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How Would History Be Different if the Nazis Built the A-Bomb First?

Ed Driscoll recommends Robert Harris's novel Fatherland as one answer.

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February 1, 2013 - 9:00 am

Today’s PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf selection comes From Ed Driscoll’s “Far from Complete: Great Books Missing in the Kindle Format” article:

Fatherland, by Robert Harris: The birth of the modern world in the early to mid-19thcentury gave man many blessings, but it also created the technology — and more importantly, the totalitarian worldview and the concept of “Start From Zero” — that unleashed newfound horrors a century later, as seen in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But how similar where these two ideologies?

In Robert Harris’s best-selling alternative history book, first published in 1992, it’s 1964, Nazi Germany won World War II by getting to the atom bomb first, and a stalemate — a Cold War, if you will — exists between America and Germany. President Joseph P. Kennedy, who won the White House due to the appeasement with the Nazis he preached during World War II, is scheduled to fly into Germany to begin discussions leading to détente between America and an Evil Empire. Sound eerily familiar? As Orrin Judd wrote in a perceptive review of Harris’s book, Fatherland is a brilliant metaphor for the Cold War:

A nuclear balance of terror surely would have kept America from invading Europe and, after a suitable period of huffy pretense, there surely would have been a significant segment of public opinion, particularly in academic intellectual circles, advocating detente–just as has actually happened with both the USSR and Red China.  And just as the Holocaust failed to draw the U. S. into WWII in the first place, and just as the millions of victims of Russian and Chinese communist oppression failed to deter rapproachments with those countries, it’s easy to believe that the “disappearance” of Europe’s Jews would have little impact on an American/German détente.

The story is engrossing enough on its own, but these speculations, and the subtle way in which they implicate the past sixty years of Western history, turn the book into a disturbing and subversive novel of ideas.  Conservative historians–like Robert Conquest, Richard Pipes and Allan Bullock–have beaten their heads against a wall for years, demonstrating to an uncaring elite establishment how little the Soviet Union, Stalin and Communism differed from Nazi Germany, Hitler and Nazism.  But this popular thriller makes the same points, and reveals the moral emptiness of our policy of détente, in a wonderfully imaginative way.  What more can we ask of an author than that he entertain us and at the same time raise questions that trouble our souls?

Apparently, Fatherland was included in the early books rushed into Kindle format, and is still available on the Amazon UK site for British Kindle owners, but isn’t currently available in the States. Is it a case of Amazon or the publisher losing the electronic format licensing rights? Otherwise, what on earth is stopping Amazon from rectifying this?

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Related at PJ Lifestyle:

The Society of St. Pius X and Antisemitism

A book recommendation often with excerpt(s), usually attempting to fit the daily theme. Family and Relationships on Monday, Practical and Technology on Tuesday, Laughter on Wednesday, Culture on Thursday, Intellect on Friday, Health and Fitness on Saturday, and Religion and Ethics on Sunday. Image courtesy shutterstock / robert_s
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