“Every Man Dies Alone” – by Hans Fallada

Every sinister period has its criminals and its heroes. The Nazi regime of Germany is especially known for both and to this day, 70 years later, we still encounter them; an encounter that leaves us at the same time mortified by what humanity can do to itself and solemn at the courage delivered by the most common of us.

On one hand we have Anne Frank, the girl whose simple diaries mesmerized and captured hearts all over the world, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, author of the now famous Operation Valkyrie.

And then on the other, you have Otto and Anne Quangel, or rather, Otto and Elise Hampel. Two ordinary citizens whose only records were on pieces of paper drafted by the Gestapo at their arrest and then never heard of since, that is since Hans Fallada was given the said documents. He spent a mere 24 days to put life and a story into them and resuscitate them so that their timid yet valiant actions would forever live in the hearts of the readers.

Writing short sentences on simple postcards and leaving them in buildings. Sentences with incorrect grammar. Postcards anyone could by, buildings anyone could enter. Yes, it all sounds simple and so little compared to, for instance, an underground movement printing leaflets in bulk or hiding Jews, or planting a bomb within the Nazi Headquarters. But the consequence of being caught would bring the same punishment: death. And surprisingly, that is what keeps this middle-aged couple going on. They many not be educated, they may not be soldiers, but one thing they know is that the Fuhrer took away their only son and no other father or mother should suffer the loss of their child.

The postcards unfortunately do not play the role they were meant to, they do not bring about a secret ‘postcard movement’ nor do they bring down the regime, but they are a symbol of their courage, of their faith and of their love. It doesn’t matter that most of their postcards will never be known to the general population, what matters is that they took matters into their own limited hands and actually did something and fought against what they believed was wrong through more than just thoughts. In other words, it was worth it.

And pehaps, it is actions like these, small and often ending with the execution of their authors, that make me believe that had -God forbid- Germany won the war, the Nazi regime would have been destroyed no matter what from within.


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