Archive for December 15, 2008

On the day the £ sterling dived to parity with the Euro for the first time I read a short spy novel A Toast to Tomorrow. 

The book published in 1940 was written by two Hampshire neighbours Adelaide Manning and Cyril Coles, and based in part on Cole’s adventures in British intelligence. Manning and  Coles were to go on writing together until Manning’s death in 1959, but their hero Tommy Hambledon was at his best when battling the Nazis.

A Toast to Tommorrow is the story of a British agent who is washed up on a beach near Ostend in his underwear with no memory of who or what he is. He is given the name Klaus , from Nikolaus the patron saint of sailors, and Lehmann, the name of his doctor in the naval hospital where he is treated. 
On his release from hospital Lehmann wanders through a defeated Germany, on the way meeting Hermann Goering and making friends with Ludmilla Rademeyer, who becomes his elderly adopted aunt.

Then comes 1923 and massive inflation. ‘This was the time when the mark soared to an astronomical figure [against the dollar], and people took attache cases to collect the bulky bundles of worthless notes which constituted their wages.’

‘they are doing this so that the foreigner may buy more cheaply. Why does the government wish to benefit the foreigner at the expense of its own people?’

The people starve,and freeze while it cost millions of marks to buy a box of matches and then Lehmann meets Hitler.

And do you think he has a chance?” [of saving Germany]
‘I don’t know, but …..I have come to the state where I would support  a convicted murderer or illiterate village wench if I thought either could help Germany.’

Lehmann climbs the Nazi party hierachy [he regarded Hitler not as a leader but a useful tool  for the regeneration of the country] and by 1933 is Deputy Chief of the German Police. He has learned that the Nazi leaders are corrupt and evil and then while watching the Reichstag Fire he regains his memory; he becomes Tommy Hambledon the British agent again.

There is an enormous amount of implausible coincidence in this story as well as Boy’s Own 1930s style adventures, but it is worth reading because of  the accounts of Germany during the time of the terrible inflation, and of the Nazi treatment of Jews [to the Nazis anyone with a Jewish grandparent]. 
It is hard to believe it was written as long ago as 1940 because it tries to answer difficult questions at a time when survival was the priority. 
How did a civilized nation end up in the hands of a group of barbarous lunatics?

The old lady sighed. “Yet they are Germans who carry out these dreadful orders, how can they? Why don’t they refuse? Germans used to be such nice people before all this happened-except the Prussians of course……”