Novelists Paint a Complex Portrait of Hitler

The Sins of the Fathers: A Novel by Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter; Skyhorse Publishing Inc. © 2022; ISBN 9781510-769427; 432 pages, $29.99.

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – Here is a mixture of history, biography and pure fiction describing the political maneuvers of Adolf Hitler and his relatives between 1934 and 1938, the tumultuous years preceding World War II.

The novel is a sequel to Stern’s and Winter’s Wolf, which chronicled Hitler’s past life. Both are told by the fictional Friedrich Richard, who is said to have gone through World War I with Hitler, helped him in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, and thereafter remained one of his closest confidants.

Unbeknownst to Hitler, Richard became appalled at of the fuhrer recklessness, paranoia, racism and anti-Semitism. A courteous man, he secretly met with German military leaders to plan a Rebellioneven as Hitler achieved dizzying (and terrifying) successes in rearming his country in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, forcing union (Anschluss) with Austria, and taking control of the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia.

We witness Hitler’s glory in the adulation bestowed on him at the 1936 Olympics, accompany him to his Bavarian mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, and sit with the fictional Richard as an observer at the Bavarian Conference. ‘Evian in France, where countries pretended to talk about the plight of refugees. (read only European Jews) while refusing to increase their quotas. This inaction delighted Hitler, who said it proved that no one wanted the Jews, and therefore Germany had to find its own way of dealing with them.

Although the book is over 400 pages, it’s fast-paced and inspired by the humanitarianism of Richard and his girlfriend Carla, a talented photographer. We also glimpse the relationship between Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, who during this period of her life was kept apart as much as possible. It was only in Berchtesgaden that Braun was allowed to act as if she were anything other than Hitler’s secretary.

Hitler is portrayed as a master tactician in some chapters and in others as a man who has become so subsumed by hatred and paranoia that psychiatrists are certain he is insane. We also get quick portraits of some of the high-ranking Nazis around him, including Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS; Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Gestapo; and Herman Goering, commander of the German military forces, all of whom in this account seem more malevolent than Hitler himself.

Although there is a lengthy appendix at the end of the book in which the source material is discussed, the entire book should be read as a novel, not an actual story. Any scholar or student of history would be wise never to cite this book as a reference. If a factoid from the novel sounds interesting, you’d be wise to check it out elsewhere.
Donald H. Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He can be contacted via