
throughout the world as "Stalin's
British Empire appears to be a strong entity and retains its
territories in Africa and Asia, although Canada, Australia and New Zealand have split from the Empire and are closely allied
to the United States. Winston
and Elizabeth Windsor
claims the British Crown from Edward VIII
, reside in
Canada, speaking out against the Greater German Reich,
German-controlled Europe, and the puppet British regime. However,
Great Britain is afforded a great deal of respect from the German
Reich as its Empire and historical institutions were greatly
admired by Adolf Hitler and German society in general even in the
years before World War II.
The novel does not make references to the League of Nations
or to a possible
existence of the United Nations
International Red Cross
exists in the world of Fatherland
The novel describes that since the end of the war between Germany
and the United States in 1946, a nuclear stalemate has developed,
which seems to overshadow international relations. Various
references in the book suggest that Germany is paranoid of a
. New German buildings
are constructed with mandatory fallout
; the Reichsarchiv
(German National Archive)
claims to have been built to withstand a direct missile hit.
Despite the catastrophically high death toll on the Eastern Front,
the German military is afraid to use nuclear weapons
in case they provoke an
American nuclear attack on the Reich. It is not explicitly stated
whether Germany and the United States are the only nuclear powers
in the world of Fatherland
In the novel, Western Europe has been left relatively untouched by
the Reich, as Germany concentrates on the conquest of what is left
of the USSR. The United Kingdom holds on to the remains of its empire (except
Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which refused to recognize
Edward VIII's puppet government and apparently recognize Elizabeth
II as head of state) and Germany relies on the British to keep the
peace in Africa and Asia.
Although Hitler has taken some steps to soften his image, no
substantive changes have taken place in the Nazi regime's basic
character. The Reichstag Fire
and the Enabling Act of
, the legal bases for Hitler's dictatorship, still remain
in effect. The press, radio and the new medium of television are
very tightly controlled. Dissenters are dealt with very harshly,
often being sent to concentration
In the novel, the bedrock of Nazi ideology is still the policy of
blaming subversives for social problems. Homosexuality
and interracial relationships
(particularly between "Aryans
" and Slav
) have joined Jews (see anti-semitism
) and communism
to become the new scapegoats for the
Nazi Party. The Nazi view of other peoples has also been forced to
change. With Europe and Russia under German control,
the Nazi Party appears to have spent the early 1960s blaming the
States for causing Germany's problems.
propaganda has previously depicted America as a land of corruption,
degeneracy and poverty. However, as the diplomatic meeting between
Hitler and Kennedy nears, German propaganda is forced to change its
image of America to a more positive view. In 1964, the Nazi Party
no longer has any internal or external enemies left to fight and as
a consequence, the very structure of Nazi society is starting to
Despite its ideological and moral decline, Germany enjoys a very
high standard of living, with its citizens living off the
high-quality produce of their European satellite states and freed
from physical labour by thousands of Polish
slaves. The European nations
produce high-quality consumer goods for German citizens while also
providing services, such as the SS academy at
University and German holiday resorts in Spain, France, and
Products from across Europe and their colonial
empires flood into Germany, providing German citizens with a wide
choice of high-quality goods. Hitler's crabbed, banal personal
tastes in art
and music have become the
norm for society, creating a stagnant and boringly repetitive
The social structure of Nazi Germany has changed considerably from
the 1940s. Military service is still compulsory, but recruits have
a choice of service. Eastern Europe has been colonised by German
settlers (although local partisan
resistance movements are very
strong) and the German population has soared as a result of Nazi
emphasis on childbirth. Increasing numbers of Nazi officials are
university-educated bureaucrats. The SS serves as
the country's police force, and concentration camps are still in
existence for political dissidents, occasionally given staged
inspections by the International
According to the main characters, however, German society in the
early 1960s is becoming more and more rebellious. An increasing
number of people have no memory of the instability that paved the
way for Hitler's rise to power. Student protests, particularly
against the war in the Urals, American and British cultural
influence (including the rise of The
' popularity, already denounced in the official German
press), and growing pacifism
are all found
in Nazi society. Jazz music is still popular and Germany claims to
have come up with a version which is free from "negro
influence". In spite of the general
repressiveness, the Beatles' real-life Hamburg engagements have
happened here as well. Germany appears to be under constant attack
groups, with officials
assassinated and civilian airliners bombed in-flight. Religion is
still officially discouraged by the state, and the Hitler Youth
is compulsory for all children.
Universities are centres of student dissent, and the White Rose
movement is once again active. The
Nazis continue with their policies for women, encouraging women to
remain in the home and bring up many children. Nazi organisations
such as Kraft durch
still exist and fulfil their original roles. A
sprawling transport network covers the entire Reich, including vast
in the manner of the actually proposed
carrying immense trains.
The level of technology in Fatherland
is much the same as
in the actual 1960s, and in some respects, is more advanced. The
German military makes use of jet
, nuclear submarines
, while civilian
technology has also advanced considerably. Jet airliners, televisions
, hair-dryers, modern cars, and even
are used in Germany.
makes references to the space
programmes of the United States and the Third Reich,
both of whom appear to possess sophisticated space
technology. Judging by a reference made by Maguire, both
the United States and the Third Reich launched the first artificial satellites into orbit
shortly after the war, from White Sands and Peenemünde respectively.
The extent of space technology
and exploration in the world of Fatherland
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
A TV film
of the book was made in 1994 by
, starring Rutger Hauer
as March and Miranda Richardson
as Maguire. The film
explicitly stated that the historical timeline diverged with the
German defeat of the Allied D-Day invasion
Eisenhower, it stated, retired in disgrace and the loss of life was
so great that the American public turned its back on the war in
Europe and focused on Japan, thus allowing Germany to regroup and
defeat the United Kingdom. It also states that in 1964, the
85-year-old Joseph Stalin
alive and leading the Russian forces against Germany.
Although the basic plot remains the same, the 1994 film differs in
many ways from the book. As it is typical for an adaption
characters and plot sidelines are omissed, for example the new
boyfriend of March's ex wife. March and Maguire seem to be older
than in descripted in the novel, and they do not have a sexual
relationship. In the book there is a Gestapo record on March that
shows his distance to the regime very clearly and becomes dangerous
to him; Maguire is decidedly against president Joseph Kennedy whom
she considers to be an antisemite. In the film those political
backgrounds of the main characters lack.
The most important alteration may be the way how the Holocaust is
revealed to the main characters and to the American public. In the
novel it is March who has an old and genuine interest in the fate
of the Jews and who finds out the truth throughout Luther's
documents hidden in a Berlin airport. In the film Maguire gets the
documents from Luther's mistress who does not know about Luther's
death and believes that she will later go with him to America. The
mistriss is radically antisemite and reveals full of joy the
murdering of the Jews to a shocked Maguire. When Maguire tells this
to March in a park the patriotic March in the beginning does not
want to believe the story but the documents, with photographs of
murdered people, convince him.
While the novel lets Maguire escape to Switzerland with the
documents she is going to publish in America, in the film she
passes them to a colleague. In the film the American president is
actually visiting Germany (in the book the visit is scheduled only
for september). Hitler, never appearing in the book personally,
waits for Kennedy in front of a huge German mass, but Maguires
manages to stop Kennedy's car and hand over the documents. It is
shown how Kennedy is shocked seeing the photographs. Then a
loudspeaker tells the crowd (and Hitler) that Kennedy is returning
to America immediately.
March is killed when trying to take his son with him to America,
not committing suicide on the grounds of Auschwitz to avoid being
recaptured by Gestapo. In the end a voiceover from March's son
tells that the revelation of the Holocaust made the Nazi regime
collapse and that Maguire was captured by Gestapo.
Some more disparities:
- March occasionally has a pipe in his mouth instead of being a
permanent cigarette smoker.
- In the film, Western and Southern Europe is also annexed by the
Reich, and the Reich is now known as "Germania". Unlike the novel
the German Border with the Soviet Union is shown to be the same as
it was in 1941 before Operation
Barbarossa (apart from the Baltic
States which are part of the Reich). This coincides with the
film's story of the war ending in mid-1944 (see below), by which
time German forces had been mostly pushed out of Soviet territory.
Exactly how the Germans have been able to hold the powerful Soviet
armies at this position for a further 20 years without making peace
- In a historical introduction set at the beginning, the film
sets an Allied defeat during the
Normandy landings of 1944 as its point of departure from normal
History. In the book there are three points of departure from the
normal timeline: a successful German offensive against the Soviet
oilfields of the Caucasus in 1942, the
changing of the Enigma codes and the success of the U-boat
offensive against Britain in 1944 and the launch of a long-range
missile to explode over New York (with the implicit threat of a
nuclear attack) in 1946.
- The film starts out showing Jost seeing Bühler's body dumped,
not how March inspects the crime scene. Also other episodes that
are told in the book to March by the witnesses are shown
immediately when they happen in the plot. The murder of Luther (Luther's name is changed in
the film from "Martin" to his middle name of "Franz," probably to
avoid audience confusion with the religious reformer Martin Luther, or indeed, for U.S. audiences,
Martin Luther King) in the book,
which takes place on the steps of the Great Hall, is in the film
reduced to a shoot-out in a subway station.
section of the novel where March and Maguire travel to Switzerland to trace a bank account opened by Luther is absent
from the film version.
- SS-Cadet Jost is murdered in the film to ensure his silence,
whereas in the book it is said that he was transferred to a combat
unit on the frontlines with the Waffen-SS.
Given the context in which Jost's "transfer" is described, however,
most readers would assume that he was murdered by Globus to derail
the investigation. In the film March told Jost that he knew his
- Charlie Maguire is just arriving in Germany in the film, but in
the book she had been there for over six months.
The novel was also serialised on BBC radio
, starring Anton
as March and Angeline Ball
as Charlie Maguire. It was dramatised, produced and directed by
and first broadcast on 9
July] 1997. The ending is changed slightly to allow for the
limitations of the medium: the entire Auschwitz death camp is
discovered in an abandoned state, and Charlie Maguire's passage
into Switzerland definitely occurs.
- 1992, UK, Hutchinson (ISBN 0-09-174827-5), Pub date 7 May 1992,
hardback (First edition)
- 1993, UK, Arrow (ISBN 0-09-926381-5), Pub date 12 May 1993,
- Hersh, Seymour. The Dark Side
of Camelot. Back Bay Books, 1998.
- Leamer, Laurence. The Kennedy Men. Harper, 2002.
- Renehan, Edward. The Kennedys at War, . Doubleday,