This post doesn’t live here anymore. It emigrated to my other blog:
The Big No-No: An Outsider on American Fascism,
where it resides under the title:
“The Changing Past: The Assault Is the History of an Incident”
This post doesn’t live here anymore. It emigrated to my other blog:
The Big No-No: An Outsider on American Fascism,
where it resides under the title:
“The Changing Past: The Assault Is the History of an Incident”
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This is the most complete review of The Assault that I have ever seen.
Yet I would dare to suggest that you are missing an extremely important message of the book. It is a message of hope. The message can only be received if one understands that although a secret is explicitly revealed at the end of the book, the book is not about that secret nor is Anton the really the central character of the book.
Harry Mulisch has created a book with an even deeper secret, than the one that was revealed, which is only implicitly hinted at, that has sucked reality in to the story. The better you know about the past the better you understand the present. Is that not an invitation to take what we know of the past and apply it to the book. It works on both a national or world level and also on a personal level.
Where were the Russians in the fall of 1944? Where were the forces of the US and UK? What did Trus Koster tell Anton? Ploeg had to be stopped because he could betray many more, correct? Well what in the hell was so different about Ploeg? Was it that he would shove a hose up your ass and turn on the water until you threw up your own shit? Did not every member of the Gestapo use torture?
What was different about Ploeg is that unlike the other collaborators and Gestapo members who would soon be facing the death penalty when their area had been liberated. Ploeg had something to offer the allies to save his life. You see Ploeg was actually a communist and in his role as an interrogator he was using his position to guide investigations away from the communist resistance and point the investigations in the direction of the non communist resistance. Everything that he had done for the communists up to that time could have come undone if he fell in to the hands of American or British intellegence agencies. It was extremely important that be prevented.
Why did a high profile target like Ploeg ride his bike home alone at nights?
Because he knew that the communist underground was protecting him.
Only an idiot would ride his bike if that was not the case and Ploeg was not an idiot otherwise the resistance would not have been able to use the cover story that he was dangerous to justify killing him so close to the end of the war.
The final clue has been staring you in the face. What first name did the Author give Ploeg? He could have chosen any of hundreds if not thousands of names but he chose the name Fake!! If Ploeg was a fake Nazi then what in the heck was he really? He had to be a double agent.
But if he was a non communist double agent he would have been safe after the war. What ever he had done for the nazis was to serve a greater good.
But in non communist Netherlands after the war it would not be seen that way by those who had real power.
Did you know that Harry Mulisch was able to travel to travel to a communist country during the height of the cold war? He would have certainly had the opportunity to meet the intellegence services of that country during this period. He could have been tipped off by them about how the communists had out smarted their enemies on at least one level after the war. Their intellegence gathering capability had survived the war in the Netherlands.
Why would they want Mulisch to spread such a story? To spread distrust in NATO and give hope to intellegent European leftists.
So what more is there to say? Well how about what country publicly announced that it had pulled its agents out of Iran a few day before, a number of years ago, saying that a US attack on Iran was immenent?
In case you do not know I will give you a hint? It was not Belgium. You can google this yourself if you do not believe me?
Do you think that perhaps this action by the Dutch might have prevented WW3? Such an action might not be proof that the Dutch military is riddled with communists symphathizers but I find that some compelling evidence.
The result of this revelation is that now you and I and everyone else are now part of Mulisch’s book.
My goodness, Curt, I have no idea where you get all this about Ploeg being a fake nazi or much of the other things you mention. As for the book being about hope, well, the book is about a lot of things and I could have focused on many different aspects. But I chose to focus on Mulisch’s use of time in the novel, as is indicated in the titles of pretty much every post I wrote. Thanks for reading the post.
Obviously Mulisch did not explicitly spell out in the book that Ploeg was a double agent. He expects extraordinary people to figure it out by themselves.
Early in the book when Anton is reading about the time capsule Anton’s father replies to him that the better you know the past the more sense you can make of the present. A person could ignore that part of the story. A person could say, Mulisch was just filling up some space in his book before Ploeg was assassinated. If he was just filling up space then everything that I wrote is malarky.
Mulisch could have written about anything to show a family huddling together on a cold winter night in January of 1945. Of all the subjects that he could have had the family talking about he chose history. He chose to tell us why hisotry is important.
But how can we study history when there are no unbaised sources from which to learn history? Everyone has an Ax to grind. I am not really sure how to answer my own question. I will say that it is kind of like working on a jigsaw puzzle when there are pieces from a hundred or even a thousand different pictures all mixed together and there are a bunch of people around saying that if you put these pieces of the puzzle together the picture should look like THIS or THAT because they hope to gain something by getting you to really believe that the picture should look like this or that.
This is not the only story ever written in which the most important part of the story is not expicitly spelled out. Two other examples are the Wizard of Oz, and Rebel Without a Cause. A documentary movie has been made about the real story in the Wizard of Oz. This documentary is available on Youtube. I told the real story hidden by the cover story in Rebel without a cause on another website a few years ago. I do not remember anymore exactly what website it was. You can try to beat it out of me if you want but I still will not remember. But the most important thing for anyone to remember is that John Crawford was really the biological son of the family maid. If a person understands that they might be able to unravel the true story……..if they are enlightened.
Dear Curt, anyone who knows anything about Mulisch knows that he didn’t write A SINGLE WORD without a purpose. So no, no filler. If your theory is that Fake was a double agent, you should be able to show us evidence in the text. I’m very curious what I’ve missed. The book was originally written in Dutch, and Fake is a legitimate Frisian name. I’m definitely not discounting the possibility that Mulisch chose the name because of its English meaning, but it can’t be the only thing you base your theory on.
Well, as far as I am concerned I pointed out my evidence in the text in my first post in which Trudy (the alias of Johanna Schaft) talks with Anton in the jail after Anton was placed in her cell. Her comments do not explicitly reveal that Ploeg is a double agent. Her comments could only be understood as hinting at that, if a person is aware of the history of that time.
Of course it would be understandable if a person would not accept that conversation as evidence. In sorting out truth from fiction pictures of the puzzel when looked at alone can often be explained away. It is only when a series of puzzle pieces is looked at that a different picture can be built. Of course sceptics can claim that if the new picture is built by taking pieces from different puzzle boxes, the new picture has no more value than a mirage. It is an image that we want to see. It is not an image that is grounded in reality. I think that we have to keep in mind that information from the pictures that origínally came from different boxes can show clues that might be obscured by just looking at one box.
Maybe my take on that jail conversation is just a mirage. I can present evidence however that will go beyond showing evidence in the text. I will now prevent evidence from post war reality.
In March of 2012 Dutch Foreign Ministry official Raymond Poeteray was arrested for spying for the Russians. His handler was an American who successfully pretended to be a Russian pretending to be a German by the name of Andreas Anschlag. Here is a link with most of the story.
So I wonder if anyone would propose that this name Anschlag was just pulled out of hat? Is it possible that the Russian Foriegn Intellegence Agency was poking fun at the Americans? It that were true it would nto be a very proffesional thing to do. If I were a referee I would call a penalty for unsportsman like conduct, more specifically, taunting
I’m sorry, but you’ll have to be more specific to convince me. I just read the ten pages again where Anton is in the jail cell with Truus (which is not an alias of Hannie Schaft), and I don’t see anything that remotely refers to Ploeg being anything other than a bastard who had to be assassinated
It was on this night (9th of January) shortly after supper in the Netherlands that Fake Ploeg was assassinated on his way home from work. His family was waithing for him at home that night with some packed suitcases. They had been told that they were leaving on a train that night with their first destination being Lübeck. From Lübeck they were to get on a boat to Sweden.
Of course we know that this infamous “collaborator”, a coworker of Fake Krist, never made it home. We did not know that as his arrival grew more and more overdue the panic of his wife and children grew with each passing minute. We also know now that they did not know that their husband, and father, was told that there would be a third part to the journey. The third part was to be from Sweden to the USSR by submarine.
It was only through this ruse that Ploeg’s handlers could be sure that we would not take matters in to his own hands to try to save himself and his family. Of course his family could not have known that because it would not have made any sense to them at all.
By coincidence it was also on this night in 1776 that Thomas Paine began setting the presses to publish Common Sense which would appear the next morning in Philadelphia. It was also after 11 pm on January 9th that Marie Agnes von Tresckow (geboren Zedlitz) went in to labor and latter gave birth to Henning von Tresckow in the early morning hours of the 10 of January 1901. These things appear to be just a coincidence but are they just a coincidence?
Dear Curt, where do you get this from? Fake Ploeg is a fictional character.
The Gestapo Agent that entered the Steenwijk family home that night was real beyond any shadow of a doubt. I am frightened to print his actual name. Although he has been dead for quite a number of years his organizational ties continue to haunt Europe.
This man not only survived the war. He never even had to appear at a trial let alone serve one hour in prison. After the war he settled in Karlsruhe were he opened a Citroen dealership with money that he had stolen from Dutch citizens. Then in 1951 he was allowed to join the Bundesverfassungsschutz where he served 25 years retiring in 1976 at almost the age of 66. He was a real piece of work. He could convince a shark to move to the Sahara. He had a daughter born in 1935 and a son born in 1939. They all survived the war as well. The lucky bastard.
One of his brothers died on the eastern front, or more accurately stated never returned from the eastern front. And another brother lost a leg on the western front. But another brother, a pilot, became a POW during the Battle of Britan sustaining only minor injuries when his plane was shot down.
He was a quite intellegent man, in a conventional sort of way. Yet not smart enough to have ever voted for the SPD, let alone the Greens, or the Leftists. He even lived long enough to see the reunification of Germany. But fortunately for the world he never figured out how Ploeg had suckered him in to arresting the wrong people while they worked together during the war.
Ironically many of those people that this Gestapo agent had arrested and killed during the war he would have enjoyed doing business with after the war had these people survived.
OK I just finished reading the Darkroom of Damocles. It was an excellently researched book by Willem Hermans. I was a bit sloppy in my comment about this book on the Adrift in Books page elsewhere on your blog.
What Darkroom and Assault have in common is that they both take place during WW2 in the Netherlands. Both books have characters who resisted the Nazis and collaborated with the Nazi. But perhaps to say that the themes of the books were related might be inaccurate as one could say that it was the setting that was related.
So let me cut right to the point. By the end of the book Darkroom a number of possible explanations for the behavior of the protagonist, Henri Osewoudt (Harvey Oswald? haha kind of) have been explicitly spelled out. I would summarize these as follows;
1a. The man directing Henri, Lt. Dorbeck, was an agent of the exiled Dutch government (or an ally such as England)
1b. Lt. Dorbeck was actually an agent of the German Government
2a. Lt. Dorbeck was a deliberate invention of the mind of Henri to give Henri justification for his seemingly treasonous behavior.
2b. Lt. Dorbeck was a delusion of the mind of Henri.
Yet none of these possibilities is consistent with all of the things that book says Henri did. It is clear that despite what the psychologist thought Dorbeck really did exist.
If he really did exist and the evidence that he was an agent of the western allies or the Germans was contradictory there is another obvious possibility that Willem Hermans did not even address. That is that Lt. Dorbeck was a Soviet GRU agent. This is actually the only conclusion that is consistent with all of the evidence uncovered by all of those who were involved with investigating Henri.
This is a key conclusion. It means that there was an active GRU resistence movement in the Netherlands during the second world war that the US and UK knew little to nothing about. I have to wonder if Willem Heermans was trying to hide this conclusion from his readers by not even bringing it up as a possibility. Of course I do not have any evidence one way or the other to support my wondering.
The GRU was a very professional organization. They were quite adept at hiding who they actually were. Such skills allowed them to recruit assets that normally would have been hesitant to work with them.
It should go with out saying that an organization of that type would place a high priority on placing double agents in to the organizations of those that were working to destroy them.
Understanding the nature and reach of this organization (the GRU) should make a person wonder if Inspector Fake Ploeg was actually such a man dispite the fact that Harry Mulisch never explicitly exposed him as such a man.
A person should not think of the members of the GRU as good guys. They and the Stalinist system that they supported were bad. But this assessment should also apply not only to the Gestapo and the nazi system, but to the western allies and their MI6 and OSS, as well as to the Japanese and both Chinese factions in that war.
There were probably relatively good people in all of these organizations but none of these organizations were fighting to bring truth and justice to planet earth. Therefore the good people that might have been found in these organizations were duped in to fighting for evil. It was perhaps a lesser evil. It was evil none the less. I refer not to the means of these organizations but the ends that the manipulators who controlled these organizations were striving for. A person who grew up in the UK or USA may think that I am being unfair in my assessment of Roosevelt, Churchill, General Marshall and General Montgomery and so on. But when a person understands how these men prolonged the war and why it becomes clear that these men were accessories in the crimes of the Nazis.
Kurt, it seems to me that you should write a novel about a secret GRU agent! As for your comparison of the names: De Donkere Kamer van Damokles was published in 1958 and Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy in 1963, so there’s no connection whatsoever.
Sadly I lack the imagination to write a story about anything. Like George Washington, I can not tell a lie. I do have the imagination to imagine that W. F. Hermans was somehow connected to Lee Harvey Oswald though. Not only because Henri Oeswaldt and Harvey Oswald share slightly similar names but because both were a mystery to many people. Oh and I almost forgot, both died while in custody.
So what? Well it is like a rock. Some people look at a rock and are bored others look at rock and see interesting patterns. Do the patterns have meaning? If you can not decipher the pattern, certainly not. Can I decipher this pattern? No. I can not understand time either.
That sounds like plenty of imagination right there!
Here is a true(?) story that I accidently discovered a few minuetes ago.
It is written in German but I imagine that many people from the Netherlands will understand the gist of the story if not the fine details. I would like to point out just in case that the Gerhard Schroeder mentioned in this story is not the same man that became the German Chancellor.
Well actually I do not care if you post this or not. English speakers will not understand it and Dutch/Deutsch speakers will not really learn anything from it, will they? I suspect that this guy was an Abwehr or SS agent when he arrived in England. But without knowing more who can say for sure? If he really had escaped from the Gestapo and his defection was real does the risks that he took to oppose the Nazis after 1943, which were quite substanitial, cancel any guilt that he had for his part in muders that took place in 1941? If his defection story is true we have a man who was placed in difficult position of being a small part of a huge killing machine before he was prepared to resist it. But if his version of events is true he eventually risked his life to fight back. Lets say that the story is not true. Is it a story that is greater than the individual? What I mean by that is it a story that can be repeated because the moral of the story is perhaps more valuable than
the reputation of the man attached to the story? The story might not be true But, it could be true. There was no evidence presented that the story was false or did I miss or misunderstand something?
It seems true to me. The parts that are unknown are indicated as such, as far as we can tell. What I gather is that he was a conman of the first order and a liar, so who knows which parts of his own stories are true. He was not involved in his prison break, he claims, and that may be, but then he did go on a wild romp from Egypt to Addis Abeba to Cape Town and had multiple girlfriends/fiances/wives along the way. I get the impression he was an opportunist, so I’m not too impressed with what he did, if he did it, after 1943, especially because he volunteered for everything before that. But aside from that, and aside from this person, in itself the question is a good one for a novel: do good deeds make up for atrocities? Kind of a Moses question, only in Moses’s case it really was unbalanced in Moses’s favor, in my opinion and God was too rigid. But that’s the Old Testament for you.
Wow I recently saw a little bit of a documentary on German TV about Mustafa Müller. I found it interesting enough that I wanted to learn more.
I did a google search and found the following link. It is an incredible story.
An even better story than the one above.
Hm. Never heard of this. It is interesting, though it doesn’t seem to have any connection to The Assault, or did I miss something?
ps. I have not found any English language links yet. All have been either german or french.
That’s fine. I’m rusty, but I can still read French and German well enough to get the gist of things, at least.
Well, it is kind of an opposite version of my take on Fake Ploeg. With Si Mustafa Müller it seems to be a pretty straight forward case of an idealistic young man risking his life to defect at first to the Russians to fight Facism.
But there are some troubleing details. How did it end up fighting for the FLN in Algeria? The link that i provided says that he was asked by his “auftrag geber” while he was working in France for UNICEF at the behest of the CIA who supposedly recruited him after he had fallen from the grace of the East Germans for supposedly supporting Tito. So when he made contact with the FLN was he doing it for UNICEF or was he doing it for the CIA? Then once he started working on his psychological operations against the French was he at that point betraying the CIA or was he doing that as a mole for the CIA?
I also posted this link on another web site. I am provideing a link below because a response that I got was really quite interesting.
What someone else brought up on this link was that there are two versions as to who Si Mustafas father was. The other version was that he was the son of a Gestapo agent. That person provided a link which I did not read because I had already noticed that the background story given in the link that I provided seemed a bit odd. That does not mean that it is untrue though.
In the link that I provided it said that Si Mustafa was the son of a Jewish Father and a Christian mother who got divorced after Hitler came to power.
The mother and son then moved from Wiesbaden to the south. When Mustafa was 16 he was arrested for listening to the BBC. So this is the part that I think is fishy. Despite being half Jewish he was eventually allowed to join the German military. Did the authorities in Tyrol not know that he was half Jewish? I find that hard though not impossible to believe. Yet most half Jewish boys his age ended up getting worked to death at a construction site.
But if this story about being half Jewish is made up it is made up for a reason. It was a story made up so that no one would question his background. It would also explain why he defected to the Russians. But there is another potential twist. The story that he fell out of grace in East Germany could have also been a cover story. He could have been working for the FLN to gain access to information wanted by the CIA while he is letting the Stasi or KGB know everything that he is doing on behalf of the CIA. But if the story about falling out of grace is true this expierience might have turned him against those who he had initially gravitated towards.
I say that this theme is implicit in the Assault. You have never agreed with me on that before. But the theme is more explicit in the Dark Room of Damolicles.
Hmm. I guess I’ll have to Read De donkere kamer van Damokles again.