Kultur Ohne Gott

I began this novel, set in Germany between the two world wars, after watching Valkyrie.  I found the film both shallow and grandiose, dominated by clicking heels and clashing chords; the choice of Tom Cruise to play Claus von Stauffenberg was singularly inept.  Cruise is a Hollywood celebrity; the personality of Stauffenberg—an aristocrat, soldier, and man of great personal charisma, with a deep love of his country and a foreboding about the destructive path it was being led down by Hitler—vanished amid the heroics.

However, the novel returned me to the real world, the world that would have been familiar to Stauffenberg, who was born in 1907 into the Catholic nobility of south Germany and who contemplated a career in music before deciding to join his family’s regiment.  Lucy Beckett places her story in the Silesian countryside and in Breslau.  Her main character is Count Max von Hofmannswaldau, half-Jewish, half-Protestant, born in 1905 and raised on a Silesian country estate, which he leaves for the Breslau Gymnasium to continue his studies.  Here he makes friends with Adam, Count Zapolski, a Pole and lapsed Catholic, and comes under the benign influence of the classics master Dr. Alois Fischer.

Later, at Breslau University, the two young men, now studying law, include Baron Joachim von Treuberg, the son of an East Prussian Junker, in their circle.  Treuberg is studying medicine,...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here