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Literature / A Prophet Without Honor

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A Prophet Without Honor is an Alternate History novel by Joseph Wurtenbaugh. There are multiple points of divergence, culminating in the failure of the Rhineland occupation and the subsequent overthrow of Hitler by the Wehrmacht.

Of particular importance to the story is Karl von Haydenreich, a lieutenant with the Abwehr, who plays an instrumental role in the thwarting of the Rhineland occupation. The novel discusses Karl's birth, his parents and stepmother, his early life, his early disillusionment with the Nazis, his boyhood at a British boarding school, his failed musical career, his courtship and marriage to Elizabeth Golsing, his military career, all culminating in his pivotal role in the thwarting of the Rhineland occupation and the fall of the Third Reich.

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This novel provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: There are multiple points of divergence:
    • Eisenhower serves in France in World War One and meets Heinz von Haydenreich and becomes godfather to young Karl.
    • Eisenhower stands up to MacArthur during the latter's suppression of the Bonus Army in the thirties. As a result, he is reassigned to become a military attaché in Berlin.
    • Karl von Haydenreich passes critical military intelligence from Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord to Eisenhower, who in turn passes the information onto the British embassy, leading up to...
    • The British and French authorities not only learn of the Rhineland occupation in advance, but they learn it is a bluff, which can be opposed without risk of war.
    • The failure of the Rhineland occupation further destabilizes the already-shaky Nazi regime — not to mention its leader — resulting in the overthrow of the Third Reich.
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  • As the Good Book Says...: The title of the novel comes from Mark 6:4 of The Bible.
  • Asshole Victim: Deconstructed. Even with the Brown Shirts raping Martin and driving him to suicide, harassing Karl's wife Elizabeth, and terrorizing Jews, Karl ends up feeling sorry for them as they are murdered during the Night of the Long Knives.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Hitler and his regime are overthrown, and World War II and The Holocaust are averted, but Karl dies a gruesome death. Even worse racial bigotry isn't as thoroughly discredited as IOTL.
  • Boarding School: Karl goes to Uppingham, a boarding school in England, where he meets Albert Sommerville, his lifelong friend.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Fritz Breslau is an anti-Semite and later Nazi from a Jewish family. This comes to bite him in the ass.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Under the influence of his grandfather, Karl is initially swayed by Hitler's speeches and rhetoric. He comes to his senses when, during the Beer Hall Putsch, he sees people he knows being targeted by the Nazis. The break is complete when he sees Hitler flee like a coward from the police.
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    • Karl's British school friend Albert, a British racist and imperialist. is disillusioned with the Nazis after hearing of their barbaric behavior.
  • The Coup: The Wehrmacht overthrows Hitler at the end of March 1936.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Karl is garotted by the SS until his head is torn halfway off.
  • Death by Childbirth: Karl's mother, Charlotte, dies giving birth to him.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Charlotte and Rosamunde both fall in love with Heinz, Karl's father. Karl has eyes only for Charlotte and marries her. After Charlotte dies giving birth to Karl, Heinz and Rosamunde end up married.
  • Defiant to the End: Karl denounces Hitler as a coward to his face, and refuses to back down as the SS torture him to death.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The open, unapologetic racism of even some of the heroic characters is jarring, as is the ability of prominent figures to defend Hitler in respectable publications. This is done to show how, in the absence of The Holocaust, the full evils of Hitler and racism were not exposed, meaning these ideas are still regarded as mainstream ITTL.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Rohm and his followers. One of them makes a pass at twelve-year-old Karl during the Beer Hall Putsch, and they rape Martin, Karl's brother-in-law, at Dachau.
  • Dirty Coward: Hitler, who turned tail and ran when the police started shooting at the Nazis during the Beer Hall Putsch.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Martin, Karl's brother-in-law, mocks some SA goons, for which he is arrested and raped at Dachau.
    • Karl's The Reason You Suck speech to Hitler results in him being tortured to death.
  • Dramatic Irony: Many of the statements made about Hitler and the decision to oppose the Rhineland occupation are, in some instances, horrifying to Real Life readers who know all too well just how bad the Nazi regime became.
    • Albert Sarraut comments that he would have preferred a thousand Hitlers to one Charles de Gaulle.
    • Robert Cecil and his antiwar movement depict Hitler as a victim of Allied aggression.
    • Elizabeth resents her husband Karl's sacrificing himself to take down Hitler, who she regards as nothing more than a pipsqueak who would have fallen easily, even without Karl's involvement.
    • Stanley Baldwin, who ended up sacrificing his career to take Hitler down, reflects that he doesn't know whether it was worth it.
    • An Italian Communist writer rejects the idea that any one person can have a pivotal impact on history, despite the whole point of this book being that one person could have brought down Hitler in 1936.
  • Driven to Suicide: Karl's brother-in-law Martin, after being subjected to Prison Rape at Dachau and being given a blistering The Reason You Suck speech by his father.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Eisenhower loses his godson during the climactic events of March 1936, and is subsequently cashiered from the Army and excoriated before Congress. When he returns to Kansas, he begins a successful political career as a Congressman and later Senator.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: When witnessing Hitler carry out the Insignia Rip-Off Ritual during the Night of the Long Knives, Karl reflects that he didn't realize anybody actually did that outside of theatre.
  • Evil Is Petty: Two examples:
    • Heydrich hates Karl and subjects him to continued surveillance because Heydrich made a fool of himself trying to bully Karl at Heydrich's wedding.
    • Fritz Breslau denounces Karl to the SS because he resents the fact that his sister and mother loved the von Haydenreich family.
  • Fictional Document: With the exception of the author's notes at the very beginning and end, the novel consists entirely of excerpts from fictional books, magazine articles, journals, and letters documenting the life of Karl von Haydenreich, his role in the failure of the Rhineland occupation and the ouster of Hitler, and the immediate aftermath. Although the documents and articles are fictional, the publishers, magazines, and some of the authors are real.
  • For Want of a Nail: If only the Allies had known that the Rhineland occupation was a bluff, with the Wehrmacht having been given orders to retreat in the face of the slightest Allied resistance.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We know from the preface that the Rhineland occupation is thwarted, Hitler's regime falls within a month, and Karl dies. The rest of the story outlines how this happens.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Albert Sommerville, Karl's best friend from boarding school, and Elizabeth, his widow, are political opponents, with the former being a racist and imperialist, and the latter being a staunch opponent of both of these things. They are also the best of friends.
  • Gay Conservative: Willy is gay but shares in many of his father's beliefs, including anti-Semitism.
  • Good Stepmother: Rosamunde or "Mummi" was this to Karl. One of the first things mentioned about him was how much he adored her.
  • Harmful to Minors: When Karl is twelve, his grandfather, Wilhelm, exposes him to sex and violence.
    • The night of the Beer Hall Putsch, Wilhelm leaves Karl in the "care" of his mistress, who begins sexually grooming the boy. A letter from Heinz indicates that Wilhelm had similarly arranged for Professional Sex Ed for Willy when he had been only twelve.
    • The next morning, Wilhelm takes Karl to the march, which ends in a violent clash with police, with Karl falling on a dying Nazi and being covered in the Nazi's blood.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Karl's family is aware that his Uncle Willy is gay, yet no relationships are mentioned during the course of the novel. Perhaps justified given the time in which the story takes place, in which Willy would have had to be extremely discreet with any relationships.
  • Heel Realization: Karl's uncle Willy, who is killed in World War One, renounces his anti-Semitism on his deathbed.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity:
    • Karl is vilified in his homeland for supposedly thwarting Germany's recovery.
    • Stanley Baldwin is ousted in a vote of no-confidence after he is villainized as a warmonger for opposing Hitler.
    • Albert Sarraut, prime minister of France, is similarly ousted for his role in opposing Hitler.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Martin after he is raped at Dachau, culminating in his suicide.
    • Judge Golsing, after his son's suicide. He recovers in Zurich and spends the rest of his days in Britain.
  • Historical Domain Character: A number of the viewpoint characters are actual historical figures.
    • Dwight Eisenhower is godfather Karl and helps him pass German secrets to the Allies to undermine Hitler.
    • Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord is the head of the Reichswehr, who gives Karl information key to thwarting Hitler's plans.
    • Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of the UK during the pivotal events of March 1936.
    • Eric Phipps, British ambassador to Germany during the climactic events.
    • Albert Sarraut, premier of France during the pivotal events of March 1936.
    • Charles de Gaulle, who carries out the French invasion of Germany.
    • Robert Cecil, a major advocate of peace and internationalism, who vilifies Baldwin.
    • Werner von Blomberg: Head of the Wehrmacht during the events in question.
    • Harald Quandt, the stepson of Josef Goebbels, an unapologetic defender of the Nazis.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • Eisenhower, who in Real Life, did not stand up to MacArthur and only showed his leadership abilities after being appointed to command the Allied forces in Europe.
    • Von Hammerstein-Equord, who simply resigned in protest of Hitler, and did nothing meaningful to oppose him.
    • Stanley Baldwin and Albert Sarraut, who continued with the policy of appeasement rather than resist Hitler.
  • I Gave My Word: Played straight and subverted at various times during the novel.
    • Karl's grandfather, Wilhelm, promises not to expose Karl to his brand of politics, or to subject the boy to Professional Sex Ed. He reneges on both promises.
    • In turn, Wilhelm gets Karl to promise to keep his Nazi allegiance from Karl's father, Heinz, who disapproves. After his disillusionment, Karl reneges on this promise.
    • During the Beer Hall Putsch, Bavarian state commissioner von Kahr gives his word to Ludendorff that he will comply with the Nazis. Released on his honor, he quickly reneges and orders the crushing of the insurrection.
    • Karl gives his word to his prospective father-in-law that he will keep his bride-to-be out of whatever trouble he may get into, even if he has to lie to her face. He keeps his word.
    • Eisenhower vows not to disclose who gave him the materials that led to Hitler's downfall. He only reveals the information in an autobiography posthumously published in 1986.
    • Von Blomberg tries to use this to object to The Coup against Hitler. Von Hammerstein-Equord responds that oaths are reciprocal, and that Hitler has violated his end of the bargain.
    • Von Blomberg extracts an oath from von Hammerstein-Equord and other senior officials not to back up von Blomberg's events the day of the coup. Too bad von Blomberg didn't include von Hammerstein-Equord's driver in the oath, who revealed the true story, resulting in von Blomberg's downfall.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: During the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler personally does this to some of the SA he is having killed.
  • Like Brother and Sister: How Albert and Elizabeth see each other, especially when consoling each other after Karl's death.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Judge Golsing blames his The Reason You Suck speech to his son for the latter's suicide.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Hitler and his followers refuse to take any blame for the disaster that was the Rhineland occupation.
    • Adolph Breslau blames Karl for getting Adolph's father Fritz tortured to death. In fact, Fritz sealed his own fate. First, he revealed his Jewish heritage in denouncing Karl to the SS. Second, his denunciation of Karl, leading to the latter's murder, painted a target on his back for the Wehrmacht once Hitler was overthrown.
  • Noble Bigot:
    • Willy is an anti-Semite, but he warms up to his Jewish sister-in-law, and ultimately abandons his prejudices.
    • Albert Sommerville, Karl's best friend, is a racist, but he regards the Nazis as barbaric. He gets along with Elizabeth and Karl despite their ideological differences, and is also friends with a Jewish classmate.
  • Prison Rape: The SA does this to Martin at Dachau.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Albert Sommerville, Karl's best friend, is an unapologetic racist and anti-Semite. He is disgusted by the Nazi atrocities and helps smuggle Karl's wife and children out of Germany and away from the Nazi vengeance.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Nazis, of course.
  • Professional Sex Ed: Wilhelm von Haydenreich arranged this for Willy, who was twelve at the time. He starts this with Karl, but Heinz cuts off contact before things get very far.
  • The Purge: Karl is an official Abwehr observer to the Night of the Long Knives.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Judge Golsing delivers one to his son after the latter is released from Dachau. He comes to bitterly regret it.
    • Hitler is on the receiving end of two absolutely glorious ones, courtesy of Karl and, later, Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Hitler, Heydrich, and their sympathizers suspect Karl of leaking the secrets of the Rhineland to Eisenhower and the Allies. They are right. Except they have no idea of the truth, with Heydrich fingering Karl over a petty vendetta, and Hitler blaming Karl because he had a Jewish stepmother.
  • Romancing the Widow: After Charlotte's Death by Childbirth, her best friend, Rosamunde, stays to care for Karl and his sister Lena. She ends up marrying Karl's father, Heinz, a little more than a year afterward.
  • Scrapbook Story: With the exception of the author's notes at the very beginning and end, the novel consists entirely of excerpts from books, magazine articles, journals, and letters documenting the life of Karl von Haydenreich, his role in the failure of the Rhineland occupation and the ouster of Hitler, and the immediate aftermath.
  • Second Love:
    • Played straight with Heinz, Karl's father, and Rosamunde, Karl's stepmother.
    • Subverted with Elizabeth. Throughout the book, we read that she remarried after Karl's death. The Coda reveals that the marriage was a sham, heavily implying that her second husband was a closeted gay man.
  • Sex for Solace: This happens between Heinz and Rosamunde after Heinz' wife, Charlotte, dies giving birth to Karl.
  • The Sociopath: Although he doesn't use this word, Heinz warns Karl that Hitler is this.
  • Spanner in the Works: Karl's passing information from von Hammerstein-Equord to Eisenhower reveals to the Allies that the Rhineland occupation is a bluff, causing it to be successfully opposed.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Albert Sommerville's objection to the Nazis is that their thuggish, barbaric behavior makes White supremacism look bad.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Hitler, of course. His epic meltdown in the face of Karl's denunciations further pushes von Hammerstein-Equord along the path to insurrection.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: Judge Golsing feels this way about his actions toward his son Martin after the latter is driven to suicide.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race:
    • Willy concludes this about his sister-in-law Rosamunde, who is Jewish.
    • Albert Sommerville sees a Jewish classmate as this, welcoming him into the band and inviting him to his home for the summer.
    • Subverted with Wilhelm, who initially takes this line with Karl, but quickly abandons it when Rosamunde's mother, Johanna Breslau, takes Karl away upon realizing that he took the boy to the Beer Hall Putsch.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: In order to drive the nail in the Nazis' coffin, Baldwin and Sarraut both sacrifice their careers to cover up proof of the fact that the Rhineland invasion really did fail due to treason rather than because of Hitler's incompetence.

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