THE TURN OF THE TIDE – (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #3)
As Hitler’s greed turns eastwards to the fertile and oil rich Soviet heartlands, life for the Kästner and the Nussbaum families disintegrates and fragments as the Nazis tighten the noose on German and Polish Jews. Implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann plan to have Germany, and Europe, Judenrein, cleansed of Jews’.
General Erich Kästner, increasingly alone, fights a losing battle to protect his friends, and their fellow Jews, putting himself and his family in jeopardy.
As the tide of war turns, he looks anxiously to the Soviets in the east, and to the Western Allies, desperately hoping, despite his patriotism, that Germany is defeated before there are no Jews left in the countries occupied by the Third Reich.
When an assassination attempt on Hitler and his henchmen fails, Erich Kästner himself comes under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and his own survival, and that of his family, becomes uncertain.
As the war draws to an end, with Germany in ruins, time is running out for the Kästners and the Nussbaums…
Alan was born in Glasgow 1960 and lived there for the first 22 years of his life. He is now retired after nearly forty years as a country vet, and lives on the Ayrshire coast, where he is a volunteer Coxswain on his local RNLI lifeboat. He is married with four grown up children and four beautiful grandchildren, and in his spare time he reads, cooks, sails, makes furniture, plays football and watch films, when he’s not writing, of course!
He started writing in 2003, but it took a few false starts over the next ten years before he completed his first novel, The Cabinetmaker, which was self-published.
Alan’s second book, Blue Wicked, took a year to write; with book #3 Bloq, being published in April 2016. Each book became more pithy and gritty than its predecessor and are definitely not reads for the faint-hearted.
After five years researching and writing, and a complete change of genre, the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a holocaust story, is being released during autumn 2021, with the first book, The Gathering Storm being published on August 19th.
Alan Jones is his pen name.
Visit Alan at his website
Check in with Alan at: Alan Jones Books
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“Most of the characters are drawn from my imagination but some of the characters existed: world leaders, the higher echelons of the National Socialist Party, some senior SS and Gestapo officers, and prominent clergy and military figures. There are a few others, including Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr. Many of the events in the book, or events like them, happened. Where they are fictitious, I have tried to write them with integrity, always having in mind that they could have taken place, and that none of them should distract from the truth of the terrible crimes committed across Europe during the darkest time in human history. On a very few instances, I have changed a location or tweaked a timescale to suit the narrative, but it is rare, and I hope the historians will forgive me”
(17/09/2001 MONDAY) – MALDON, ENGLAND
“It wasn’t just me. Apart from Papa and Gullich and Meyer, and the Neuengamme authorities, nobody knew Mama was dead.” Time must have healed the wounds a little, but sitting in her favourite chair, looking out at the old Thames sailing barges moored yards from her front window, I could tell that Ruth’s pain had hardly been blunted by the sixty years that had passed since her last precious memory of her mother.
“When did you find out she’d died?” I asked.
“Oh, not until much later, after the war was over. And by then, we’d lost Franz…”
(08/11/1941 SATURDAY) – KIEL, GERMANY
“Did you enjoy yourself?” the General asked, smiling at his youngest daughter, her eyes still half-filled with sleep.
“Yes, Papa. the exhibition wasn’t up to much, but Angelina and I went for a few drinks afterwards.”
“You must have been late. I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I stayed over at her house. It was easier. I telephoned Mama earlier in the evening. I just got back.”
“She didn’t say,” the General said, suppressing a smile at the slight redness that had briefly coloured his daughter’s face. In truth, he trusted Antje, and wouldn’t have expected to know where she was every hour of the day. He did have his suspicions though.
“If it’s the only way, he can believe I’m a coward. Better that than he finds out the truth”
“This, the second of the actions he deemed of vital importance, was his decision to document and keep a record of what was happening in Germany. It probably carries a greater risk than slowing down the deportations if I’m caught. There could be no feasible excuse for secreting such a collection of documents, and he knew that it would force him to do something much more difficult than anything he’d done in his entire life. I must completely distance myself from my family. He closed his eyes. For their safety”
“It’s not just the rampant fanatics. It’s the tacit support, the silent majority, the fearful. The ability of a nation to turn a blind eye. All of these. That’s how they can act with impunity”
“You gave me back my faith,” the foreman said. “You made me proud to be a Jew again.”
“There are decent men among the bad. The evil ones will be punished, one day. I promise”
“We’ve all observed first-hand the terrible suffering inflicted on the Jewish people of Europe, and on other minority groups, but if we fill ourselves with hate, they win. It doesn’t mean we can’t do everything to punish the perpetrators, or let the world know what took place”
“There are decent men among the bad. The evil ones will be punished, one day. I promise”
Wow! I am almost speechless, and believe me, that is a rarity!
Every once in a while, I come across a series which is truly exceptional and any review I could possibly write, even one which honestly comes right from the heart, couldn’t ever hope to even scratch the surface in doing complete justice to The Sturmtaucher Trilogy, which is undoubtedly a real tour de force. Surely an important work of cultural and societal fiction, based on and wrapped around, the reality of some well established historical facts, written sympathetically from the heart, with care and deference to the subject. The sheer volume of research and attention to detail is phenomenal and must have taken so many painstaking hours to complete and compile into a chronologically correct timeline of events, which is then knitted into the very fabric of a family saga of monumental proportions. It brings together a dark, troubling and shameful period of our modern history and gives it life, as seen through the eyes of the extremists, the moderates and the persecuted, who will all have their own personal perspectives about the unfolding atrocities and tides of change, inexorably heaped upon a nation by a cold, methodically calculating, dictator. Whilst the story throws the spotlight not only on the almost complete and total annihilation of all minority races within Germany, it also shows how events not only divided a country, but how they also had the potential to fracture and damage friendships and even tear family relationships apart, as individuals are forced to choose their sides in this terrible internal conflict, which spread like a poison and held almost everyone within its grip.
Maybe also a little bittersweet, given that I have been reading about the attempted annihilation of one race, almost eighty years ago; whilst watching events unfold in a conflict which has an equal potential for total devastation, should the world not pause, step back and take a good hard look at itself. The Germany of the 1930s/1940s, might well be the Ukraine of 2022. In either timeline, as we are witness to the pursuit of supreme power and domination by a crazed autocratic dictator, man’s inhumanity to man, never ceases to amaze me! However, this isn’t really a novel about the complexities of global politics, although of course those can’t be ignored, (especially as many of the locations close to and around the Russian border which feature in this final episode of the saga, also appear nightly on my television screen as part of the current conflict); it’s all about the humanity affected by them.
I just knew that this, the final instalment of The Sturmtaucher Trilogy, was never going to be a disappointment, yet I had no idea exactly how phenomenally moving it was destined to be. I even had visions that in a series of such vast proportions, the final episode might have seen a subtle ‘winding down’ as the many strands of the storyline began to converge. I should never have doubted Alan’s resilience and determination to document everything he set out to do, without ever compromising on detail. A fitting tribute to an amazing cast of characters; an authentic and meticulously researched storyline; and some genuinely glorious writing.
This three book, epic saga, each of over 800 pages, really does deserve to be read either back to back, or in timely succession, but definitely in chronological order, to become fully immersed in a storyline, in which once you are engrossed, you definitely won’t want, or be able to leave, until there is complete closure. That’s an awfully long time to be holding one’s breath, but that is exactly what I found myself doing, as the landscape of the storyline shifted and altered, twists and turns were added necessitating the characters to change and adapt, and ultimately, which of them would be left to witness this new world landscape of brave beginnings? For those readers who have yet to begin this magnificent and epic journey, to offer too much of an insight into this final instalment, without compromising the first two books or indeed the ending itself, is going to be rather a challenge… but here goes!
Once again, author Alan Jones has thought ahead and broken this epic storyline down into short, fluent and digestible chapters, which are well-signposted and keep the pace moving along at a good clip, whilst still managing to make every single word count. We pick up the story in 1941, when we are now firmly entrenched in a war of ‘cleansing’ and the Nazi programme of implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, is reaching its climax. Families and communities are being torn apart, not only in Germany itself, but in the further reaches of Poland, Russia and the Nordic countries, although the atrocities also reach across borders to encompass the much wider European theatre. In Kiel, Jews, minority groups and any sympathisers, are being rounded up by an enthusiastic and zealous Gestapo, some of whom are relishing their job more than others. Gullich, whose reputation as ‘The Black Wolf’ or ‘The Jew Hunter’ precedes him, and his side-kick Meyer, are on a personal mission and will go to any lengths, to capture every member of the Kastner and Nussbaum families, plus any of their friends and acquaintances, who have been thorns in the side of the authorities, right from the word go. However, their personal inter-rivalry and greed also knows no bounds and will be their eventual undoing, but not before they have personally witnessed, sanctioned and executed, the persecution and death of literally thousands of innocent and vulnerable people
The lives of the German Kastner family, have been intrinsically linked with that of the Jewish Nussbaum family, for three generations, almost to the point where the lines between them being employers and employees, have become blurred enough for them to consider one another friends. The Nussbaum’s live in the grounds of the Kastner house, with the children of both families having grown up alongside one another, any differences in culture and religion having always been respected and accommodated by both sides. General Erich Kastner, a decorated soldier of WWI, is not alone in his courageous and many would say foolhardy, underground, underhand attempts to save the Nussbaums and as many of their fellow countrymen as possible, from certain death, although he is fully aware that his attempts to slow down the Nazi machine, are but a mere drop in a vast ocean of despair. Operating clandestinely, often from inside the administration, only hones and sharpens their resolve to cause as much disruption to the Nazi machine as possible, by making every move count. Now that the storyline has reached outside the borders of the Fatherland, drawing more nations into its arena, small pockets of resistance are forming, adding their fledgling voices to the call for justice. However Erich’s scheming has not gone unnoticed and the sharks begin to circle in the water, as the Gestapo net closes in on him. The tension becomes almost unbearable as the Nussbaum adults are captured and their two children are pronounced ‘missing’, along with the two Kastner sons, who as serving military officers, are later traced to a POW camp in Scotland.
Unfortunately for Erich, his personal life and marriage has also reached crisis point, as Frau Maria Kastner does not share her husband’s liberal views, so she removes herself from the family home and their marriage, whilst vowing to bring about his downfall herself, should the opportunity ever arise. Over the course of four long years, one by one, Erich’s friends and allies are picked off by Gullich and Meyer, whilst Germany comes under attack from all sides, with both the Western Allies and the Soviets advancing on Berlin at a pace, although having witnessed Soviet brutality for themselves, the German government and the wider population are fervently hoping that the Allies, with their reputation for fair play, reach them first.
When the Allied advance reaches Kiel, their immediate challenges are to find and round up as many Gestapo officers and Nazi party members as they can lay their hands on, although many slip through the net. With an internment system which is stretched beyond breaking point by the sheer volume of suspects, it becomes sickeningly obvious that not all transgressors will be brought to justice. The problem of returning the many millions of displaced people, both civilian and military, to their scattered homelands, is a mammoth task, which is likely to take years to complete, leaving families on all sides of the conflict, still adrift in a sea of confusion and doubt. Against all the odds General Kastner has survived many attempts on his life and a relatively short time incarcerated in a concentration camp. He now finds himself alone to wait and see if any members of either his own or the Nussbaum family, together with any of his friends, have survived and will manage to make their way back home. However the sheer number of displaced persons and family members desperate for any news is as heart-breaking for Erich as anything else he has witnessed, particularly with the knowledge that millions of his countrymen have been killed and that their final resting places will never be truly known. Some survivors are understandably seeking vengeance, others are only looking to see justice done, but all are craving closure.
Throughout the three books which comprise the series there have been occasional interspersions from an ongoing conversation between one of the characters and an unspecified second person, which takes place in 2001. As the elder narrator is named right from the outset, we immediately get to know the identity of at least one Holocaust survivor. However, right at the end of The Turn Of the Tide and as his closing shot, the author lets us into the secret of the so far anonymous second person, thus weaving all the loose ends firmly together, affording some closure on past events, which should never be forgotten, nor some would say, forgiven.
That is the scene, set in a very small nutshell, from which this chapter in the saga, rises and triumphs, as a supreme tour de force, towards its stunning climax.
I can imagine that writing about the Holocaust in a work of fiction is always quite a risky strategy; too much detail might become gratuitous for the sake of an engrossing story; too little detail might be seen to be shining too comfortable a light on the atrocities. However, once again author Alan Jones seems to have managed that transition between fact and fiction, seamlessly and effortlessly, depicting life in the POW camps on both sides of the English Channel, with just the right mix of reality so as not to make life appear too sanitised, yet not in so much vivid reality that the sheer level of violence and atrocities if documented, might appear gratuitous. The research is impeccable and so thorough, that it is almost impossible to say where fact and fiction begin and end, or indeed where they converge and overlap.
This intensely compelling and evocatively compassionately written storyline is definitely not to be rushed, but is one to immerse yourself into and savour slowly, as its textured, multi-layers unfold, as difficult as that might often be. Set against vividly described and richly detailed backdrops, there is a really perceptive sense of time and place, particularly for me within the confines of the British POW camp, located in the Highlands of Scotland. Camps which I know of course existed, but about which there is relatively little featured in the world of fiction writing. The humanity and decency with which German prisoners were treated was in stark contrast to the concentration camps of their home country, although the brainwashed Nazi fanatics amongst the men were still wont to wreak vengeance on those of their fellow countrymen considered not to be loyal enough to the Nazi regime. There was also a brief insight into the treatment by Britain of the Jewish refugees who arrived on our shores, seeking asylum from the atrocities back in their homelands. Their unquestioned acceptance and inclusion into a society which was already reeling from deprivation and nightly bombing, was something of which we should be justifiably proud.
I was also surprised at the attitudes of many of the wives and female members of the German military families. The reverence in which they held the Nazi high command was quite sickening and the lengths to which they would go in their social climbing efforts to attract and be seen with the highest ranking officers, were equally nauseating. Despite, or maybe because of, all the male testosterone and egocentric behaviour on display, the officers seemed like easy pickings for these single-minded, status driven women. Contrary to his wife’s low opinion of him, General Erich Kastner isn’t a bad German just because he doesn’t agree with the mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews and minority groups to the concentration camps and hence for most of them a certain death. He simply doesn’t agree with the stance the Nazi party is taking, or their inhumane operational methods, believing in equality regardless of status or religion. He still at heart wants to help Germany win the war in Europe, but he wants any casualties to be those of war, not ‘cleansing’.
Alan has created a sprawling cast of core characters, who grew in stature with each passing chapter, whose voices became ever louder and stronger, demanding to have their stories heard by the outside world. Complex and emotionally driven, raw and passionate, often fragile and vulnerable; they are nonetheless completely genuine and believable, reliable and authentic, with a stoicism and loyalty born of necessity.
What makes reading such wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by some amazing authors, who fire my imagination, stimulate my senses and stir my emotions. For a single author to achieve all that with one epic series, is surely testament to the sheer quality of the writing and storyline. So I recommend that you read The Sturmtaucher Trilogy for yourself and see where your journey leads you. You won’t be disappointed!!
A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was kindly made available by the author.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!