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By Our Writers: A Germany That Might Have Been

‘Last Stop Vienna,’ the debut historical novel by NEWSWEEK’s Andrew Nagorski
/ Source: Newsweek

In the early 1920s, when a fledgling political party promised Germany a new future, it also offered acceptance to an aimless teenager named Karl Naumann. “Last Stop Vienna,” the debut historical novel by NEWSWEEK International Senior Editor Andrew Nagorski, follows this young fictional Brownshirt as he’s taken in by the organizers of the Nazi Party.

HE SOON FALLS for Hitler’s disarming niece Geli Raubal, who’s also the object of her uncle’s perverse affections. Tracing the National Socialist movement back to its early days, when some members attempted to steer it to the left, Nagorski explores how an average German might be attracted to the movement and Hitler’s odd charisma—and how the country might have gone in another direction.

Nagorski, a longtime foreign correspondent for NEWSWEEK, started the novel while he was reporting in Germany, and haunted Hitler’s old neighborhoods and apartments looking for inspiration. “It’s hard not to sense the presence of Nazi ghosts in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany,” he says. “Friends who saw the stacks of books and papers about Hitler would joke that they were a bit worried about me.” The idea for the book came to him during a historical tour of Munich, where Hitler gathered his first recruits and rose to power.

Nagorski’s guide explained how Hitler had survived a shoot-out in 1923, which killed an aide who was walking with him. Nagorski began wondering what might have been. “Even as a teenager,” says the author, whose father was a Polish officer who fought the Nazis, “I remember fantasizing what would I have done if I had been around during Hitler’s rise and had the chance to get close to him.”

—Susannah Meadows

© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.