The Nazi who Almost Destroyed Science

Paul Feyerabend was born in Vienna in January 1924.  He was fourteen when his country became part of Hitler’s Reich through the Anschluss; by the age of twenty-one he was in charge of an infantry battalion, three tanks, auxiliary troops, a mass of refugees and a bicycle company which had lost its bikes, all fleeing from the Russian advance.  His years in between provide a fascinating insight into the life of a low-to-mid-level soldier in the Wehrmacht; his life after almost destroyed the way we think about science.

Feyerabend - Hitler Youth
Feyerabend – Hitler Youth

Feyerabend admits to having no particular views on the Nazi takeover in 1938.  Many in Vienna saw the Anschluss as ‘liberation from Catholic totalitarianism’.  Like the other schoolchildren, he accepted the segregation to a special bench of the three Jews in his class.  He felt no moral outrage when anti-Semitic laws forced his family doctor, Dr Kronfeld, to cease practicing; what mattered to him was that the new doctor was just as good.  Although he refused to watch Nazi propaganda movies for fear of being taken in, he admits he never really critiqued the Nazi ideology until 1945.  He even considered joining the SS – not out of conviction, but because their uniform was more impressive.

Feyerabend’s War

Aged 18, Feyerabend was conscripted into the Arbeitdeinst – the state sponsored employment service, which sent him to German-occupied Brittany to ‘dig ditches and fill them up again’.  Weekends centred on alcohol and ‘forthcoming’ French women.

He began training with a reserve engineer battalion, near Vienna, in December 1942, and volunteered to become an officer – purely because it seemed a safer bet.  Taught about pontoon bridge-building and all manner of explosives, he was hospitalised twice from minor training injuries.  He then spent several months in Yugoslavia – one of the most troublesome occupied territories for the Nazis, although Feyerabend never came across the resistance.  Only towards the end of his time there did he meet a local farmwoman who confronted him as ‘the enemy’.  Feyerabend, who had been sheltered from anti-Nazi views and had not even heard of Pearl Harbour, was shocked by the woman’s animosity.

Feyerabend's ID card
Feyerabend’s ID card

Feyerabend was eventually sent to the Russian front, newly promoted to lance corporal.  On the defensive, his platoon slid around in mud and squalor; one soldier shot himself trying to dismantle a pistol.  After a few weeks of boring statis, they were suddenly ordered to retreat.  Feyerabend’s men blew up every house they could find, and took a professional joy in placing explosives as strategically as they could.

He also witnessed civilians being slaughtered – in one case, several of them being shepherded into a cellar, into which a grenade was tossed.  But most civilians fled; Feyerabend would sleep on their still-warm ovens after they had gone.

A Chaotic Retreat

It was a bitter time.  Sometimes under simultaneous attack from the air and groundfire, they also had to watch out for their own tanks: one man in his unit was flattened by a retreating panzer.

In March 1944, Feyerabend earned the Iron Cross (second class), for leading a counter-attack on a village with a rocket launcher.  Soon after, he was put in charge of a company of seasoned soldiers, as the front temporarily stabilised.  During the nights, Feyerabend would move between the observation posts and explain the constellations above to his sentries.

After respite at an officer training school near Leipzig, Feyerabend’s last foray against the Russians was in January 1945.  Ludicrously, he was put in charge of a bicycle company, even though he had never ridden one, and fell off when he tried; but the bikes were soon abandoned as the Soviets came near.  Feyerabend just escaped from a barn as the enemy entered through the back door.  He and his men built bridges, crossed them, then destroyed them as they enacted Hitler’s ‘Scorched Earth’ policy.

A lieutenant, then a captain, then a major all cited bogus injuries as an excuse to depart, leaving Lieutenant Feyerabend in charge of a battalion of weary and confused Germans plus Ukrainian, Polish and Finish auxiliaries.

It was while directing traffic at a crossroads that Feyerabend was hit by three sniper rounds – one to his spine which would leave him impotent for the rest of his life.  The Germans who escorted him to hospital, he said, did not really want to help him; they were just looking for an excuse to escape the fighting themselves.  In Weimar, where he was eventually treated, an air-raid blasted a window-frame onto his head, and he was taken into a sewer, where he sheltered for almost a week.  He was convalescing when the war ended.

Venerated Anti-Scientist of the 1960s

Feyerabend - 1960s Icon
Feyerabend – 1960s Icon

Forever crippled by his injuries, Feyerabend was soon back at university.  There, he concentrated on quantum physics before moving into philosophy.  In the half-century of his life after the war, he won academic accolades, fellowships and appointments around the world – including a distinguished post at Berkeley, California.  His views were seen as radical and anarchic, and chimed with the anti-establishment mood of the late 1960s.

Although he is usually classed as a ‘philosopher of science’, Paul Feyerabend was essentially a philosopher against science.  Feyerabend himself pointedly refused to be classified at all – classifications, he believed, relied on traditions he felt a duty to confront.

The traditional scientific method had been defined by Karl Popper, who put forward his theory of ‘falsification’: that scientific hypotheses were only valid if they could be proved wrong.  Scientific truth, Popper believed, could never be proven; instead, it was established gradually, by the sustained absence of proof against a theory.

Ultimate Icon of the Counter-Culture

Despite having agreed with Popper in the 1950s, Feyerabend had become a sharp critic by the 1960s.  He believed Popper’s approach hampered invention, since it meant testing new ideas against old ones – an approach which was biased towards the status quo.  According to Feyerabend, truly revolutionary scientific ideas need to be tested in their own terms.  Also, he said, rival scientific theories could co-exist, even if they contradicted each other.

Not a Traditional Scientist
Not a Traditional Scientist

Drawing an analogy with the separation of powers and anti-monopoly laws, he believed society benefitted from sharp divides within the scientific community, and between establishment science and the state.  “The separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution,” he famously once said.

Feyerabend’s views have been derided as illogical.  Nevertheless, his ideas helped inspire the post-modernist culture of the 1960s and 70s.

Feyerabend’s views on science make most sense as a delayed reaction to his military experiences.  He had been the amoral servant of an evil ideology; that service was only possible because alternative viewpoints had been demonised by Nazism.  Feyerabend’s critique was not of science itself, but of its intolerance.  He wanted to separate science from the state, just as religion is kept apart in the USA.  His mantra, ‘anything goes’ was not an assault on science, but a belated safeguard against totalitarian brutality.

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First Reviews of ‘Secrets of the Last Nazi’

‘Secrets of the Last Nazi’ was sent to a few early reviewers.  This is what they said:

Was just telling how fucking AMAZING ur book is!  Excuse my language!  I’m THAT IMPRESSED”!  ‘IAIN SCORES! Dan Brown: Iain King = 0: 1.’ Will I be sued for this? – @ThisChickReads via Twitter.

David Boyle
David Boyle

Iain King has come up with a thrilling plot and an ingenious idea that has the possibility to turn everyone’s ideas upside down and back to front.

David Boyle, journalist and author.

Five Stars

A fabulous thriller that puts Dan Brown to shame, this wonderfully researched, amazing tale has you double guessing what you know, turning what you’ve always believed on its head. Brilliant and fast paced, I could not put this book down. An accomplished and assured debut, this is a book that will stay with me for a while. I’ll definitely be recommending it to everyone. Myles Munro is a compelling hero and I for one can’t wait for the next Myles Munro tale.

Renita D’Silva via Goodreads.com

This book is a definite page-turner.  This is an entertaining read with strong characters. I would definitely read more in the series as I do enjoy fiction centred around the Second World War.  This book is due for release on 9th July 2015.

Literary review blogger @Ajoobacats.

Sam Kiley,  Sky News
Sam Kiley, Sky News

This is a remarkable and chilling book – a clever blend of addictive fiction and astonishing revelation.

– Sam Kiley, Sky News and author of Desperate Glory

I was bowled over by this book. Absolutely amazing.  Can’t wait for the next.  It is fabulous. Turns everything you have believed on its head.  – Author Renita D’Silva, interview quote.

Five StarsGreat conspiracy thriller, just the sort of book I like. The whole story is based on a fascinating premise and backed up convincingly throughout.  A good pace all the way through, building up and racing to an exciting finish.  Would recommend to anyone who likes Scott Mariani, Dan Brown type thrillers. I will definitely look out for more books by this author.

NetGalley, book review website.

Five StarsI am very impressed with this book. It had a little of everything mystery and action betrayal. What a wonderful surprise and one I would recommend. – Sean Talbot, Canada, via Goodreads.com

Terry S pic
Terry Stiastny

A modern-day treasure hunt with an intriguing historical premise, which races across Europe. – Terry Stiastny, award-winning author of Acts and Omissions

One of the BIGGEST & NICEST surprises when it comes to books I’ve read so far. Secrets of the Last Nazi pub’d by @bookouture.  AH-MAZING! – @ThisChickReads via Twitter.

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Hitler: Really a Non-Hero in World War One

HitlerMustacheIn the 1935 book ‘The Story of Adolf Hitler Told for Children’, widely distributed throughout Nazi Germany by state authorities, Hitler’s time as a soldier was retold in lively language – once, he was said to have ‘run straight through machine gun fire’ to deliver messages between outposts on the frontline; and later he is described as ‘one of the bravest soldiers in every battle.’  Hitler’s service for Germany became an essential part of his political message: he had served his nation in the most selfless way possible, so he demanded the nation serve him in return.

Even opponents of Hitler accepted that the dictator’s record in World War One was impressive – he had won the Iron Cross twice, there were many apparent eye-witness reports of his bravery, and he served for the whole war.  Almost without exception, respected western journalists have repeated as fact that Hitler was one of the bravest men in the trenches.

But a little historical research reveals Hitler’s ‘heroic’ war record was mostly a figment of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler the Draft Dodger

Buy at Amazon.comBefore the war, Hitler dodged the draft.  Conscripted to serve his native Imperial Austria in 1910, Hitler failed to report for duty.  He did this at least three times, and it was probably to avoid military service that he moved from Vienna to southern Germany.  Only in February 1914 did he surrender himself to the Austrian authorities, who deemed him medically unfit for duty. He tried to cover this up – through lies in Mein Kampf (for example, his autobiography claims he was in Munich on a day in 1912 when Viennese police arrested him for vagrancy), and by sending his Gestapo to destroy the official papers when Germany united with Austria in 1938.  Hitler was furious when he was told the paperwork had gone missing.

Hitler the Coward

After he was caught up in a fateful battle on 29th October 1914, Hitler managed to wangle himself a cushy position at regimental HQ, several miles behind the frontline.  There he lived in relative safety and luxury, only occasionally venturing near the trenches; usually he was just delivering messages between the regiment’s HQ and its administrative base, both well away from danger.  Several times during the war, Hitler turned down opportunities for promotion to keep this precious role as a regimental dispatch runner.  It was quite a feat to him to remain at the army’s lowest rank (not a corporal, as is sometimes reported) throughout the whole war.  He spent a smaller proportion of his war years in the trenches than almost any other private in his regiment, the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment.

Adolf Hitler im Ersten Weltkrieg

Picture: Hitler with other despatch runners, safely away from the frontline at Regimental HQ, Fournes.

Hitler – and his propaganda machine – pretended he delivered reports between frontline positions, but he was only called into the frontline when German manpower was stretched.  It meant he served at the battle of the Somme for only four days.  He suffered a ‘light wound’ from wood splinters in October 1916, which meant he was in hospital on the days his regiment faced its worst battles.  He missed other crucial days of fighting by being on leave.

Hitler: Not Blinded by Gas in 1918

Buy at Amazon.co.ukHitler claims to have lost his sight following a chlorine gas attack in mid-October 1918 – standing firm against the Allied assault, as Germany was ‘stabbed in the back’ by traitors back home.  But the doctors who treated him in Pasewalk military hospital near Berlin diagnosed his blindness as a form of hysteria, and concluded it was caused by psychological exhaustion or ‘hysteria’ rather than gas.  The medical papers were so damning – and sensational – that Hitler’s predecessor as German Chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher, who came across them in 1932, kept them personally – probably regarding them as an insurance policy, so he could blackmail Hitler later if he needed to.  But Hitler struck first: Schleicher was gunned down on 30th June 1934, one of the first victims of the dictator’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’.  The original papers have never surfaced.   (So how do we know this account is true?  It is the testimony of doctors and others interviewed in 1945 versus the word of the Fuhrer himself.  I know whom I believe…).

Research credit: Thomas Weber, author of the excellent ‘Hitler’s First War’.

Image below: Hitler at the announcement of war, Munich, 2nd August 1914.  This picture – the main protagonist of the Second World War celebrating the start of the First – has been doctored by Nazi spin doctors to imply the war was much more popular than it really was. A young Hitler cheers the start of World War One, 1914

What the Nazis did after 1945

Life for Nazis after the Third Reich was never easy. Many top Nazis were tried and punished for their wartime activities. Others attempted to hide or escape – South America was a popular destination for many, although a surprisingly large number lived for decades in Europe or the USA under aliases. Some were simply shunned from public life. But two men – one still alive, one now dead – went on to wield great influence after service for the Third Reich, although exactly how much they served Hitler’s cause remains hotly disputed.

Kurt Waldheim  UN Secretary General 1972-81, and former Nazi.
Kurt Waldheim
Head of the UN 1972-81.

Kurt Waldheim (1918-2007) spent a decade as Secretary General of the United Nations, and was elected to serve six years as President of Austria. He had been an interpreter and liaison officer for the Nazis in 1941 and 1942; critics claim prisoners were executed within metres of his office, although Waldheim always denied a role in Nazi atrocities.

Joseph Ratzinger (1927-) spent eight years as Pope Benedict XVI before his highly-unusual resignation in 2013. He had been conscripted into the Hitler Youth, helped operate an anti-aircraft battery and trained as an infantryman. In 1945, he deserted from the army and fled to his family home – the building became a local headquarters for the advancing American army.

Other former Nazis tried to put their wartime years behind them, but didn’t succeed. Ernst Achenbach (1909-1991), who had spent three years as Head of the Political Department in the German Embassy in Paris, was elected the West German Bundestag. He became a leading spokesman on Foreign Affairs with a prominent role in the European Commission. But in 1974, Achenbach was forced to resign when an investigative journalist exposed his complicity in the execution of French Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Other famous people who had provided active support to the Nazi regime include the acclaimed German journalist and newspaper editor Hans Walter Aust, distinguished rocket scientist Werner von Braun, and physicist Werner Heisenberg. Several top Germans – including 1500 scientists – were resettled in the United States under the wonderfully named ‘Operation Paperclip’ – the controversial project to conscript former Nazi talent to the Western cause in the Cold War.

Despite an intensive De-Nazification programme, which was intended to expunge Hitler’s ideology and key Nazis from public life, many who had served the Third Reich were rehabilitated. Of the 53,000 civil servants in West Germany at the end of the war, some 51,000 were allowed to keep their jobs.

Secrets of the Last Nazi

THE GREATEST DISCOVERY OF THE 20TH CENTURY…

KEPT SECRET…     

UNTIL NOW…

Secrets of the Last Nazi is as controversial as it is compelling. A heart-stopping, action-packed and scarily plausible adventure which will captivate fans of Dan Brown, Scott Mariani and Alastair Maclean.

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The Nazi fascination with the mystical is already well known.  Iain King’s debut novel explores what the Third Reich may have learned about predicting the future, the terrible means they would have gone to secure that knowledge, and where their secrets will be now.

Publication 9th July 2015:   pre-order your copy NOW

———————-

Berlin, 2015 – a well-connected SS Commander is found dead, having protected the last secret of the Nazi empire for seventy years.  A discovery by Nazi Scientists so potent it could change the balance of world power – forever.

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Led by misfit military historian Myles Munro, an international team begin to piece together the complex puzzle left by SS Captain Werner Stolz. As their hunt across Europe gathers pace, the brutal killing of one of the group signals that they are not the only ones chasing the answer.

Plunged into a world of international espionage, Myles only has his intellect and instincts to keep him alive. As the team edge closer to an explosive truth, it becomes clear to him that there is a traitor amongst them.

Who can Myles trust?  And can he unravel the clues of the past in time to save the future?

This is the first in an original, clever and thrilling conspiracy series introducing Myles Munro.  The second book in the series, The Last Prophecy of Rome will be released in early Spring 2016.

 

PUBLICITY CONTACTS

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