From the Dust Jacket:
This is the story of the inhumanity of the Germans in their occupation of defeated countries, of the anguish and the heroism of ordinary men under them—a story which will continue to have a great meaning for our time long after the actual defeat of Germany on the battlefield. It is the story of a simple, middle-class family, which in this book is Greek but which might be of any captive nation, for Greece in its pathetic fate and noble resistance only typifies the other conquered nations of Europe.
Mr. and Mrs. Helianos were nearly beaten—starving and ill in both mind and body—but their existence had been more or less their own until Captain Kalter was billeted in their best rooms, controlling their meagre rations and monopolizing their lives. Helianos had cousins who, because they were active in the underground, were heroic in the ordinary sense. But he and his wife were gentle and timid, conciliatory and long-suffering, with nothing to sustain them in their defeat except the tenderness of their old marriage and their pity for their children. Dulled by privation and spiritually crippled, they had watched their abnormally childish little girl grown imperceptive and as undemanding as a small, sick animal. They had seen their son Alex, still a small boy, already with the light of vengeance in his furtive eyes and a sad lust for blood, if it was German blood. The intrusion of Kalter only increased their grief, lowered their voices to fearful whispers, and made more miserable an already wretched existence.
It is the development of Kalter and his subtle calculated influence on the Helianos family that makes this book one of the most dramatic, penetrating studies to come out of this war. There are many types of Germans but few have been portrayed of the insidious, cunning brutality of Captain Kalter. Never once could he have conceived of wavering in his admiration for his Fuehrer even after hideous tragedy had fallen on his personal life as a product of his master’s war. In one way, however, Kalter was changed by this personal catastrophe, but a leave home and a promotion to the rank of Major. It allowed his self-pitying sentimentality to show itself. It led him to seek the companionship of Helianos to whom he preached the violent, mystical philosophy of Nazism; a doctrine frightening in its narrow, cold-blooded assurance. It was this doctrine, unsoftened by personal experience, that turned Kalter against the Greek and carried the German to his self-destruction. It was the tyranny of this single German on the family rather than the total effect of war that consummated the Helianos’ despair, that made the husband a martyr and the son a hero and turned the widowed mother from her hypochondria, in a final moment of sacrifice and strange worldly wisdom, to give her son over to the underground. Like the widow of the Gospel she “of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” Continue reading