The Weimar Republic is in its final throes and Hitler and the Nazis are in their ascendancy, promising to restore pride and glory to the Fatherland after the humiliations of the Great War. Naïf Matthias and his rakish older brother George are sent by their father from South West Africa to Germany to complete their educations. It is 1935.
As George pursues his university studies while goading his younger brother to spend more time improving his sexual prospects, Matthias envisions himself as a pilot in the fabled Luftwaffe, as he will one-day be conscripted into Hitler’s burgeoning war machine.
Raised in a family with a history of lasting, sympathetic Jewish connections, he is dismayed to view the ordinary Germans’ enthusiasm for Hitler’s dreams of redemption. Worse, a culture of fear is brewing, preventing even valourous military veterans from speaking out as the reprisals against Jews commence.
Now a pilot, Matthias takes off toward life-or-death exploits with the Luftwaffe and Condor Legion in Germany and Spain. From there, we crash into a cold and punishing Russian hell containing nothing but prisoner of war camps and gulags and misery.
But Matthias grows, as do his prospects. His introduction to the consummatory arts comes courtesy of a South African coquette on the ocean liner to England. Later, he engages with a hearty (and leggy) German whose talents surprise the now-confident pilot. A brooding Castilian with deep brown eyes and a broken heart meets her saviour when he visits to perform a duty for a friend. And as the SS first burns and later freezes in the blinding steppe of Russia, a ravishing doctor with bee-stung lips and a steel backbone keeps Matthias warm and safe.
Allegiances overlap and friends live and die as nations are starved and crushed. Our hero, now a man, returns to his homeland and a life as a gentleman farmer. However, this life is not one of peaceful rest as he must confront wild animals, a cheating sportsman, and the desires of a willful German expat.
A novel of myriad twists, Matthias ends as he ultimately began, as a pilot being tested, this time in the deepest Kalahari as he is pitted against war criminals and ivory poachers in a showdown replete with Nazi hunters and a few old men looking to relive their glory days.
Peter Vollmer’s sweeping Bildungsroman of a young man trying to make his way through a world tainted with pure evil and drenched with innocent blood, returns time and again to humour and love.
From the Author
Namibia, or South West Africa as it was known before its 1990 independence, was initially an Imperial German colony until the First World War, after which it was mandated to South Africa. The South African government ruled the country as if it were a fifth province applying the same rules and treating the inhabitants, both black and white, as if they were citizens of South Africa. The Germans who owned farms from before the First World War all retained ownership and the fact that the government changed had little impact on the daily lives of the German colonists. Also, there was little or no effort on the part of the South African government to interfere in any way with German traditions, schooling, etc. As applied to the country, it allowed the inherent German character to continue without interference, thus most German colonists’ children continued their academic studies in Germany as opposed to South Africa.
This is a work of fiction.
However, it is based partially on the lives of my grandfather and his children. Members of my family did serve in the German Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht. Their sons and daughters studied in Germany and the family’s base was a house owned by my grandfather Kiel, Germany. Nevertheless, South West Africa was always considered to be home.
My father bore the scars of many Mensur duels. He was a member of a Studentenbund and as a scholar did attend a naval gymnasium in Kiel. The farm, it a background to part of the story, was managed by my uncle for many years. During many of my school holidays, at the faintest light of dawn, I would hunt guinea-fowl with a Mauser .22 rifle along the banks of the Lever River that flows through the farm.
While this is a work of fiction, I have embellished many stories based upon the lives of my family. My father and uncle experienced some of the incidents herein and I found them unique, thus compelling me to write this novel.
Peter Vollmer’s A Question of Allegiance is a classic that combines the adventures of The Red Baron, Stalag 17, Thornbirds, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Great Escape, Out of Africa, and more, all rolled into a major epic story – as told by in the first person by a South African Indiana Jones. Those of a certain generation know the outcome of those tales that the electronic-fixated of today need to (re)discover, and I hope they do indeed…soon. – Nicholas Anderson, author of The NOC Trilogy