Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2021
Hitler’s Assassins is the second book in Steve Matthews’ trilogy (book 3 upcoming). Steve was inspired to write this series by experiences with Polish friends and his own visit to Auschwitz. The works are focussed on Hitler and lesser known aspects of the Nazi regime during World War 11.
The book is fictionalised history but buttressed by Steve’s extensive research. The fictitious story is framed by actual stages and significant events in Hitler’s campaign and the European conflict –the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the invasion of Poland, D Day and so on. Steve has been at pains to include as much documented detail as possible, not merely to add interest and verisimilitude to the tale, but to ensure that this history remains in the public consciousness.
It is Hitler’s cook and the many aspects of his uncertain health that are at the core of this book. Klara Koch is taken from her home and family to work as Hitler’s cook at the Berghof. There she observes the extent of abuse and cruelty of the Nazi inner circle. Through her eyes we see Hitler’s reliance on an array of prescribed medications, his mercurial temperament and his cunning manipulation of his underlings. There is an abundance of alcohol, ambition and abusive control on show with this inner circle.
What we also see as readers is the way in which the population, micro and macro, was led on the gruesome path of Nazism and relentless nationalism. We glimpse the venal motivations, the self-interest of the elite and the lingering resentments from the Versailles Treaty with its resultant disintegration of the German economy. The ‘Final Solution’ for the Jewish populations of Europe is also bleakly presented, as is the bizarre hero worship of Hitler by thousands of women. Hitler’s character contradictions are also repeatedly demonstrated.
Klara becomes the heroine of this story. From unlikely beginnings, she develops into the central character and one who in the end links Hitler’s Assassins and Hitler’s Brothel (book 1). She is the vehicle for the author’s revelations about the historically real characters – Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and the like – and for an unfolding awareness of the bigger picture. While her actions are driven by personal needs to protect herself and her family, they are a metaphor for the way in which the regime used not only propaganda, but also fear and threat to control the wider population.
Steve Matthews is an assured writer with a clear mission. He joins many contemporary historical fiction writers determined to unearth details and untold stories of this dark period of twentieth century history. He adeptly weaves his imagined story with an abundance of researched material, some of which will be unknown to readers and which helps paint a picture of the time, political alliances, machinations, social movements and the Zeitgeist (forgive what has become an overused word). Hitler’s Resurrection will complete the trilogy.
Thank you to Big Sky Publishing for my review copy and to Steve for another interesting chat about his work and what is yet to come.