Harry Turtledove Wiki

In the Presence of Mine Enemies (novel)

7,143pages on
this wiki
In the Presence of Mine Enemies  
In the Presence of Mine Enemies
Author Harry Turtledove
Cover artist Steve Stone
Language English
Genre(s) Alternate History
Publisher New American Library
Publication date November 4, 2003
Pages 464
In the Presence of Mine Enemies (ISBN 0-451-45959-8) is an alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove, expanded from a short story by the same name; the complete text of the short story serves as the first chapter of the novel. The novel is set in Berlin from the middle of 2010 through the middle of 2011 in a world in which the United States had remained isolationist and Germany and Japan won World War II. The U.S. along with Canada both fell to the Axis during the Third World War, and most of the world is divided between the Axis powers.

The novel is centered on Heinrich Gimpel and a small group of Jews who have managed to survive the mass extermination by keeping their identities secret by living under forged "Aryan" credentials. One thread of the plot focuses on Alicia Gimpel, who discovers that she belongs to a wrongfully despised minority whom she has been taught all her life to passionately hate.

The events of the book take place against a backdrop similar to the last days of the OTL Soviet Union, with characters recognizably based on Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, among others.

The title comes from Psalm 23:5 in the Hebrew Bible.

Primary CharactersEdit

  • Heinrich Gimpel. A civilian working as an analyst at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht headquarters in Berlin. He is one of the few surviving Jews left in the Reich and keeps his origins a secret from his colleagues. Heinrich and his wife Lise have three children: Alicia, Francesca and Roxane.
  • Lise Gimpel. The wife of Heinrich Gimpel. Like her husband, she is also a Jew.
  • Alicia Gimpel. The ten year old daughter of Heinrich and Lise Gimpel. She learns her true origins on the night of her tenth birthday when confronted by her parents and a few other Jewish friends.
  • Susanna Weiss. A Medieval English scholar at the Friedrich Wilhelm University. She is also one of the few surviving Jews left in the Reich.
  • Esther Stutzman. The afternoon receptionist at a Berlin pediatrician's office, Esther and her family are also Jews.
  • Walther Stutzman. A mathematician with the Reich's premiere computer company, Zeiss. Also a Jew.

Plot SummaryEdit

Following the death of Adolf Hitler in the mid-to-late 1960s, Heinrich Himmler assumed the office of Führer. In an analog to the Cold War, the Reich and Japan competed for world dominance with the United States of America during the 1960s. This eventually led to the Third World War.

Himmler died in 1985, and was succeeded by Kurt Haldweim. (Haldweim is probably an analog to the real world Kurt Waldheim who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981 and President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.) Haldweim's policies were less harsh than his predecessors; many in the old guard saw him as "soft."

The process of reform begins in Great Britain. The British Union of Fascists moves haltingly towards independence by actually electing its leader, Charlie Lynton, democratically. The revival of democratic ideas is at first cloaked as being adherence to Nazi ideals in their purity, specifically the assertion that Hitler supported democracy in the first edition of Mein Kampf.

This is followed by the ascension of reform-minded Führer Heinz Buckliger in Germany in the wake of Haldweim's death. Buckliger makes a secret speech to the party leaders gathered at Nuremberg. According to widely circulating rumors, the new Führer denounces his predecessors. The model for this is actually not in the career of Gorbachev but in the more shallow reforms of Nikita Khrushchev who denounced the crimes of Joseph Stalin in a secret session of the party congress.

Gradually, partial reforms create some degree of personal freedom for German citizens, and ease the German yoke over the empire. Reactionary opposition gathers around the still-powerful SS, while Berlin's populist Gauleiter Rolf Stolle appears to champion accelerated reforms - analogous to Boris Yeltsin, who started as Communist Party leader in Moscow.

Things come to a head in 2011 when Buckliger announces plans for relatively free elections, (candidates need no longer be nominated by the Nazi Party, but must still be "Aryan"). Under the leadership of the Reichsführer-SS Lothar Prützmann, the SS launches a coup, take Buckliger prisoner on the Croatian island of Hvar and install former High Commissioner of Ostland Affairs Odilo Globocnik as the new Führer. However, the coup is stymied by a manifestation of "people's power" led by Stolle, to which the Wehrmacht eventually lends its support. The call Deutschland erwache (Germany, Awake!"), an old Nazi battle cry which helped Hitler to power, is in this context used as a call to defend reform and democracy.

The coup is defeated, using - among other things - the anti-Semitic assertion that the Reichsführer-SS and leader of the coup is himself of Jewish blood. (In fact, it is ironically the hidden Jews themselves who started this rumour rolling). In the aftermath, Globocnik is lynched by a mob, followed by public hanging of senior SS members - a kind of savagery which did not follow the failed anti-Gorbachev coup which served as the model. This may be a cautionary hint by Turtledove that comparisons could only be taken so far, and that Nazi brutal norms of behavior may persist even among those who come to oppose the regime.

By the end of the book, after the sweeping reforms and changes, Germany has had free elections, as did several West European countries, the power of the SS is severely curbed (but the organization is not disbanded altogether), people can speak their mind far more freely, and the Czechs, led by an unnamed Václav Havel, are on their way to regaining some amount of independence.

However, Germany is far from giving up its imperial position, with the Wehrmacht strongly opposed to ending the occupation of the United States. Moreover, the racist mindset is far from completely gone (as noted, only Aryans can be candidates in elections), there is as yet no intention of emancipating the Slav and Arab slave populations, and there is no way of knowing if and when the surviving hidden Jews would ever be able to come out in the open - though they clearly breathe a bit more easily. The book ends, as it began, with the secret initiation of a ten-year old Jewish child to the heritage which she must still preserve and keep in utmost secrecy.

Literary Comment: Possible Connections to other worksEdit

It is worth noting that two other Turtledove stories, "The Last Article" and "The Phantom Tolbukhin", deal with immediate aftermath of Nazi success. On their own, each could also fit seamlessly into the world of In the Presence of Mine Enemies. However, the two shorter works do not fit together; Georgy Zhukov is listed among those generals killed by Stalin in the pre-war purges in '"The Phantom Tolbukhin", while in "The Last Article" Zhukov was executed by the Germans at the war's end. Turtledove has not suggested whether any of these works are related.

Turtledove later wrote "Shtetl Days", another short story dealing with a 21st-century Third Reich, but it does not appear to be set in the same timeline as Presence.

See Also:Edit

Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki