The career of the novelist Rudolf Ditzen, who published under the nom de plume Hans Fallada, epitomizes the fate of German writers who remained in Germany and continued to publish during the Third Reich. In and out of prison for his opioid addiction throughout his youth, Fallada achieved worldwide fame in 19323 with the publication of Kleiner Mann - was nun? which depicted the fate of the Kleinbürger in the economic collapse of the Weimar Republic. The book was even made into a 1934 Hollywood feature film starring Margaret Sullavan and Douglass Montgomery. Hans Fallada despised the Nazis, but he no doubt thought that his fame would protect him and he could continue to write and publish in Germany. Goebbels, however, had other plans and Fallada was arrested by the Gestapo already in early 1933. He was soon released when the authorities could not find any overt anti-Nazi sentiment in his writing.
In reviewing Peter Walther's new biography - Hans Fallada.Die Biographie - Friedmar Apel writes about how Fallada came to terms with the new political realities in Germany ("sich in der neuen politischen Wirklichkeit einzurichten"). He was forced to revise his book Eiserne Gustav to make the main character's son a Nazi sympathizer and SA recruit. And then Goebbels demanded he write anti-Semitic propaganda:
"Schließlich willigt er ein, auf Geheiß von Goebbels einen antisemitischen Propagandaroman um den Juden Kutisker zu schreiben, zu dem Fallada bereits recherchiert hatte. Er versucht, den Teufel zu betrügen, spielt auf Zeit, schließlich kommt ein „nicht antisemitischer antisemitischer“ Text dabei heraus. In „Doppeldeutigkeiten wie diesen bleibt sein ganzes Zusammenwirken mit dem Propagandaapparat der Nationalsozialisten befangen.“ Der Biograph hat keinen Zweifel, dass Fallada die Nazis verabscheute, doch zeitweise der Indoktrination erlag."
The episode led to a nervous breakdown and a relapse into his drug addiction.
We catch a very interesting and revealing glimpse of Hans Fallada in the early years of the Reich in Martha Dodd's autobiographical Through Embassy Eyes. Martha was the daughter of the American ambassador to Berlin and in 1935 she and her friend Mildred Harnack (the only American woman later executed by the Nazis) made an excursion to Fallada's farm. Martha knew that most of the great writers had already fled Hitler, and she wanted to meet one of the few remaining talents. Fallada was basking in the success of his most recent novel, which had already sold 20,000 copies and was in its third printing (most likely Wir hatten mal ein Kind - 1934). But Fallada's mood turned sour when Martha (never one to hold back) asked him about the foreward to book, where the novelist praised the activities of the SA. Fallada became enraged and claimed that the "stupid Americans" had no concept of what it took to get published in Germany. "I saw the stamp of naked fear on a writer's face - for the first time," Martha recalled in her book.
Still, we can be glad that Hans Fallada remained in Germany, for in 1947 he wrote what is perhaps the best novel to describe everyday life under Nazi tyranny: Jeder stirbt für sich allein, which became an international bestseller 60 years after Fallada's death with the translations in Great Britain ( Alone in Berlin) and then in the US ( Every Man Dies Alone).
See also my post: The True Story Behind "Alone in Berlin"