Goebbels and the not-so-great German novel

In 1923, the future Nazi minister for propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, wrote a novel. Recently, a carbon copy bearing the author’s corrections and amendments, came up for auction in Connecticut. 158 pages long, Michael Voormann: A Man’s Fate in the Pages of a Diary is written as a diary and is both autobiographical and a tribute to Goebbels’ friend, Richard Flisges, to whom the novel is dedicated.

Goebbels and the First World War

Bild 183-L04035One imagines there’s a degree of envy here – born on 29 October 1897, Joseph Goebbels was old enough to fight in the First World War but was rejected due to his clubfoot. (Throughout his life he had to wear a special shoe to compensate his shorter leg.) After the war, he sometimes liked to pretend that his disability was in fact a war wound. In his novel, Michael, in common with Flisges, sees active service on the Eastern Front during the Great War; Michael’s war record reflecting Goebbels’ wishful thinking.

Michael returns to a democratic Germany, seeking revolution and answers, but not sure where to find it. Michael is a socialist and a Christian, attempting to write a play about Jesus (as indeed Goebbels had) and describing Jesus as one of the greatest men to have lived.

Goebbels in Love

While at college, Michael falls in love with a Hertha Holk (based on Goebbels’ first but unrequited love, Anka Stalherm, whom he met at Heidelberg University, from where he would receive a doctorate in literature). After their split up, Michael finds works in the mines and just as things are coming together for him, is killed in a mining accident – a fate that had befallen Flisges in July 1923.

Goebbels dreamt of being a writer and wrote numerous plays, poems and articles but this was his only novel. His literary aspirations however fell well short of his expectations – Michael was eventually published in 1929, but merely on the back of his growing status within the Nazi party. Instead, Goebbels found a very different source for his abilities.

In 1987, the novel was published for the first time in English, published by Amok Press.

The auction house, Alexander Autographs, had hoped the book would sell for $10,000 to $12,000 (£6,400 to £7,600). However it remains unsold. But it did sell Hitler’s accounts book, a 175-page handwritten ledger covering his expenses during the last year of his life.

Rupert Colley

Learn more about the Nazi era in Nazi Germany: History In An Hour published by Harper Press and available in various digital formats and audio.

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