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In defence of Hans Fallada


In defence of Hans Fallada

Sir, - In a sophisticated assessment of Jenny Williams's meticulous biography of Hans Fallada, More Lives Than One (October 2), Richard Bessel discusses the unique features of this German writer's life. Fallada spent his most important years as a writer in inner emigration in Nazi Germany, and, although in his best books he managed to preserve his humanist ideals, he was unable to avoid making some compromises with the Nazi regime. Professor Bessel points to the complex relationship between Fallada's literary output and the power structures in Germany at the time, and acknowledges Williams's notable achievement in presenting the unique personal circumstances of the writer's life and at the same time demonstrating how his family background and the social pressures of Wilhelminian Germany turned Rudolf Ditzen into Hans Fallada.
However, there are two counts on which I must take issue with Bessel. Martha Dodd's assessment in 1939 of Fallada ("one of his country's bestselling authors and most acute social observers") is regarded as ill-judged and incomplete, since it did not take into account Fallada's work after Dodd left Germany when her father, the US Ambassador, was recalled in 1937. It is therefore unfortunate that Bessel chose to base his assessment of the writer on Dodd's statement.
I also disagree with Bessel's criticism that Williams is less than exact in dealing with historical facts. For example, Williams's claim that the industrialist "Hugo Stinnes told Hitler in July 1931 that he shared his aim" is based on the letter from Hugo Stinnes junior to Hitler in July 1931, in which he urged the Fuehrer to expand Germany's borders to the east. This is a well-known, documented letter. In Williams's book, there is no mention, as Bessel claims, of "Adolf Hitler meeting Hugo Stinnes seven years after the industrialist's death".

MANFRED KUHNKE Hans-Fallada Gesellschaft, Eichholz 3, 17258 Feldberg, Germany .

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