In the mid-1930s, during the height of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler was firmly in power. Nazi Germany was well established, and the xenophobic philosophy that exemplified much of the Führer’s rhetoric permeated the public culture. Newspapers like Berlin Gau’s Der Angriff regularly published articles about a struggle to keep Germany’s values and principles intact. Those of non-Aryan descent were vilified and those in government and the public who spoke against these notions were either dismissed as lunatics or labeled as sympathizers. Even the few remaining publications that weren’t controlled by the Nazi party began to fall in line.
In addition to the pervasive antisemitism and anti-Christian culture, the growing threat of Marxism from the Soviet Union was a cause of increased paranoia in Nazi Germany. The German public gladly permitted the frequent searches of themselves and their property by Germany’s police force, the Ordnungspolizei. Those who resisted were marked for investigation by the Gestapo, who would secretly collect information about these alleged subversives. There were many cases in which the Gestapo would also secretly collect information about a target’s family and acquaintances. Just a few short years went by before there was an established need for information on every person in Nazi Germany. The Gestapo stockpiled this information and sifted through it tirelessly, weeding out political opponents, Jewish sympathizers, Marxists, and potential recruits. This information included not only particulars about those in Germany, but much of Europe as well.
The German public knew about the searches and questioning by the Ordnungspolizei, but were mostly unaware of the covert activity of the Gestapo. Some simply assumed there had to be some sort of private investigation happening; after all, how would the Führer be able to do his job as leader without full knowledge of the threats to Germany’s resurgence as the greatest country in the world? There were many who thought they had nothing to hide who were later incarcerated due to literature in their homes or places of work. Even those who had simply done business with Jews and Christians were put in one of several “Black Books” that listed thousands of others who were either prohibited from leaving the country, prohibited from entering the country, or marked for immediate arrest and internment.
A Gestapo agent by the name of Otto Tristan Weidner, had a moment of brief notoriety when he discovered the Gestapo’s secret program, along with other documents that seemed to indicate the Nazi party’s strong interest in the affairs of other nations, including France, Poland, Italy and others. After finding out about Nazi Germany’s stockpile of documents and realizing the dire implications, Weidner fled to England where he subsequently revealed to the British newspapers details of the Gestapo programs, and specifics on parties involved.
Word quickly spread to Germany about Weidner’s traitorous act. Although some in the German public hated the idea of their lives being recorded, many were so faithful to the Nazi party that they embraced the program. Weidner’s name was synonymous amongst the newsprint as a villain, as he was accused of treason of the highest order. The German government spent untold resources in an attempt to capture Weidner, who had taken refuge in Iceland, but the Germans abandoned their hunt in the midst of World War II after Iceland was invaded by Britain.
To this day, Otto Tristan Weidner is remembered unfavorably by the German public, and his act of bravery in the face of a malevolent dictatorship is but a tiny footnote in the epic tale of the Second World War. It should also be noted that the story of Otto Tristan Weidner is entirely fabricated. The point of this story, however, was not to deceive, but to clarify. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in patriotism and blind fear when one believes they are in the right, but reverse the roles and everything comes to light.