Open main menu

In the Presence of Mine Enemies

In the Presence of Mine Enemies is a 2003 alternate history novel by American author Harry Turtledove, expanded from the eponymous short story.[1] The title comes from the fifth verse of the 23rd Psalm. The novel depicts a world where the United States remained isolationist and did not participate in the Second World War, thus allowing victory to the Axis Powers, who divided the world among themselves. Still, some years after the war, the Third World War occurred, featuring the Axis Powers defeating the US and Canada.

In the Presence of Mine Enemies
In the Presence of Mine Enemies.jpg
AuthorHarry Turtledove
CountryUnited States
GenreAlternate history
PublisherNew American Library
Publication date
November 4, 2003
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages464 pages
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3570.U76 I54 2003

Set in 2010, the novel focuses on Heinrich Gimpel and a small group of Jews who survived the Holocaust by passing as Gentiles. The events occur against a backdrop that parallels the Soviet Union's last days, with characters based upon Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, and others.

Plot summaryEdit

Wehrmacht officer Heinrich Gimpel astonishes his 10-year-old daughter, Alicia, with a secret that has been hidden from her all her life: the family is Jewish. He explains that the Gimpels, friends Walther and Esther Stutzman, and their extended families all belong to those remnants of Jews who now survive by hiding in plain sight within the very society that wants them dead. Now old enough, by family tradition, to be trusted with this life-or-death deception, Alicia is obliged to hide the truth from her friends, her classmates, and even her younger sisters even as she is forced to regard her school's racist curriculum from a new perspective that leaves her sick and angry over all the anti-Semitic propaganda that she always learned and parroted without question.

Meanwhile, Heinrich finds himself caught in the marital strife between his co-worker, Willi Dorsch, and Willi's wife, Erika. Willi, doubting Erika's fidelity due to her constant flirtation with Heinrich, begins an extra-marital affair with his secretary. Embittered by her husband's infidelity, Erika wants a retaliatory affair with Heinrich. He resists, which leads to Erika accusing him of being a Jew and Heinrich being arrested by the Sicherheitspolizei. Only after Erika realizes that her accusation caused Heinrich's children to be taken also, she confesses that she lied and attempts to commit suicide, unaware the entire time that Heinrich and his family really are Jewish.

Esther Stutzman, who works as a receptionist in a doctor's office, also experiences a close call with Nazi policies when her friends Richard and Maria Klein, closeted Jews like herself, bring their ailing eight-month-old baby, Paul, in for a checkup. The diagnosis, Tay–Sachs disease, is a disease known to be prevalent among Jews. A subsequent investigation into his family background would spell doom for his parents and any names they might be forced to reveal under torture. Although Esther's husband, Walther, is able to hack into the Reich's computer network and change the Klein's family history, it is the revelation that Reichsführer-SS Lothar Prützmann has a nephew with Tay-Sachs that brings the investigation to a halt.

All of this happens against the background of the events happening after the death of the current Führer, Kurt Haldweim (modelled on the real-life Austrian president Kurt Waldheim). He is replaced by the reform-minded Heinz Buckliger, who relaxes the oppressive laws of the Reich. In a secret speech, with word-of-mouth spreading it to the populace, the new Führer denounces his predecessors, saying that the Reich committed crimes in the past. Reactionary opposition rallies around the SS, while the populist Gauleiter of Berlin, Rolf Stolle, champions accelerated reform.

Things come to a head with the announcement of (relatively) free elections: candidates need not be Nazi Party members, but they must be Aryan. Led by Reichsführer-SS Lothar Prützmann, the SS effect a conservative coup d'état, imprisoning the Führer, and installing former High Commissioner of Ostland Affairs, Odilo Globocnik, as the new Führer. However, Stolle instigates a people power movement, which the Wehrmacht supports. The coup d'état is defeated after Walther Stutzman salts the country's computer network with the information about Reichsführer-SS Prützmann's Tay-Sachs afflicted nephew. Soon, Berlin comes to the conclusion that Prützmann is a Jew, which definitively turns the tide against the coup. In the aftermath, Prützmann kills himself, Globocnik is lynched and Buckliger is re-enstated as Führer (albeit harrowed by his detainment and eclipsed by the popular Stolle).

At the novel's end, the elections deliver a pro-reform majority to the Reichstag with Stolle as its speaker and produces a mandate for the independence of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in a concurrent referendum. Also, the Gimpels and the Stutzmans gather to tell the ten-year-old Francesca that she is a Jew.

Viewpoint charactersEdit

  • Heinrich Gimpel, a hidden Jew serving as an officer at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in Berlin. Heinrich is careful and meticulous about maintaining his masquerade: originally even from the reader, who goes through nearly a whole chapter before finding that Gimpel is a hidden Jew and a leader of a secret Jewish community. Heinrich's specific job is to monitor the American payment of tribute to Germany and detect the frequent attempts to avoid payment. Gimpel is arrested because a friend's wife denounces him as a Jew, without knowing he really is one, because he resisted her sexual advances. Gimpel is eventually released from custody, an SS major who escorts him out the door casually remarking to him: "You find us in the oddest places."
  • Lise Gimpel, Heinrich's wife, also a Jew.
  • Alicia Gimpel, Heinrich and Lise's ten-year-old daughter and oldest of three sisters. At the beginning of the book, she is initiated into the secret that she, and other family and friends, are Jewish. She is stunned but gradually comes to accept it.
  • Susanna Weiss, a Medieval English scholar at the Friedrich Wilhelm University. She is also one of the few surviving Jews left in the Reich.
  • Esther Stutzman, a receptionist at a Berlin area pediatrician's office. She and her husband, Walther, are also hidden Jews. She is a tuckerization of the well-known science-fiction/fantasy author Esther Friesner.[2]
  • Walther Stutzman, a computer programmer at Zeiss. He has unauthorized access into many of the Reich's databases using codes created by his father, who was involved with transferral of paper records to computer records. He can assign false Aryan pedigrees to Jewish people, allowing them to avoid detection by the Reich.


World politics and geographyEdit

A map showing the world with borders as described in parts of the book.

Political alignmentEdit

The Führer of the Greater German Reich is the world's most powerful political leader. Besides the Reich itself, the "Greater Germanic Empire" includes occupied, but not annexed, countries and allied countries. The occupied countries have their own governments but limited sovereignty; the Nazis interfere in their internal affairs, especially about applying racist ideology. The allies, though technically independent, are subject to the Nazi rule; most represent the local varieties of racist, fascist, and radical nationalist forces.

Italy's empire is around the Mediterranean Sea, including the parts of Africa granted by the Reich. The Nazis compel the Italians to carry out large-scale massacres of Arabs in their territories in the Middle East. The nation is controlled by the House of Savoy (headed by King Umberto) and the Duce of the Italian Empire. While much of Africa is divided up among Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, an "Aryan-dominated" Union of South Africa remains as an independent ally of the German Reich. Spain is mentioned as being governed by a Caudillo but no mention in made regarding the status of the Spanish monarchy.

Although less powerful than Germany, Imperial Japan is a nuclear power keeping the Reich at bay with the implicit threat of mutually assured destruction. Moreover, Japan has its own subordinate rulers (only the Emperor of Manchukuo is mentioned) by the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Despite having "an ocean of slave labor" at its disposal, Japan now concentrates upon developing high technologies. Despite the Germano–Nipponese alliance, the Nazis consider the Japanese racially inferior and lacking in creativity, with propaganda pointing to a perceived decrease in Japan's technological advances as proof of this. Even so, Japanese tourists, students, and restaurants are a common sight within the Reich.

The fate of the United States and CanadaEdit

Between the 1960s and 70s, Germany and the Axis powers have defeated the United States and Canada in the Third World War with the nuclear bombs they developed first. The key American cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia were destroyed by the bombs and their environments are rendered uninhabitable for years to come. Other cities such as New York City, St. Louis, and Chicago are damaged by bombing raids. The capital of the US was moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where a pro-Nazi puppet government was set up, and the Reich maintains Wehrmacht occupation forces in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and Omaha itself. Upon conquering the US, the Einsatzkommandos and the American white supremacists systematically kill the country's Jewish and most of the Black populations with any remaining Black people being used for slave labor by the Reich.

The US pays annual tribute, an important income for Germany's economy, despite the US economy's hyperinflation and the US dollar's disappearance as a world currency; whenever possible, the US evades paying the tribute.

Fate of other occupied nationsEdit

Henry IX is the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (although his lineage is never explained), which has been annexed by the Reich. The British Union of Fascists is the governing party of the United Kingdom, with Charlie Lynton[3] as Prime Minister; however it is internally divided over the extent of the Reich's influence in the governance of the United Kingdom (reminiscent of British Eurosceptics) and the selection process for a new Fuhrer.

The Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Serbs are killed because they are Untermenschen; likewise, the Arabs for being as "Semitic as Jews". Moreover, the Reich, Italian Empire, Portugal, and Spain effect the genocide of the African populations, and enslave the survivors. South Africa, however, still continues Apartheid, which ironically keep the Black South Africans from being killed off or used for slave labor.

Any Jews found are immediately killed on sight, and while "the surviving Russians were pushed far east of the Urals;" there is much guerrilla fighting, requiring forts to protect the German settlers.

The Nazis treat the Czechs, Croats, and Bulgarians relatively well, despite being Slavs, because the Croats lend themselves to savagely persecuting the Serbs via severe racial discrimination, suppressed rebellions, and the enslavement or killing of dissidents. Iranians and Indians, classified as "Aryan", are not persecuted; some are invited to study at German universities.


The level of technology in the novel is much the same as in the actual 21st century. The Wehrmacht makes use of jet aircraft, panzers, U-boats, armoured personnel carriers, assault rifles and a variety of naval warships. The "Ministry of Air and Space" is mentioned as having planted a permanent outpost on the Moon, carrying out a manned landing on Mars, and it may be planning a manned mission to the Jovian moons. Orbital weather platforms are also mentioned in the book.

Civilian technology has also advanced in a similar way to its military counterpart in the 21st century. Jet airliners, televisions (called televisors), computers (although the Internet has not been invented in fear of it being a "security nightmare"), modern cars, microwaves and dishwashers are used throughout the Reich. The German population enjoys very high living standards, at the expense of non-Germans throughout the Reich and occupied nations.


The society of the German Reich is a culturally dominant people because of their victories in the Second and the Third World Wars, and German companies and organizations dominate the economies of allied and occupied nations. Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen are thriving under fascism, and Zeiss produces the Reich's computers and software. Agfa-Gevaert TV commercials for film encourage Germans to migrate to the Ostland territories, and Lufthansa covers the air.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is mentioned throughout the novel, with the Reich's counterpart being the RRG. A RRG newscaster named Horst Witzleben appears several times in the novel, his "Seven O'clock News" being highly influential.

The Reich Genealogical Office has online genealogical records, which can define life and death to persons suspected of being Jewish. Historically, the Nazis of our history already made use of the punchcards developed by IBM in order to mark out the Jews and eventually arrest them and send them to extermination camps.[4]


The Reichsmark is the dominant world currency, and it is legal tender in the Greater German Reich, though most of the Reich's member states, territories, and allies (including the Empire of Japan, Latin America, Britain, and America) have national currencies. The Reich dictates favorable exchange rates, so the Reichsmark is readily accepted (and, apparently, welcome) even where it is not legal tender. Britain remains using its pre-decimal pound sterling currency, though the five-shilling Crown coin is struck in cheap aluminum, not silver, as "silver" coins were at least partly made of before World War II and briefly after.


School is the way with which the German Reich indoctrinates and controls the citizenry, starting in their youth. Corporal punishment is practiced in schools; it punishes actions such as disrespecting a superior, not doing one's school work, and for not knowing the correct answers to teachers' questions in the classroom. The school year occupies most of the calendar year, with the only major holidays being the end-of-the-year, two-week holiday between Christmas and the New Year, and the week-long break after Easter. The remainder of the year is school work, though one-day holidays occur infrequently.

The Hitler Jugend and Bund Deutscher Mädel are compulsory for children in the German Reich; the Nazi gender roles having changed little since their foundation. At the story's end, the Hitler Jugend implements changes towards preparing boys into becoming responsible, adult citizens rather than army conscripts.

The Reich education system is only for Germany; allied states and occupied territories control their own education systems. In the U.S., American children have long summer holidays from school, a fact German teachers emphasize as one of the reasons the German Reich defeated America.

German academics have key roles in the processes of racial discrimination and genocide. The German Institute for Racial Studies, part of Friedrich Wilhelm University, is charged with defining which peoples and ethnic groups of the "Germanic Empire" are subhuman and so marked for genocide or slavery. At its side, as the smiling face of the Reich, is the German Institute for Foreigners (founded 1922), charged with instructing those foreigners who fortunately were classed as "Aryans", such as Iranians and Indians, in the German language and culture.

Academic life is male-dominated. Although it is possible for a woman to have an academic career, only a few do, and they face great difficulties and must engage in daily, petty struggles to gain privileges that are granted to men. Under Reich sexism, an assertive woman might be accused that she is "not a proper National Socialist woman"; however, such attitudes are regarded as old-fashioned and are challenged by the younger people.


In the Reich, sports are the sole province of the Aryans and are controlled by the German Federation of Sport — which favors German sportsmen over sportsmen from other states. It has the power to reserve the right to withdraw from competition with foreign teams; and to withhold the rights of foreign teams to tour the Reich when political relations sour. An example is boycotting Italian sports teams after a riot at a football match in Milan between home team fans and the visiting Leipzig team fans. Deprivation of the right to tour the Reich, and of having Reich teams visit, is financially hurtful. Germany won a recent World Cup but now is challenged by a powerful, multi-racial Brazil comprising Negroes and Native Americans, among others.

Surviving JewsEdit

Although the Jews are considered exterminated as of the year 2010, the anti-Semitic stereotypes remain strong in popular culture and official propaganda, and they are an important part of the education imparted at school. The books of anti-Semitic author Julius Streicher (Trust No Fox in the Green Meadow, No Jew on His Oath, and The Poison Mushroom) are universal reading for German children. The hidden Jews feel obliged to buy them for their children; doing otherwise might arouse suspicion.

Jews are and are not of the society surrounding them. They must constantly play a role, parroting the prevailing anti-Semitic clichés. They keep as much of their Jewish identity as can be imparted in secret meetings among themselves, with purely oral lore, though some written Hebrew is taught. With the exception of the Bible, which can be kept openly, as Christianity, while not encouraged by the Reich, is allowed, they dare not possess books on Judaism, though such books do still exist.

All of the viewpoint characters were born under the Nazis, and maintaining the masquerade is second nature. The greatest danger is when a child is told of his or her true identity, usually at age of ten: considered old enough to keep the secret. Children often are shocked, since, like all German children, they grew up exposed to constant anti-Semitism from teachers and children's books. The adults soften the shock by teaching the children to feel privileged to belong to such a secret society.

It is mentioned that the hidden Jews regard it as too dangerous to gather on the Major Holidays and fasts of Judaism, such as Passover and Yom Kippur, and hold their secret gatherings on Minor Holidays such as Purim.

Other minoritiesEdit

German industry uses Slavic, Black, and Arab slave laborers for "dirty" or dangerous work. In one passage, an industrial accident in the Ruhr is reported on TV as having caused the deaths of "Twelve Aryans and an unknown number of Untermenschen".

Homosexuals are actively persecuted. Unlike Jews, Gypsies, and other "inferior races" (which are thought to have been wiped out), homosexuals continue to arise, and are hunted by the security police unless they have political connections that protect them.



Much of the story occurs in Berlin, the Reich capital replete with the monumental architecture of Albert Speer. An important example is the Great Hall that can house more than 100,000 people; in it was held the funeral of deceased Führer Kurt Haldweim. The Hall has a dome 200 metres high and 250 metres in diameter, it is crowned with a massive, gilded German eagle holding a swastika.

Nearby is the Führer's Palace (the official residence for the Führer) that is guarded by soldiers from the Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland, who are barracked near the Palace. Aside from security, they are a ceremonial, dress corps armed with (antique) Gewehr 98 rifles; their arsenal includes assault rifles and tanks; next is the Adolf-Hitler-Platz, a grand public square for rallies and such.

The Soldier's Hall commemorates the German Reich's military might, exhibiting the radioactive remains of the Liberty Bell (displayed behind lead glass), gliders used to invade Britain, the first Panzer IV to enter the Kremlin, and the railroad carriage in which Imperial Germany surrendered to the Allies in 1918, at Compiègne, France, and in which France surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940.

The Arch of Triumph is 170 m wide and 1700 m deep, despite being modelled from the smaller Arc de Triomphe in Paris; much of that city district's automobile traffic transits through this arch. Because Berlin is populous, public transport (rapid transit trains [U-bahn] and commuter railroads) is well developed; such a rail station is the "South Station", near government offices. Per Speer's plans, this was to anchor the south end of the main boulevard with the most monumental structures. Captured enemy weapons and battle wreckage (British fighter plane; Soviet tank; US submarine conning tower), are displayed outside the station.

Berlin also is headquarters to the key government ministries for Air and Space, Justice, Interior, Transport, Food, Economics, Colonial, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, and the Führer's Office.

The Kurfürstendamm commercial district glitters with neon signs and reflected sun light, yet these citizens of Berlin use the street's full name in their daily lives, not the abbreviated slang of the native. Nazi Berlin is a culturally-vibrant city offering resident and visitor a wildly successful musical about Churchill and Stalin and cosmopolitan cuisines, but under the Reinheitsgebot, the nation's medieval beer-purity law, Japanese beer is illegal for importation to the Reich; American fast food is a rarity, because of the American economic collapse on its World War II defeat, however eateries such as The Greasy Spoon do exist.

Culturally, the toy store Ulbright offers the children of the Reich pretty "Vicki" dolls and the "Landser Sepp" action figures (a boy's doll). Vicki dolls are made in the US with slave labour, and come in varieties, yet all dolls look perfectly Aryan, in abiding Reich policy.


Parts of the story also take place in London, the capital of Britain. In this timeline, the British people are impoverished due to the German occupation; William Shakespeare and his works are more widely known and published in Germany than in Shakespeare's homeland, partly due to Britain's economic collapse. During the Second World War, much of London was destroyed by dive bombers and panzers as well as during the last-ditch resistance by Churchill and his supporters. Key British buildings including the Parliament building, Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral have been completely destroyed, with photographs and paintings being their only remaining legacy. Some areas of the city have been in ruins for over seventy years, due to harsh reparations imposed on the British by the Germans and partisan uprisings that would only be completely crushed by the mid 1970s. German city planners often visit Britain to see how their colleagues deal with building from the clean slate that they themselves can never have.

The Crown is a hotel that serves as the meeting place of the British Union of Fascists; as its name implies, the hotel is dominated by an enormous crown. The BUF members have a reputation of being violent thugs; a fight involving members of the party takes place outside and within the hotel. A second hotel, the Silver Eagle, is the location of the Medieval English Association conference; it bears a glass and steel eagle on its top. Both hotels are modern, glass-fronted structures.

Literary criticism and significanceEdit

Gavriel David Rosenfeld, in his work The World Hitler Never Made, notes that unlike other alternate histories that deal with a Nazi victory, In the Presence of Mine Enemies humanizes the Nazis. Rosenfeld stated this would have been impossible in earlier years where the trend was to show the Nazis in alternate histories as the "incarnation of evil."[5] Rosenfeld, however, noted that despite Turtledove's reputation as an acclaimed and skilled writer in alternate history, he received a lot of criticism for the novel making Rosenfeld assume that most American audiences do not wish to humanize the Nazis.[6]

Adam-Troy Castro, however, gave a good review of the novel. Though he found that the hidden Jewish characters of the novel weathered their secret life too well and compared others who live secret lives in our society (for examples homosexuals) who sometimes have to deal with incidents of self-loathing, alcoholism, drug abuse and even suicide. In the end Castro was thrilled to see at the end of the novel the main characters standing tall against an oppressive government.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Turtledove, Harry. In the Presence of Mine Enemies". Uchronia. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  2. ^ a b Adam-Troy Castro (2006). "Off the Shelf: In the Presence of Mine Enemies". Book review. Sci Fi Weekly. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  3. ^ Tony Blair's full name is Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
  4. ^ Review of IBM and the Holocaust
  5. ^ Rosenfeld, Gavriel (2005). The World Hitler Never Made. Cambridge University Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-521-84706-0.
  6. ^ Id. 158.

External linksEdit