Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    517
    Location:
    Norfolk

    Could you feel for a Nazi?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Piper, Oct 23, 2019.

    Bit of a risky one, bear with me.

    I'm starting a new horror project, (tentatively) called Rake Man. The idea is fairly simple (I've decided if I'm going to get anything traditionally published, my first attempt is going to have to be a straightforward, twist-in-the-tale horror rather than the usual confusing mess of plot that I spew out). It starts with a Nazi aircraft bringing a supernatural cargo to Germany (I know the Nazi occult-fetish thing has been done a couple of times, but this is hopefully a fairly fresh spin on it) before being shot down - the thing in the cargo hold escapes, there's only one survivor, etc etc, and the rest of the novel will follow him as the thing causes general kinds of chaos everywhere.

    The question is, could you sympathise with this character, since he is most definitely, inescapably, a Nazi? Sure, he's a good guy, and he doesn't really want to be a Nazi - I've not settled on whether he's going to be a nice fella from the start or whether he'll have some kind of redemption arc - but the issue is, whatever circumstances forced him to sign up, however nice he is compared to all the other Nazis that died in the crash, he is still a Nazi. Would this be enough to make him an irredeemable character?

    Another aspect of the plot is that a real, True Absolute Nazi general is also after the thing in the basement and in his attempts to capture it will showcase some of the really, really nasty things about being a Nazi. He's the Hitler stand-in for the piece, so would it help that throughout the novel our MC will be compared to this character and we'll see how different they/their beliefs are?

    Really not sure about this. Let me know if more details needed but any advice would be appreciated.

    Thank you!
    Piper
     
    Andersson likes this.
  2. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2014
    Messages:
    5,167
    Likes Received:
    6,733
    Location:
    San Diego, California
    Of course he can be sympathized towards. Essentially, most of the Naxi military was either indoctrinated early on, but saw its flaws overtime, or was forced into enlistment one way or another. They were just people, much like those in our own military, fighting for their respective country's beliefs for a paycheck.

    What I would really do is read a lot on this basis. I would start with All Quiet on the Western Front first, because it portrays the German side of World War I and shows the humanity of the opposite side in the war. I know it's the wrong war, but look at it conceptually. Redemption arcs for Nazis are not unheard of, and I don't think it would actually cause much of a stir, as long as there is a point to why this has the be a Nazi.
     
    Rancid_Old_Git and jannert like this.
  3. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,673
    Likes Received:
    19,889
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think if you do some research, specifically looking for memoirs or interviews with former German Nazis from that period, you'll get an idea of what made them go that route. What—other than fear of reprisal—made them support (and vote for) Hitler? The Hitler Youth organisations are also a good mine of information.

    Many Germans felt they had been hard done by in the aftermath of WW1, and were suffering a lot of hardship. When that happens, it's very easy to look for people to 'blame.'

    I'd do some research, if I were you. I think you'll uncover a lot.

    I reckon the most important misconception we can take from the rise of the Third Reich, is thinking, 'Oh, but that was Germany. It would never happen here."
     
    The_Joker and Rancid_Old_Git like this.
  4. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    5,300
    Likes Received:
    6,119
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Certainly. Oskar Schindler and John Rabe were both members of the Nazi party.

    Even among the military, there were good people:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Plagge
     
    EFMingo likes this.
  5. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor Contest Winner 2022

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,984
    Likes Received:
    3,665
    "All the Light We Cannot See" would be a good resource for how it's done. In that case the MC isn't in the thick of things. You understand why he signed up. For him it was an escape. It was the only way for him to rise above what he was (an orphan).

    I kind of felt sorry for the old guy in King's "Apt Pupil" (played by Ian McKellen in the movie). He's obviously a killer, or he was, but because he's put that past behind him and is being dragged back to it, it's a sad situation for him. The reader/viewer can relate in metaphor. It's about falling into old habits, and who here hasn't done that? He's entirely evil, but still can garner sympathy. Maybe have your character want to escape but he can't and then goes along with the others. I think that would be relatable too.

    There's "Caging Skies" which also relies on a child MC. I guess that's one common way writers get around it, to use the innocence of children. It's a movie now that just opened, renamed for whatever reason. It's a comedy (the book's a bit more serious). Hitler is played by the director, who was the vampire dandy in "What We Do in the Shadows." But notice that even in the trailer they have to humanize the MC by showing a change of attitude, because even when you're being daring, you have to still step lightly.



    If I were writing a story about a Nazi, I would humanize him and give him a redemption arc, like you said, but then I'd kill him at the end anyway. Have him remembered as a villain. He doesn't have to earn forgiveness. So in that way you see him striving for escape and making it, but to those around him, still failing. That would get even more sympathy from the reader.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    22,487
    Likes Received:
    25,828
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    It really depends what they are doing

    A Nazi working against their own party isnt a problem

    A Nazi working for the third Reich is harder, but it depends on how they behave and what they are up against ... I've just finished reading the autobiography of a German sniper on the eastern front... he and his comrades did some pretty abhorrent things, but then so did the Russians who oppose them , that was the nature of that war, so its easier to empathise with him and his colleagues

    In your case a Nazi fighting a supernatural beast is sort o in the same boat - he might be bad but the beast is worse.

    It would be very difficult to gain reader empathy if your main character was a Nazi member of the SD enthusiastically liquidating untermenschen for the glory of greater germany... but that isnt the case here
     
  7. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    690
    Likes Received:
    740
    Location:
    Seattle
    Does the story work with a different historical regime? Present day readers place strong emotional significance in that time period. That will interfere with your ability to tell the story you want to tell unless you handle it very carefully. The setting isn't particularly unique either, so it would be important to ask what 1940s Germany offers that, say, 60s Russia doesn't. That answer will tell you a lot about the story you want to tell, even if you keep the setting
     
  8. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    517
    Location:
    Norfolk
    Thanks everyone who's responded so far, really helpful comments. This is the kind of thing I was thinking definitely - not every Nazi would have believed in what they were doing and it seems people are in agreement about that at least, which I was hoping for. I knew going into this project I'd have to take the research very seriously and some suggestions have been made that I honestly would never have considered so thanks everyone for those, I'll definitely check them out. As for setting, sixties Russia could definitely be interesting and I hadn't considered it, so it's worth thinking about that or some other potential options. Thanks again.
     
  9. SkinnyPuppy

    SkinnyPuppy Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    503
    Likes Received:
    910
    Location:
    San Tan Valley
    I think that we should discuss this matter with Mr. Stephen Lynch. He has a thing or two to say about our perpetually rotisserie bound friend with the "Tiny Moustache". See YouTube using the aforementioned in quotes. (Thou shalt not be sorry thou didest.)

    Puppy, out.
     
    The Piper likes this.
  10. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2018
    Messages:
    863
    Likes Received:
    857
    Location:
    Norwich, UK
    If Vladimir Nabokov can write from the POV of a pedophile then you can write from the POV of a Nazi. It has been done before. You could give him a redemption arc or have him be a newbie, so he hasn't actually killed anyone yet.

    You could even make him a spy. Someone pretending to be a NAZI in order to tell the other side what they are doing and helping put a stop to them. He could be a Jew or anybody really. Maybe he's been sent to discover what this thing is the cargo is as it's a new kind of "weapon" created by the German's. He goes into the cargo hold and accidentally let's it out.
     
  11. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Lying, dog-faced pony Marine Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    18,850
    Likes Received:
    35,470
    Location:
    Face down in the dirt
    Currently Reading::
    Telemachus Sneezed
    You could absolutely have him be a Nazi. Look at Fatherland by Robert Harris (movie/miniseries version with Rutger Hauer). That was an alternate history, but the main character was a Nazi police officer in 1980s/90s Third Reich, when the Party was trying to distance itself from its past. He ends up discovering the truth, and it horrifies him. Not every Nazi officer would have known the truth about the camps; someone serving in France might be trying to convince themselves that the Jews really were farming in the East somewhere.

    He could find out that he's a Jew through the course of the story. I remember some movie or other where the father was SS, the kids were devoted Hitler Youth, but then there's a genealogical investigation and they find out the mother had a Jewish grandfather or something. The dad is stripped of his position, but more importantly the boys are furious with him for having married a (string of epithets that needn't be quoted, even from memory) Jewess.
     
    jannert and cosmic lights like this.
  12. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    517
    Location:
    Norfolk
    I did consider the spy idea, simply because I wasn't sure about writing a whole book in English and have the reader try and figure out that yes, they're all Germans, and yes they're all speaking German - also because it would just be easier going forward through the story. In my notes, I wrote that the crew of the aircraft that crashes could be "either a Nazi crew dropping the cargo at the research base OR British team having just captured it", but I think I've settled on the Nazi perspective just because I've never written a character who should, by all rights, be unlikeable, but finds some sort of redemption. Definitely veering towards him being a much younger character who hasn't really had the chance to do anything awful yet, but as I say I'll make sure I do a whole lot of research into his motivations first.

    The Fatherland comment appeared halfway through writing this (love that book, by the way - my dad recommended it a couple of months ago and I sent him a picture of my tatty old red-cover copy) - I do like the idea of some sort of discovery that he maybe is the opposite of what the Nazis want of him, but I'm not sure if the revelation that he's Jewish would be a little too on-the-nose - like the idea though, something else to think about at least!

    Thank you
     
    Iain Aschendale likes this.
  13. Andersson

    Andersson New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2019
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    3
    Consider using a contrasting character to emphasise the more humanistic values of your Nazi protagonist.

    E.g. A cruel and despicable ultra-fascist co-officer who constantly sneers, bullies and ridicules him for his 'weakness' of character.
     
    Iain Aschendale likes this.
  14. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    5,300
    Likes Received:
    6,119
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Jewish, or partly Jewish people did serve in the Nazi military. The man who was on recruitment posters as "the ideal German soldier" was half Jewish, or a mischling.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Goldberg

    Jews, or mischlinges could have a powerful patron who protected them as well. A famous quote, often misattributed to Hermann Goering but was originally said by Karl Lueger, is "I decide who is a Jew".

    Jews could hide their heritage if they looked Aryan. Circumcision could be explained away as being for medical purposes. One Jew served with a Wermacht unit used that explanation. His was nicknamed "The Jew" by other members of his unit for it, but they never found out.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
    Iain Aschendale and SkinnyPuppy like this.
  15. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    5,300
    Likes Received:
    6,119
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I have sympathy with the Nazi characters in 'Allo 'Allo, even Herr Otto Flick of the Gestapo.

    Phone rings. Flick answers.
    "Flick the Gestapo!"
    Pause.
    "No, I said Flick the Gestapo!"
     
  16. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    517
    Location:
    Norfolk
    @Andersson that's what I'm thinking - before the crash, there's five of them in the plane, and only he and one other are vaguely sympathetic characters; the other three are stricter, more arrogant, and before they all die horribly (except one who'll later play a bit of a villainous part) they'll get a chance to display their Naziism. As well as that we've got the main human antagonist, a very extreme general, so yes I think that's a good idea and could help.

    @Naomasa298 interesting stuff and again, maybe something worth considering. Thanks again
     
  17. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    5,864
    Likes Received:
    10,738
    Location:
    The great white north.
    You're a writer. It's your job to make us sympathize with a character that you want us to sympathize with whether they're irredeemable or not. In the partnership between yourself and the reader, just do what every abusive partner does: exploit their feelings. Start with pity over the character's tough upbringing, then constantly keep sprinkling in promises of change intermixed with the occasional small change to fool the reader that your characters actually bettering themselves. Throw in some guilt and the reader won't be able to leave the book alone until it's far too late and they end up hating themselves and have difficulty ever commiting to another book ever again, regardless of how good it may be for them.
     
  18. SkinnyPuppy

    SkinnyPuppy Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    503
    Likes Received:
    910
    Location:
    San Tan Valley
     
  19. Andersson

    Andersson New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2019
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    3
     
  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,673
    Likes Received:
    19,889
    Location:
    Scotland
    I have a good friend, who is German, who is around my age. Which means his parents lived in Germany as young adults during WW2. He, like me, is a child of the 60s and 70s, and he said he used to have screaming fights with his father, who was a soldier during the war, along the lines of 'how COULD you?'

    His father and mother always claimed they didn't know about concentration camps, and only wanted to free Germany from what they saw was oppression from the rest of Europe. My friend said he doesn't know whether to believe them entirely or not, although he says 'my parents are good people.' He said he suspects that when it became obvious to them how wrong the whole thing was, it was too late to do anything about it.

    Whatever they did, they raised a son who is compassionate, who cares for others, is totally non-racist, and is adamant that that sort of thing will never happen again. He gets tears in his eyes when he talks about it.
     
  21. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,886
    Likes Received:
    8,763
    I have a friend in Germany whose grandmother is 100 years old, and my friend's experience of her grandmother is similar. Her grandmother is a vibrant, non-racist, compassionate lady, and my friend and I can't imagine she condoned or went along with it. We think she had no idea, given that she lived on a small farm most of her life and would have been busy raising her family, and that the saying "Not all Germans were Nazis" holds true.
     
    The Dapper Hooligan likes this.
  22. AnimalAsLeader

    AnimalAsLeader Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2019
    Messages:
    110
    Likes Received:
    81
    Right now, there is a considerable effort made by germans to show the world how many people opposed Hitler, even from the starts. But the truth is, those were isolated incidents. The Reichskirstallnacht showed how many people actually hated jews, and this hate was there even before Hitler. Even Stauffenberg was a devoted Nazi, until Germany started losing the war. His motivation was Hitlers reluctance to make peace, not disgust towards the ideology.

    To answer this question, ask yourself: What makes a character likeable? Does he even have to be likeable? Theres two kinds of feelings writers are after: Empathy and sympathy. But sympathy can only get you so far.

    Take Woyzeck for example, a character in the Austrian military of the 19th century. He is piss poor and volunteers for human experiments to provide at least some money for his girlfriend Marie. He has to eat beans only and is mentally and physically abused by those above him in rank. Not once does he defend himself, he is emotionally and physically a wreck. Later in the story, a major seduces his girlfriend and she leaves Woyzeck. This drives him mad and pushes him to murder her. The only action he takes in the whole story is to harm the one person he loves and the one person that is even more powerless than him. He is not a likeable character. But the reader undeestands why he does those things and feels empathy with Woyzeck.
    This kind of character is what some call an antihero. They can be great characters if you show the reader: This is how you would end up if the same things happened to you. And if the reader buys that, you can make your character a murdering sociopath without any problems.
     
  23. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Lying, dog-faced pony Marine Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    18,850
    Likes Received:
    35,470
    Location:
    Face down in the dirt
    Currently Reading::
    Telemachus Sneezed
    However, before this goes all debate-room into how many Germans were eyes-open Party members, how many were going along because they agreed with the less odius parts of Hitler's plan more than they disagreed with the extermination camps, parsing finer and finer until we get to actual resistance members, I think it's unlikely that someone entrusted with that sort of Dark Secret would have terribly clean hands.

    So, IMO, there are a couple of options (there may be more, this is just my 2cents): Either the MC is no one specially committed who stumbles across this thing after the crash and has to deal with it.

    Or, the MC is a Nazi. A Bad Guy who would have a date with a rope or a firing squad. But what he finds is much worse than what he did in the East. Much, much worse, and to save humanity, to save the planet itself, he would have to sacrifice himself...

    Purple prose I know.

    But friendly blue hat on, let's not devolve into a discussion on the degree and severity of the German populace's guilt stemming from the actions of the Nazi regime.
     
  24. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,541
    Likes Received:
    4,775
    Have you seen the movie Defiance with Daniel Craig as the lead? There's a scene in it when the Jews hiding in the woods actually captured a Nazi officer and they bring him back to their woodland village they're taking shelter in. They converge upon him, screaming out their loved ones who have died in the hands of Nazi officers, screaming their names as they wielded clubs and repeatedly bashed the hostage officer.

    Yes I absolutely had sympathy for the Nazi officer. The reason why I loved that scene was because it's so primal, yet so emotionally complex.

    Before your character is a Nazi, he is human. Draw that out, and you'll be fine. Also, just because we might despise someone doesn't mean we don't wanna see the outcome - if anything, the despise compels us. You don't have to worry whether your readers want him dead or alive, because those who can't sympathise with a Nazi (and I'm sure there are plenty) might be compelled to read just to see how he dies and take satisfaction in that :p

    It could potentially be very complex emotionally and thematically. Do his past crimes justify his end? What reasons - good or bad - are there that might compel someone into joining the Nazis and do those reasons absolve the person of blame? Does any of this necessarily mean he deserves to die? Personally I think you've got more potential here than you think.
     
  25. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    5,300
    Likes Received:
    6,119
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I had a lot of sympathy with the Nazi sergeant in Inglorious Basterds who was beaten to death with a baseball bat.

    Just before he dies, Brad Pitt mocks him and asks him what his Iron Cross was for. The sergeant looks up at him and replies, "For bravery.", which makes Pitt's character pause for thought. He still orders him beaten to death though.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice