Historical Fiction
Date Published:  February 11, 2020
Publisher:  Skyhorse Publishing
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 Perhaps no man on earth is more controversial, more hated, or more studied than Adolf Hitler. Yet many questions remain about his personal life and how he gained power. Based on extensive research, the extraordinary novel WOLF, by Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter (Skyhorse Publishing; February 11, 2020), lifts the curtain so that the reader can observe through the eyes of a fictional character, how a seemingly unremarkable corporal who was denied a promotion for lack of “leadership ability” became dictator of Germany. The result is a gripping page-turner, a masterful historical novel.
The story begins in the mental ward of Pasewalk Hospital as World War I ends. A gravely ill soldier, who has lost his memory and is given the name Friedrich Richard, encounters a fellow patient: Adolf Hitler. Suffering from hysterical blindness, Hitler, also known as Wolf, becomes dependent on Friedrich for help with the simplest, day-to-day tasks. By the time Hitler’s sight returns, the two have forged an unbreakable bond.
Upon release from the hospital, Friedrich heads to Berlin to work as a nightclub bouncer, while Wolf moves to Munich where he focuses on turning a fledgling political club into what will soon become the Nazi party. After accidentally killing a man, Friedrich flees to Munich and reunites with his close friend.
Persuaded by Hitler’s convictions about how to rebuild Germany in the wake of its defeat, Friedrich joins the Nazi’s inner circle. Hitler, who in real life often played one advisor against the other – and was not one to rely on any of them – trusts the fictional Friedrich so much so, that he calls upon him to help resolve both personal and national crises that are historically accurate. Throughout the sixteen years covered in WOLF, Friedrich interacts with dozens of people who largely lived the lives the authors depict – from Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels to Berlin brothel-owner Kitty Schmidt and film star Lilian Harvey.
While history has painted Hitler as a man unable to forge lasting relationships, the authors’ research has uncovered that, in fact, he built many lifelong friendships. Hitler was attractive to women and had multiple affairs with young women as well as with the wealthy society matrons who backed the party. These relationships, which are portrayed in WOLF, “have been documented in numerous interviews over the course of seventy years, yet they have rarely, if ever, been reported by historians,” Stern and Winter explain.
During the course of the novel, Friedrich struggles to reconcile his loyalty to Hitler with his own rejection of the party’s anti-Semitism. He never wavers in his friendships with Jews, such as nightclub owner Max Klinghofer and police chief Bernhard Weiss. It is Friedrich who saves Weiss, the highest-ranking Jew in the German police when Goebbels orders him arrested. After this incident, Friedrich promises Weiss to remain by Hitler’s side in the hope that he can help lessen the severity of increasingly harsher laws meant to drive Jews from Germany.
WOLF is a historical novel that will satisfy history buffs and fiction fans alike. For those who want more, the authors’ meticulous research can be accessed at www.NotesOnWolf.com. In combination, the novel and the notes deftly answer the question: how did a nondescript man become the world’s greatest monster? This is truly a lesson that no one can afford to ignore.
About the Authors
Herbert J. Stern, formerly US attorney for the District of New Jersey, who prosecuted the mayors of Newark and Atlantic City, and served as judge of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, is a trial lawyer. He also served as judge of the United States Court for Berlin where he presided over a hijacking trial in the occupied American Sector of West Berlin. His book about the case, Judgment in Berlin, won the 1974 Freedom Foundation Award and became a film starring Martin Sheen and Sean Penn. He also wrote Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won, as well as the multi-volume legal work Trying Cases to Win.
Alan A. Winter is the author of four novels, including Island Bluffs, Snowflakes in the Sahara, Someone Else’s Son, and Savior’s Day, which Kirkus selected as a Best Book of 2013. Winter graduated from Rutgers with a degree in history and has professional degrees from both New York University and Columbia, where he was an associate professor for many years. He edited an award-winning journal and has published more than twenty professional articles. Winter studied creative writing at Columbia’s Graduate School of General Studies. His screenplay, Polly, received honorable mention in the Austin Film Festival, and became the basis for Island Bluffs.
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Excerpt from WOLF: A NOVEL by Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter

Berlin, February 28, 1933

“I am to meet Bernhard Weiss at this address.”

“He doesn’t live here,” said Lucie. Lucie Fuld-Traumann was a stout, married woman in her fifties. The whites of her eyes became more visible as her gaze traveled from my black high boots to the red swastika armband to the shoulder epaulets and finally to the SS lightning bolts on my collar. Her lips trembled in fear. Her gnarled hands twisted a blue-and-white dishtowel into knots.

“Damn it, woman, we don’t have a moment to waste. Where is your brother?” I brushed past her and slammed the door before removing my peaked cap. “You don’t want your neighbors gossiping that an Obergruppenführer was seen standing in your entranceway. Now get Bernhard.”

Lucie stood her ground. “I told you, Bernhard is not here.”

The house was compact: crystal chandelier above our heads, living area with an upright piano to the left, kitchen straight ahead, and the dining room to my right. The dinner table had been set for three. I knew that Lucie and her husband, Alfred, who must have been cowering in an upstairs room, did not have children. After Bernhard Weiss, deputy police commissioner of Berlin, had been removed from office some months earlier, he sent his wife and daughter to Prague while he sought refuge in his sister’s house . . . hiding from the very police he once commanded.

I turned back to Lucie. “Didn’t he tell you to expect Friedrich Richard?” I showed her my identification card. “I’m Friedrich.” Lucie remained frozen in place, unsure of what to do.

Time was of the essence. “You must trust me. We have a window of opportunity to get Bernhard to safety and join his family in Prague. It’s a seven-hour drive through the back roads to the Czech border. If we leave now, we can stay ahead of the men who have been dispatched to arrest him. Now take me to him. Immediately.” I glared down at her. “You brother’s life is in your hands.”

Without further denial, Lucie guided me to the basement door. It was dark. At the bottom, she pushed a button and a small light buzzed to life, casting macabre shadows on the damp walls. She called her brother’s name.

Then I bellowed, “It’s me. Friedrich. We need to go . . . now.”

Clothes rustled from an unlit corner. A soot-smeared Bern- hard Weiss emerged from behind the coal stack. He coughed into a handkerchief before he could speak.

“I knew you would come,” he said without preamble. We clasped hands.

“Goebbels has ordered your immediate arrest. We don’t have much time.”

Weiss nodded and pushed passed me. Upstairs, he grabbed a packed bag stashed for the day he needed a quick getaway, snatched a pistol from a side table that he shoved into the back of his pants, hugged his sister, promised he would see her again, and left his beloved Berlin . . . without realizing he might never return.

*

When we found the address on Kaprova Street, in Prague’s Jewish Quarter of Josefov, Bernhard said, “Don’t stop. We’ll get out a few blocks from here. No need to connect this car to my family’s address.”

We parked on a street with many stores. As I came around the car to join him, Bernhard motioned me to the other side of the street. “We make an odd couple. People will remember us if asked. Walk over there.” He made a valid point. I was more than a head taller than him. I walked at a different pace than him, turning corners a few seconds after he did. After a number of blocks, he looked both ways before entering an aged apartment house. I counted to twenty and then followed through the front door.

“Here.” I looked up. Weiss leaned over the railing and pointed to the stairs. There was an open door to the left of the landing. I found Bernhard hugging and kissing his wife and daughter in the salon. After he introduced me, I followed him into a smaller room.

“Close the door.” There was a small table with two wooden chairs arranged below medallion macramé lace curtains.

Before he said anything, I blurted, “I can’t go back. Not after what we just did.”

“Friedrich, no one but us knows what happened today.” His steel-gray eyes were piercing as he added, “There were no witnesses.”

“I’m not talking about just today, Bernhard. I’m talking about what is in store for your people in the days and years ahead. The Nazis are fanatical in their racial theories.”

“That is all the more reason why you have to go back.”

“I don’t know if I can return to Berlin and look at Hitler or those around him in the eye anymore.”

“No one is closer to the Führer than you. You’re the only one in a position to do something. You must return.”

I pushed up from the small table and paced like a caged animal. “If I try to stop them I’ll be killed.”

“No one expects you to march into a room and wipe out everyone. But there will be opportune times when you may be able to affect change. You’re Hitler’s favorite. There is no one in a better position to speak sense to him. That’s your destiny. To make that possible.” He raised his right hand. “God help me, I didn’t want to, but I had to execute that poor guard.”

I went to the window, lifted the edge of the curtain, and gazed out at the city I thought might be my new home. When I dressed in my uniform before fetching Bernhard, I believed it would have been the last time I would wear it. That’s why I stuffed my pockets with Reichsmarks, took my precious photograph that I had carried since the war, and left everything else, intending never to return.

Bernhard cleared his throat.I turned from the curtain and faced him.

“There’s one more thing you must do, Friedrich. You need to keep an account.”

“An account of what?”

“You were there at the beginning. When the Nazis weren’t even the Nazis. When they were an aimless group of puny men who met in a tavern to swill beer and discuss politics. No one knows the history of how this happened better than you. Write it down. Don’t leave out anything. Then, when this madness is over, share it with the world.”

“To what end?”

“To make certain no one forgets.”

I thought about the magnitude of what he asked. “There has been so much. I would not know where to begin.”

Weiss gave his small smile. “Ah, yes. Begin at the beginning.”

Excerpted with permission from WOLF:  A Novel by Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter.  Published by Skyhorse Publishing. Copyright (c) 2020.  All rights reserved.  Available at:  AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

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