|Photo by Shonna Valeska for NPR
Kingdom of Shadows has Nicholas Morath, an upper class Hungarian living and working as a businessman in Paris, undertaking missions in 1938 and 1939 to try to avert the looming war.
Constantine “Costa” Zannis, a Greek police officer in Spies in the Balkans, helps Jews escape from Germany. I said in review:
He is simply a good man doing his best to help the persecuted in a cruel world ….. At the same time he is a brave man willing to take real risks. As a Greek whose family and friends fought for independence from Turkey but a generation earlier I believe he identifies with the plight of the Jews.
Dark Voyage involves a tramp steamer on missions for British intelligence. In my review I concluded:
[Dutch Captain Eric] DeHaan and the crew are the ordinary people of war. Once again I felt as if I was reading one of John Le Carre’s spy novels. There is no glitz or glamour.
In The Polish Officer Captain Alexander de Milja, a Polish army cartographer, takes Polish government gold out of Warsaw as Poland is conquered. He subsequently spends time in Paris and London. He sums up why France did not have resistance movements to equal Eastern Europe:
Because he’d learned a terrible truth about the Germans: unless you were a Jew they wouldn’t bother you if you didn’t bother them.
Last year I read and reviewed Hitler’s Empire – How the Nazis Ruled Europe by Mark Mazower in which the author set out how there was limited resistance in Western Europe. In my review I said:
Opposition to the Germans was muted except in the East where Nazi oppression left the Poles and Russians with little to lose by armed resistance. In Western Europe it took the brutal drives for workers being sent to the Reich to provoke real resistance. Even then attacks were limited.
My last post was a review of Red Gold in which former film producer Jean Casson gradually becomes part of the French Resistance as he acts as a liaison between French Intelligence officials and the French Communist Party.
Furst is a master at creating such men as Morath, Zannis, deHaan, Milja and Casson. They will never lead their nation in politics or war or business. They will do their best for their country despite the danger. They know neither fame nor reward await them. They do not seek glory.
I have met men and women who resisted tyranny. I wrote a post about real life families in the Netherlands and Denmark who acted against the Nazis occupying their nations. A Dutch teenage girl altered identity cards to change the age of young men to prevent deportation. A Danish family hid a Jewish girl from Germany. None set out to be resisters. Yet when they were called upon they took up the challenge.
Those Danish and Dutch people are heroes like Furst’s heroes. Morath, Zannis, deHaan, Milja and Casson could be us. We can identify with them hoping we would have had the courage to resist. Furst convinces us not all ordinary people were part of the silent majority described by Mazower.
Furst’s characters, as with my real life examples, do not always resist by wielding weapons. A frequent theme sees them helping other people, especially Jews, facing Nazi persecution.
I find Furst’s characters intriguing and inspiring for, despite facing daunting odds, they have not drifted into apathy.
While I admire John Le Carre’s books his bleak endings are hard to read. I appreciate that Furst, while not predictable, does not always write a dark finish to his books.
Furst’s books encourage us not to give up hope in our fellow men and women.