By Song My Hoang
On Wednesday, May 7, Anne Blankman ’01 returned to Union to discuss her debut novel Prisoner of Night and Fog, the first in a three-book deal from Balzer & Bray — HarperCollins. The novel was published on April 22.
Blankman graduated from Union with degrees in English and history. She began working as a youth services librarian after she earned a master’s degree in library and information sciences.
Two years of writing culminated in a novel that unravels the complexity of Adolf Hitler’s psychological nature through the female protagonist’s journey in finding the truth about her father’s death.
The synopsis of Prisoner of Night and Fog reads:
“In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city.
“But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.
“Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.
“Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade.
“She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.
“As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie.
“Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth — even if it could get her and Daniel killed?”
Blankman began to develop a keen interest in World War II after reading The Diary of Anne Frank in seventh grade. Although she was aware of the outcome of the Holocaust, she genuinely believed that Anne Frank had survived the war.
However, Blankman felt devastated by the reality of death when she realized that Anne Frank had died of Typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Blankman’s father decided to comfort her by taking her to the public library to check out books about the Holocaust, which informed her about the hope of individuals who adamantly resisted and survived the Holocaust.
Early inspiration for her novel came to her during her senior year at Union. During Blankman’s meeting with Professor Berk about her senior thesis, Professor Berk mentioned that psychiatrists, including one who worked for the U.S. military intelligence during World War II, predicted Hitler’s suicide years before he committed suicide.
See BLANKMAN on pg. 2
His comment resonated in Blankman’s mind a few years later and urged her to delve into further research about Hitler.
She conducted an immense amount of research on Hitler before writing her novel; She went through various biographies, Nazi memoirs, historical books, old news articles, propaganda films, Mein Kampf and psychological guides.
In particular, she read Munich Post articles, which helped to illuminate Hitler’s true character because its reporters closely followed Hitler and his party to expose their crimes and scandals. These reporters identified Hitler as a “thug” and “political criminal”.
Blankman also consulted psychological analyses of Hitler using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Professionals have diagnosed Hitler with different conditions, including: psychopath, sociopath, bipolar, depression, sadistic, and schizoaffective disorder.
There are many differing opinions about Hitler’s motives. Some individuals believe that Hitler firmly believed in the heroism of his actions. Others may argue that he was a purely evil person or a misguided monster. Certain people consider Hitler as a fraud because he only used anti-Semitism as a common adversary to catapult himself into power.
‘Prisoner of Night and Fog’ deconstructs Hitler’s psychological nature to provide further insight into the motives of his actions. Blankman’s novel interweaves concepts from the romantic, detective, historical fiction, psychological thriller and young adult genre.
Her success as a novelist proves as an inspiration for students who aim to pursue a career in the liberal arts.