The American critic Anthony Boucher maintained that the detective story was a quintessentially liberal genre, and could not be written in a totalitarian state.
In this, he was mistaken.
Last year, as some of you may know, I travelled to Europe for the first performance in more than a century of Halévy’s magnificent opera La reine de Chypre.
Anyone who collects 19th century scores and musical criticism makes contacts with antiquarian booksellers.
I had purchased Clément’s Musiciens célèbres (Hachette, 1868) from Gueymard of Lyon. Knowing of my interest in detective fiction, he showed me a curious volume that had come into his possession from a deceased estate.
The spine read One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie. So did the cover page. But it wasn’t quite the book I remembered.
I’d completely forgotten that Poirot faces a cabal of international Jewish bankers secretly controlling the world. Or the part where he chums up with a young Blackshirt. Or his proclamation that only a single strong man can protect society from the international Jewish Bolshevist conspiracy.
“I have seen the truth, mon ami – and the truth is Adolf Hitler!”
Was it a hoax?
Far from it.
The Nazis had, as everyone knows, prepared for war for years, building up their military forces.
Goebbels, with his evil genius for propaganda, had also prepared to wage a war of the mind.
He would demoralize the English by insinuating corrupted versions of texts into libraries and bookshops.
The detective story was the ideal vehicle for a propaganda and demoralization campaign: a genre whose very purpose was the hermeneutics of suspicion, and which inculcated in its readers a permanent low level of paranoia.
Trust nobody, detective fans soon learnt. Policemen, army officers, postmen, sweet old ladies, nice young things, respectable matrons, servants, clergymen, doctors, dentists, children, even the detective could be the murderer – or, in these volumes, secret Nazi agents.
German intelligence is everywhere, and you are not safe, even in your home. How do you know your husband or your daughter isn’t in the pay of the Führer? Or your spiritual pastor? How do you know your postman isn’t reading your letters? How do you know your doctor isn’t infecting you with fatal germs?
The detective story was also, conveniently, the favourite reading matter of the English-reading world.
Under Goebbels’ supervision, teams of writers in Berlin prepared revised editions, which Fifth Columnists smuggled into the country.
Sir Henry Merrivale gloomily ended The Reader is Warned foretelling Nazi occupation of Britain, with London as a cloud of poison-gas from Hampstead to Lambeth, and a cowed populace speaking Esperanto in Billingsgate.
Others claimed that the Nazis were fighting a battle for Western civilization. Thus, Sherlock Holmes defeated The Four of Zion. As for Q. Patrick’s S.S. Murder, Herbert Adams’ Old Jew Mystery, and Rupert Penny’s She Had To Have Gas…
Much of the Nazi effort went into Agatha Christie, the best-selling queen of crime.
In the corrupt versions, one Haken Gob’neau replaced Christie’s moustachioed little Belgian.
Gob’neau was a small, moustached man who looked like a third-class waiter in a provincial railway-station restaurant – but was really one of the greatest men in Europe.
He used the little grey cells (in Prinz-Albrecht-Straße) to solve his cases, and was accompanied by the loyal SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Gottstrafe England (who went off to Argentina after WWII).
Gob’neau would, at the end of each case, assemble the suspects in the drawing-room, and reveal the murderer. He would also expose – and often shoot – various hidden enemies of Europe, such as Jews, liberals, homosexuals, modern artists, and other degenerates.
The list of revised titles began with The Mysterious Affair at Weill’s, an exposé of the decadence of Berlin nightlife, and continued with The Secret Adversary (about a left-wing plot to overthrow the government), The Murder on the Rechts (right wing is right thinking!), The Secret of Chemnitz, and Sad Cyprus (and Sadder Crete).
Then there were the nursery rhyme murders: Solomon Grundy Died on a Monday, or Never Play with the Gypsies in the Wood.
Even after the war, as late as the ’60s and early ’70s, ardent Nazis continued to produce infected versions: Blood Will Tell, Anschluss Night, or Endless Kristallnacht, for instance.
In “The Capture of Cerberus”, published in The Labours of Hercules (1947), Gob’neau restores the missing dictator August Hertzlein to power.
In “The Call of Wings”, after a disastrous encounter with Paul McCartney (symbol of degenerate pop culture), the protagonist has an epiphany at a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi.
This was the opera where the idea for National Socialism came to Hitler, during a performance in Linz, 1906 (“In jener Stunde begann es”). The overture was the theme for Nazi Party rallies. And when Hitler committed suicide in the Berlin bunker, the score (presented to him by Winifred Wagner) was in his possession.
It is easy to see why Hitler loved it. The story of a charismatic demagogue’s rise to power, and his mystic unity with the people. The Nuremberg aesthetic: excessive visual display, communal expressions of nationalistic fervour, the worship of force, military processions, marches and heroic oaths…
It sounds rather like this:
(Listen to 3hrs 8’00; the Horst Wessel Lied isn’t far removed.)
Passenger to Frankfurt ends with Hitler and his son returning from South America to quell the counterculture movement, restore order, and rule over a Thousand Year Reich, controlling the population with nerve gas.
Siegfried, the blond, blue-eyed, heroic mass murderer of the Ring, appears as leader of the Hitler Youth. The hero quotes Hans Sachs’ monologue “Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!” from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Master Singers of Nuremberg), and his speech at the opera’s end about the supremacy of German culture.
Wagner’s only mature comedy is a warm-hearted five-hour musical in which a Jewish caricature is beaten up by the entire town, publicly humiliated, and then driven out of the community. As Goebbels said to Himmler at the Nuremberg Rallies: Lawks, what laughs.
In Postern of Fate, German agents Bruno and Bibi infiltrate an English village to discover who murdered the Kaiser’s agents during the First World War.
The work is full of references to Wagner’s Lohengrin, in which a knight is sent by a mystical power to rule over the Volk as their Protector. Asking questions about who he is, where he came from, and how he came to power is strictly verboten. Trust him blindly, Wagner orders. The first act ends with the chorus enthusiastically singing “Sieg! Sieg! Sieg! Heil!”.
These corrupted versions are scarce; British Intelligence impounded many as dangerous forgeries.
Dr. Botulus Wixener, of Munich, claims, however, that “Agatha Christie” is the forgery; the genuine writer (his argument runs) was one Grimgerde Ludwig, a pure Aryan, fanatically devoted to National Socialism.
In a twist straight out of one of her (their?) plots, Ludwig replaced Christie at the time of her famous “disappearance” in 1926. Amnesia and a nervous breakdown were convenient excuses for any oddities of behaviour.
Ludwig served as one of Germany’s most dangerous spies in England. She used her novels to pass on secret information to Berlin through her mysteries (or enigmas, or enemas) – notably about Bletchley Park in Norm, where heroic English Fifth Columnists Bruno and Bibi thwart two of Churchill’s most trusted agents.
On her trips to the Middle East with archaeologist husband Max Mallowan, she hobnobbed with high-ranking Nazis and discussed the Jews.
All the “standard” versions of Christie, Dr. Wixener claims, were really produced by British counter-intelligence. They are the forgeries.
The Frankfurt school argue that Agatha Christie never existed at all, and that all her books, and all references to them, were created by a group of historians, writers, and philosophers in the 1960s, to see whether a fictional construct could be imposed upon reality.
They successfully convinced many educated people that Sherlock Holmes – a genuine London detective of the 1880s – was fictional, and that the imaginary Winston Churchill and Richard the Lionheart (made up by Shakespeare) were real historical figures.
History, as Anatoly Fomenko argued, is bunk.