Sound of Hunger

One German Family’s Chronicle of the Chivalry, Politics, Lies, Murder and Aftermath of War

Dr. Chris Heal

Sound of Hunger

Dr. Chris Heal

Distributed for Uniform Press

768 pages | 100 halftones | 6 x 9 1/4 | © 2018
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9781911604419 Published September 2018 For Sale in USA and Canada Only
Sound of Hunger is a true story that centers on two German brothers, Erich and Georg Gerth, u-boat commanders, and the First Word War and its aftermath. The Gerths’ lives and careers as navy officers are set against the military, political and social environment of their times. Carefully-nurtured myths of national innocence and guilt are uncovered; discrediting truths and war crimes of both the Allies and Germany are brought into the limelight. This is not conventional history, but a personal view of the events that were integral to the Gerth brothers, to see how they were changed by what they heard, were taught and experienced. Sound of Hunger is unashamedly intimate in selection, perhaps eccentric in places; a personal journey that explains what was newly-found, how it was investigated and understood. Whatever you think you know about this war, be prepared to challenge your beliefs.

The book takes its title from the thrust of the war, not in the trenches, but in the deliberate attempts by both sides to starve each other’s civilian populations. The damage to Germany’s children was generational as food shortages were deliberately extended by the Allies to force Germany to a debilitating peace.

The brothers were born in booming Berlin in the 1880s, their father dying when they were young. Their mother sacrificed to see them through one of Berlin’s most prestigious secondary schools and paid their considerable fees as cadets. In the burgeoning naval fleet, they were of the lowest social class allowed into this elite new force. Their careers were exciting, extracted from German archives: spying in South America, bombardment of the English coast, sea battles, torpedoed and mined ships, and desperate survivals. One, as a French prisoner of war for over two years, made daring escape attempts, the other scuttling his boat in the Mediterranean amid collapsing Austrian armies. Remarkable contacts tumble from the pages, villains and heroes, the Kaiser, Alfred von Tirpitz, family-friend Wilhelm Canaris, Karl Dönitz, the Red Baron, Adolf Hitler.

The Gerths’ personal decisions are interwoven with Germany’s bid for world power, naval training, the founding of the Flanders u-boat bases, the importance of the Baltic and the Mediterranean, the economic blockade of Germany and its devastating effects on European neutral countries, unfettered submarine warfare, prison camps, Britain’s virulent propaganda designed to drag America into the conflict, and the German collapse.

The story does not end well. The brothers return to Germany and the post-war fight to the death between a new socialist republic, a murderous officer corps and the Spartacist revolution. The Gerths are forced to take sides. One becomes a philosopher and a businessman, seeking mental refuge. The other marries a countess and is swept into extreme right-wing politics: manning the barricades, the murder of communist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, covertly preparing the second u-boat fleet for the next war. Canaris is everywhere scheming. Close family contacts are developed with Europe’s Catholic hierarchy, even to Eugenio Pacelli, the pope-to-be, the Spanish royal family, and with elite Paris society, in a very public attempt to rouse religious sentiment against a second world war. Everything falls apart. The German President and Foreign Minister together act with Rudolf Hess to ruin one of the brothers. Heinrich Himmler moves to take over of the legendary Ufa film studios, beggaring another family member. The family’s Jewish connections are disclosed: it is a time of forged passports, concentration camps, attempted flight to South America; and children hidden in Roman convents. The Gestapo steps in. One brother dies in poignant and lurid circumstances, the other becomes a recluse after watching the ruins of his family home and business, flattened by British carpet bombing of a demilitarised town.
Review Quotes
The Mariner's Mirror
"The lives of Erich and Georg Gerth were far from commonplace and their experiences anything but dull. . . . at its reasonable asking price, readers of both naval and general history backgrounds should feel encouraged to purchase this work."
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