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Literature / The Man with the Iron Heart

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The Man with the Iron Heart is an Alternate History by Harry Turtledove. After the German defeat at the battle of Stalingrad, Heinrich Himmler is convinced by Reinhard Heydrich to help him set up a terrorist resistance in case Germany loses the war. Once Nazi Germany loses and is occupied The War on Terror begins in Germany which eventually leads to Allied troops withdrawing and leaving West Germany as a democratic, un-Denazified country where the Nazi party is now legal.

Not to be confused with The Man with the Iron Heart (original title HHhH), which is a historical/biopic film about Heydrich and his assassination.


  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • The continuing US occupation of Germany, the rampant insurgency from the German Freedom Front, a draft, and the anti-occupation movement from America rings any bells?
    • Diana McGraw appears to be based on Cindy Sheehan, although leading a more successful anti-occupation campaign than Sheehan.
    • The GFF kidnapping and filming of American soldier Matthew Cunningham and Soviet Soldier Nikolai Sergeyevich Golovko, which their captors demanding their respective nations to withdraw from Germany and the films are released to the public, is based on the "beheading videos" released by Islamist militant groups during the War on Terror.
  • Alternate-History Nazi Victory: Downplayed. The Nazis still lost World War Two, but they mounted a post-war insurgency effective enough to make the Western Allies withdraw from their zones at the end of the book, in 1947. The Soviets and French, on the other hand, are adamant that they will never leave their respective occupied zones, creating a prelude to further conflict.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Nazis are horrible, but so are the Soviets and to a lesser extent everyone else.
  • Downer Ending: A joint American-Soviet force managed to find Reinhard Heydrich and killed him while he tried to escape, but this doesn't end the insurgency. The Nazi resistance is now led by Joachim Peiper. The Americans and British complete their withdrawal, leaving the Nazis ready to reemerge, while the Soviets and French, committed to continuing the occupation and crushing the resistance, tighten their hold on their occupation zones and leaving the ultimate fate of Germany in question as the bloodshed shows no signs of stopping.
  • The Dragon: Reinhard Heydrich's second-in-command Joachim Peiper.
  • For Want of a Nail: Reinhard Heydrich survived his assassination by Czechoslovakian resistance fighters in 1942. His survival allowed him to form his plans for the aftermath of Germany's defeat and creating the German Freedom Front.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Reinhard Heydrich, but only slightly. Heydrich was shockingly, monstrously evil (he was one of the chief planners behind the Final Solution, and chaired the conference where it was decided upon), and there was a very, very good reason why the British made him their first target for what was supposed to be a campaign of assassination. When the British-trained Czech and Slovak assassins succeeded, however, the Nazis responded by totally destroying the towns of Lidice and Lezaky, murdering at least 1,300 people. This put an end to the UK's assassination scheme.
  • The Remnant: The German Freedom Front, aka the Werewolves.
  • Married to the Job: Diana McGraw becomes so involved in politics that once the occupation is over, she isn't so sure that she is satisfied in going back to being the traditional housewife, and already her marriage is close to breaking apart especially when she had a brief affair with a local San Francisco politician named Marvin (whom she was so disregardful of that she can't remember his last name).
  • Monumental Damage: St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the Eiffel Tower are leveled by the GFF.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The entire premise of the story is essentially The War on Terror set in post-World War II.
  • Shout-Out: At one point, Heydrich comments that "Tomorrow belongs to us", a reference to the song "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret, which has since, in Real Life, become associated with Neo-Nazism.
  • Supervillain Lair: The GFF's Alpine Redoubt.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Turtledove uses this nicely to avoid Strawmen Politicals, either for or against the war. The pro-war side is represented in particular by Weissberg, a decent and dedicated Army intelligence officer who sees the Nazis as just as much of a threat as when Hitler was still in charge, and believe that cutting and running will just lay the groundwork for World War III. Meanwhile, the other side, represented best by Diana McGraw, the Cindy Sheehan expy, and Congressman Jerry Duncan, are correct in the fact that the Truman administration doesn't seem to be doing a good job of things, and that there doesn't seem to be a plan for victory. On the one hand, Truman's predictions of rockets aimed at New York, which Duncan and McGraw dismiss as "Buck Rogers style fantasy", are, as the reader well knows, all too accurate; however, Duncan and McGraw have no way of knowing this.