W.S. Marble’s Boilerplate Reich is one of the most original books I’ve read in some time. Written from the perspective of Paul von Hindenburg, in the form of his private diary, the book takes place in 1933, and presents a fascinating form of revisionist history.
It does help to know a little of the history surrounding the time the book takes place. Hindenburg was the last president of Germany, serving from 1925 until 1934. In his final term, he won a runoff election with Adolph Hitler, but under pressure from Hitler’s supporters, appointed Hitler Chancellor of Germany to appease the growing Nazi powers. Upon Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler seized power in Germany, and…well… we all know what followed.
I have no idea what kind of personality Hindenburg actually had, but in Boilerplate Reich, he is presented as a kindly old man, aware he is growing senile and his death is approaching; and knowing that if Hitler comes to control the country, war will be the likely result. Hindenburg wishes to prevent this, and sets out on a plan to change the course of history for Germany and the world.
Most of the diary entries recount discussions he has had with his son, Oskar, a high ranking German officer. When we are introduced to Oskar (or “Oscar,” as he sometimes referred to), he is a supporter of Hitler and the Nazis, and Hindenburg is troubled by this. But Hindenburg has a plan, which he slowly lays out for Oskar, trying to win Oskar’s support. Standing in the way of doing so is both Oskar’s support of Hitler and his hatred of the Treaty of Versailles- the document which ended World War I and imposed severe restrictions on Germany’s military.
As he explains to Oskar, Hindenburg has studied military history all his life and, by applying logarithmic progression formulas to it, has come to realize that advancements in military science have occurred at a mathematically predictable pace, each coming more quickly than the previous. Referencing Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis, he foresees the development and advancement of robots for military use, a development which he predicts will result in the world ending in November 2032.
We follow as Hindenburg lays out the logic behind his predictions, making Oskar increasingly curious and leading to Hindenburg’s revelation of a plan that would allow Germany to become an economic and political power without violating the tenets of the Treaty of Versailles. All of it is a part of a plan to prevent Hindenburg’s prediction of the world ending in 2032, as well as to prevent Hitler’s rise to power, and Oskar grows increasingly enthralled with the plan and its possibilities.
What follows is not only a fascinating story, but an interesting treatise on politics, streamlining laws, and empowering the citizens of a country from within. Among other ideas, Hindenburg outlines a novel approach to what the bulk of the Army’s infantry should consist of. Novel, but also somewhat relevant, given President Obama’s recent reliance on highly skilled Navy Seal forces to carry out military missions (and you’ll have to read the book to see what I’m talking about). He introduces a four paragraph constitution, outlines small lists of items needed to make his plan succeed, and manages to convince the reader—well, at least me—that it all might work if we’d just follow his plan.
While the book does amount to revisionist history, and injects an unusual sci-fi element into the proceedings, it’s an enjoyable read. Admittedly, it is a bit hard to get into at the start. And it’s definitely not for everyone. But if you are like me, and enjoy books that challenge you as you read them, I would recommend you pick up a copy of Boilerplate Reich today.