by Robert Harris

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Fatherland is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War. It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth -- a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781560548959
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 02/01/1994
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 551
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Robert Harris is the author of eleven novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, Dictator, and Conclave. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Thick cloud had pressed down on Berlin all night, and now it was lingering into what passed for the morning. On the city's western outskirts, plumes of rain drifted across the surface of Lake Havel like smoke.

Sky and water merged into a sheet of gray, broken only by the dark line of the opposite bank. Nothing stirred there. No lights showed.

Xavier March, homicide investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei — the Kripo — climbed out of his Volkswagen and tilted his face to the rain. He was a connoisseur of this particular rain. He knew the taste of it, the smell of it. It was Baltic rain from the north, cold and seascented, tangy with salt. For an instant he was back twenty years, in the conning tower of a U-boat, slipping out of Wilhelmshaven, lights doused, into the darkness.

He looked at his watch. It was just after seven in the morning.

Drawn up on the roadside before him were three other cars. The occupants of two were asleep in the drivers' seats. The third was a patrol car of the Ordnungspolizei — the Orpo, as every German called them. It was empty.

Through its open window came the crackle of static, sharp in the damp air, punctuated by jabbering bursts of speech. The revolving light on its roof lit up the forest beside the road: blue-black, blue-black, blue-black.

March looked around for the Orpo patrolmen and saw them sheltering by the lake under a dripping birch tree. Something gleamed pale in the mud at their feet. On a nearby log sat a young man in a black tracksuit, SSinsignia on his breast pocket. He was hunched forward, elbows resting on his knees, hands pressed against the sides of his head — the image of misery.

March took a last draw on his cigarette and flicked it away. It fizzed and died on the wet road.

As he approached, one of the policemen raised his arm.

"Heil, Hitler!"

March ignored him and slithered down the muddy bank to inspect the corpse.

It was an old man's body — cold, fat, hairless and shockingly white. From a distance, it could have been an alabaster statue dumped in the mud. Smeared with dirt, the corpse sprawled on its back half out of the water, arms flung wide, head tilted back. One eye was screwed shut, the other squinted balefully at the filthy sky.

"Your name, Unterwachtmeister?" March had a soft voice. Without taking his eyes off the body, he addressed the Orpo man who had saluted.

"Ratka, Herr Sturmbannführer."

Sturmbannführer was an SS title, equivalent in Wehrmacht rank to major, and Ratka — dog tired and skin soaked though he was — seemed eager to show respect. March knew his type without even looking around: three applications to transfer to the Kripo, all turned down; a dutiful wife who had produced a football team of children for the Führer; an income of 200 Reichsmarks a month. A life lived in hope.

"Well, Ratka," said March in that soft voice again. "What time was he discovered?"

"Just over an hour ago, sir. We were at the end of our shift, patrolling in Nikolassee. We took the call. Priority One. We were here in five minutes."

"Who found him?"

Ratka jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

The young man in the tracksuit rose to his feet. He Could not have been more than eighteen. His hair was cropped so close the pink scalp showed through the dusting of light brown hair. March noticed how he avoided looking at the body.

"Your name?"

"SS-Schütze Hermann Jost, sir." He spoke with a Saxon accent — nervous, uncertain, anxious to please. "From the Sepp Dietrich training academy at Schlachtensee." March knew it: a monstrosity of concrete and asphalt built in the 1950s, just south of the Havel. "I run here most mornings. It was still dark. At first I thought it was a swan," he added helplessly.

Ratka snorted, contempt on his face. An SS cadet seared of one dead old man! No wonder the war in the Urals was dragging on forever.

"Did you see anyone else, Jost?" March spoke in a kindly tone, like an uncle.

"Nobody, sir. There's a telephone booth in the picnic area, half a kilometer back. I called, then came here and waited until the police arrived. There wasn't a soul on the road."

March looked again at the body. It was very fat. Maybe 110, kilos.

"Let's get him out of the water." He turned toward the road. "Time to raise our sleeping beauties." Ratka, shifting from foot to foot in the downpour, grinned.

It was raining harder now, and the Kladow side of the take had virtually disappeared. Water pattered on the leaves of the trees and drummed on the car roofs. There was a heavy rain-smell of corruption: rich earth and rotting vegetation. March's hair was plastered to his scalp, water trickled down the back of his neck. He did not notice. For March, every case, however routine, held — at the start, at least — the promise of adventure.

He was forty-two years old — slim, with gray hair and coot gray eyes that matched the sky. During the war, the Propaganda Ministry had invented a nickname for the men of the U-boats — the "gray wolves" — and it would have been a good name for March in one sense, for he was a determined detective. But he was not by nature a wolf, did not run with the pack, was more reliant on brain than on muscle, so his colleagues called him "the Fox" instead.

U-boat weather!

He flung open the door of the white Skoda and was hit by a gust of hot, stale air from the car heater.

"Morning, Spiedel!" He shook the police photographer's bony shoulder. "Time to get wet." Spiedel jerked awake. He gave March a glare.

Reading Group Guide

Fatherland is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War. It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth -- a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history.


1. Did you find the alternative history of Fatherland convincing? If so, what details strengthened that conviction?

2. 'Fatherland works on all levels' -- Washington Post. What do you think this means? How do you think Fatherland works best?

3. Do you think Robert Harris's portrayal of women effectively reflects the society he has created?

4. 'History is told through the eyes of the victor.' How does this statement apply to Fatherland?

5. 'You're an irony yourself, March, in a way... We set out to breed a generation of supermen to rule an empire...we trained them to apply hard fact -- pitilessly, even cruelly...And what happens? A few of you...begin to turn this pitiless clear thinking on us...' (page 240). What other ironies do you think there are in Fatherland?

6. How does the theme of deception work in the novel?

7. Do you think Xavier March had a fatal flaw? If so, what was it?

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Fatherland 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
drexler-spiele on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very interesting read. Alternative history based on a real historic data. Very dark and creepy. One of the best in this genre.
michaeldwebb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this partly because of the way Nick Hornby recommended it in Polysyllabic Spree, and partly because the premise, that the Nazis won the second world war, seemed interest.In reality though, the premise wasn't really explored much, and it was just a fairly subdued chase thriller. Not really my cup of tea.
cajela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Creepy and clever, this detective novel is set in an alternative world in which Hitler won, and is about to celebrate his 75th birthday. Our hero is a Berlin policeman, called in to investigate a murder of a rich old former party official. Although a nazi, because who isn't in this reality, he's basically a decent man. We slowly find out more about the world (King Edward and Queen Wallis?) and about the murder and about both real and alternate history. Wheels within wheels - just when you think you understand it, there's another twist. And did I mention that it is deeply, deeply creepy?
kcstewart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took a few chapters before I really got into this book, but as the story evolved I found it hard to out down. Set in the 1960s after Hitler won the war, the alternative take on history is intriguing. Essentially its a detective novel - the protagonist March trying to figure out the truth behind a series of murders. If you like suspense, this is one for you.
nordie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's 1964, twenty years after Germany won WWII. Hitler is approaching his 75th birthday. Berlin has been rebuilt on a massive scale. Poland no longer exists. Western Europe has been dissolved into one Economic bloc. Only Switzerland has escaped becoming part of the Reich Empire. Joe Kennedy is the current American president.Xavier March, a member of the SS after the absorption of the police into the SS, is sent out to investigate a body found in a lake. This pulls him into the high ranks of the German hierarchy during the war, the taking of art, and ultimately the notes of Wanasee, where the Final Solution was discussed and agreed. He finds corruption is rife, triple crosses everywhere and a fanatical belief in the Third Reich (and Hitler) starting with his ex-wife and son. Already disenfranchised with the state of things, it is shattered even more when he comes across an American journalist who gives him another view of things.As usual, you feel that Harris has done his homework - the whole story with regarding to Wansee and the concentration camps ties with other variations I have of this, the use of the German ranks is impressive (esp if you dont know what they mean!) and the envisioning of what Berlin would have been like had the building plans gone ahead.
miketheriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A reasonable movie with Rutger Hauer, but the book had a good pace in a nazi dominated europe. One of the best examples of the Alternate history genre. Many seem to go off the rails with long explanations and many characters, not so ere. Tightly written
patrickdjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Skillfully written thriller that succeeds in spite of the facts that the detective-protagonist we sympathize with is a Nazi officer - in an alternate history that takes place after Germany wins WWII - and the final discovery that resolves the mystery ends up being something with which we are already painfully familiar.
ALincolnNut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in Berlin in 1964, Robert Harris' debut novel, "Fatherland," imagines an alternate history where the D-Day invasion failed. Although Germany remains mired in an unending war with the Russians, there is an uneasy peace between Germany and the United States. Also, Hitler's grand plans for a modern German Empire continue to take shape, through an unquestioned dominance of Europe and displayed in the breathtaking construction of a modern Berlin featuring buildings unparalleled in history.The secret behind two recent murders of high-ranking German officials, though, threatens the grand design and the emerging détente between Germany and the United States. Xavier March, a detective with more interest in his work than in Nazi politics, investigates the suspicious death of an old man who washes up on a riverbank. When the deceased victim turns out to be a former high-ranking Nazi official, March is confronted with both an inexplicable crime and a heavy-handed government cover up.Despite these obstacles, March continues his investigation with the help of Charlotte Maguire, a young American journalist with family ties to prewar Germany. Together, they slowly unravel the secret that must be protected at all costs, even murder.Combining well-documented German actions during the war with many of the promises and dreams offered in Nazi propaganda, Harris constructs a plausible alternate reality dominated by a Nazi police state that seems more terrifying than even the Soviet Union under Stalin. Interestingly, though, he also suggests through subtext that certain Nazi policies could ultimately have destroyed the Third Reich from within. The historical research and analysis is coupled with a twisting, well-paced plot that features a couple of unconventional turns.
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting world for a mystery to take place. Germany had won World War II. Hitler had built his new Europe. Now in 1964, President Joseph P. Kennedy will come to Berlin and negotiate Detente with the 75 year old Furher. The main character is a Berlin detective attempting to solve a murder in the strange world. I enjoyed this book very much.
alexrichman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Starts out as a quirky yet unspectacular alternative history thriller, but halfway through heads in a far more interesting direction. The last few chapters are gripping.
slim_rusty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fast paced thriller set in a highly detailed and terrifying alternate history. A must read, even just for the "what if" factor of it all
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What would have happened if the Germans had won? What would be the long-term repurcussions? Would the Reich have continued pushing West, or would they have settled for the increased leibensraum they claimed to have been after? Here, Harris suggests possible answers to these questions, with a vivid portrayal of what life would be like in the thousand-year reich. At its heart, this is a detective story, and this is the story that drives the reader deeper and deeper into the heart of the beast. The secret, when it is revealed, is not surprising - we already know it - but what is shocking is the fact that we might never have known.
furriebarry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty much a bog standard thriller plot (not a million miles from The Da Vinci Code) but set in Germany 1964 which is still ruled by Hitler. Well written for the genre, the setting and themes put it a notch above average.
phersh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a great parallax view of future, present and past. How easily fascism could have been and can be. Also, a wonderful exploration of the memory hole that governments depend on to do what George Orwell so famously expressed: "He who controls the past, controls the future; and he who controls the present, controls the past."
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robert Harris's debut novel 'Fatherland' centers around an alternate history. Nazi Germany won the war, it's 1964 and the country is about to celebrate Hitler's 75th birthday. President Kennedy is coming for a visit - but dead bodies begin to show up in Berlin. Not just any old bodies either, but high-level party members with intimate knowledge of the regime's biggest secret, perhaps the darkest secret of all time. Kriminalpolizei detective Xavier March begins to unravel the murders and the secret they are meant to hide. But March's life is a shambles; his thorughly indoctrinated son hates March for being an 'asocial' who has little interest in conforming and supporting the 'normal' activities of the society that has resulted from 30 years of Nazi rule. While I'm not a big fan of alternate histories (there's so much real history to investigate), I am a fan of Robert Harris and the slightly disturbing, definitely enjoyable page-turner he unwinds in the Fatherland.
kdworkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting read -- thank God things didn't turn out this way!
A-Johnson75220 More than 1 year ago
This was a recommendation by a friend and completely outside the norm of what I'd normally read. I found it slightly slow to start but am glad I stuck with it. I'm not a history buff nor am I a crime novel buff, but I enjoyed this more than I expected to. I read cover to cover in about two weeks, which is quick for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written. The author is in the same category as Phillip Kerr.
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