Literature and Film in the Third Reich
Goebbels and the SA leader speak at the grave:
'You understood that the German student must stand next to the German worker, when the battle is about freedom and true socialism.' And the drums, the drums roll dully. Glowing red, the torches light up the graveyard. (196)Betrayed, Horst Wessel is finally brought down by the Reds: 'The String-pullers in the Karl Liebknecht House played their little game and played it well' (227). Else Cohn, 'an anti-fascist girl, a small, ugly person' (214), insists on directly carrying out the order of Kronstein, the leader of the Reds in Warsaw, that Horst Wessel be eliminated immediately. Without Ewers needing to say so expressly, it should be clear to the reader that the Nazi hero fell victim to a Jewish, international, Marxist conspiracy. The executioners were Red pimps and criminals who murdered Wessel from behind in his room. The Red press then spread the rumor, according to Ewers, that the pimp Wessel died in a fight with a colleague.
In the hospital Wessel struggles with death for several weeks more, has the Kaiser's son Prince August Wilhelm taken into the SA, and dies in the arms of his mother. Countless teeth gnashing SA men with 'grim' faces take leave of Horst Wessel, who is laid out in a brown room, encircled by candles, Nazi banners, and fraternity flags. At the grave, Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels, among others, speak: 'And when the SA stands assembled at rhe great roll call, when the name of every individual is called, the leader will then call your name, Horst Wessel! And everyone, all the SA men will answer, as in one voice: 'Here!'—For the SA—it is Horst Wessel.' The novel does not close there, however, but with an apotheosis-like transfiguration of the hero that stands alone in its trashy sentimentality:
The mother dreamed again. Erected high above, a giant cross, on the cross beam, entwined with a swastika-Horst stood below in his brown storm trooper uniform; he held his cap in both hands, and looked up earnestly. And she knew: when the misery of the people demands a sacrifice—it is always the bravest, it is always the noblest and the best who are chosen. And always, always, this is the end: down below, before the cross, stands a mother. (288-89)In the epilogue, Ewers draws a parallel to the national freedom fighter of the wars against Napoleon, Theodor Korner, seeking in this manner to give historical dignity and legitimacy to his Horst Wessel.
Despite the theme, the large number of orders, and the large printings, Ewers's book was not very popular with the Nazis; in the end it was even banned and Ewers was dismissed as an 'opportunistic belletrist.' This was not because of the bad style of the novel, but because of the disreputable professional past of the author. To the 'clean' Nazis, a writer of dubious repute such as Ewers really did appear unsuitable to be the biographer of their national hero.