In the Presence of Mine Enemies  
In the Presence of Mine Enemies.jpg
Author Harry Turtledove
Cover artist Steve Stone
Language English
Genre(s) Alternate History
Publisher New American Library
Publication date November 4, 2003

In the Presence of Mine Enemies is an alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove, expanded from a short story by the same name; the complete text of the short story with minimal revision serves as the first chapter of the novel. The novel is set in Berlin from the middle of 2010 through the middle of 2011 in a world in which the United States had remained isolationist and Germany and Japan won World War II. The U.S. along with Canada both fell to the Axis during the Third World War, and most of the world is divided between the Axis powers.

The novel is centered on Heinrich Gimpel and a small group of Jews who have managed to survive the mass extermination by keeping their identities secret by living under forged "Aryan" credentials. One thread of the plot focuses on Alicia Gimpel, who discovers that she belongs to a wrongfully despised minority whom she has been taught all her life to passionately hate.

The events of the book take place against a backdrop similar to the last days of the OTL Soviet Union, with characters recognizably based on Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, among others.

The title comes from Psalms 23:5 in the Hebrew Bible.

Primary Characters[]

  • Heinrich Gimpel. A civilian working as an analyst at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht headquarters in Berlin. He is one of the few surviving Jews left in the Reich and keeps his origins a secret from his colleagues. Heinrich and his wife Lise have three daughters: Alicia, Francesca and Roxane.
  • Lise Gimpel. The wife of Heinrich Gimpel. Like her husband, she is also a Jew.
  • Alicia Gimpel. The 10 year old daughter of Heinrich and Lise Gimpel. She learns her true origins on the night of her 10th birthday when confronted by her parents and a few other Jewish friends.
  • 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. The morning receptionist at a Berlin pediatrician's office, Esther and her family are also Jews.
  • Walther Stutzman. A mathematician with the Reich's largest computer company, Zeiss. Also a Jew.

Plot Summary[]

Aside from Heinrich Gimpel's observation that the United States remained neutral during the Second World War and watched the rest of the world fall to the Axis, the actual point of divergence is not described.

Following the death of Adolf Hitler in the mid-to-late 1960s, Heinrich Himmler assumed the office of Führer. In an analog to the Cold War, the Reich and Japan competed for world dominance with the U.S. during the 1960s, culminating in the Third World War. Germany and Japan defeated the U.S., and Germany occupied the U.S. immediately after.

Himmler died in 1985, and was succeeded by Kurt Haldweim. (Haldweim is probably an analog to the real world Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981 and President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.) Haldweim's policies were less harsh than his predecessors; many in the old guard saw him as "soft."

The process of reform begins in Great Britain. The British Union of Fascists moves haltingly towards independence by democratically electing its leader, Charlie Lynton (an analog of Tony Blair). The revival of democratic ideas is at first cloaked as being adherence to Nazi ideals in their purity, specifically the assertion that Hitler supported democracy in the First Edition of Mein Kampf.

This is followed by the ascension of reform-minded Führer Heinz Buckliger in Germany in the wake of Haldweim's death. Buckliger makes a secret speech to the party leaders gathered at Nuremberg. According to widely circulating rumors, the new Führer denounces his predecessors. The model for this is actually not in the career of Gorbachev but in the more shallow reforms of Nikita Khrushchev who denounced the crimes of Joseph Stalin in a secret session of the party congress.

Gradually, partial reforms create some degree of personal freedom for German citizens, and ease the German yoke over the empire. Reactionary opposition gathers around the still-powerful SS, while Berlin's populist Gauleiter Rolf Stolle (an analog of Boris Yeltsin, Communist Party leader in Moscow from 1985 to 1987) champions more accelerated reforms.

Things come to a head in 2011 when Buckliger announces plans for relatively free elections for July of that year. Candidates need no longer be nominated by the Nazi Party, but must still be "Aryan". Under the leadership of the Reichsführer-SS Lothar Prützmann, the SS launches a coup, take Buckliger prisoner on the Croatian island of Hvar, and install former High Commissioner of Ostland Affairs Odilo Globocnik as the new Führer. However, the coup is stymied by a manifestation of "people's power" led by Stolle, to which the Wehrmacht eventually lends its support. The call Deutschland erwache (Germany, Awake!"), an old Nazi battle cry which helped Hitler to power, is in this context used as a call to defend reform and democracy.

The coup is defeated when its opponents use the anti-Semitic assertion that Prützmann is himself of Jewish ancestry. (It is ironically the hidden Jews themselves who started this rumor rolling). Thwarted, he shoots himself. Globocnik is lynched by a mob; public hanging of senior SS members take place in the days leading to the election.

By the end of the book, Germany has had free elections, as have several West European countries, the power of the SS is severely curbed (but the organization is not disbanded altogether), people can speak their mind far more freely, and the Czechs, led by an unnamed character who strongly resembles Václav Havel, are on their way to regaining some amount of autonomy.

However, Germany is far from giving up its imperial position, with the Wehrmacht strongly opposed to ending the occupation of the United States. Moreover, the racist mindset is not yet gone. The book ends, as it began, with the secret initiation of a 10-year old Jewish child, Francesca Gimpel this time, into the heritage which she must still preserve and keep in utmost secrecy.

Similar works by Turtledove[]

Two Turtledove short stories, "The Last Article" and "The Phantom Tolbukhin", are set in 1947 and deal with the immediate aftermath of a Nazi victory in WWII. On their own, each could also fit seamlessly into the world of In the Presence of Mine Enemies. However, the two shorter works do not fit together, as historical figure Georgy Zhukov is given different death dates in the two.

Turtledove later wrote "Shtetl Days", another short story dealing with the 21st-century survival of the Third Reich, but it does not appear to be set in the same timeline as Presence. Indeed, the themes of the two works seem to be in direct counterpoint, with "Shtetl" being the story of a group of "Aryans" who assume Jewish identities for a Reich-sponsored theatrical production.

Throughout the Crosstime Traffic Series, we are told that there are many alternates where the Nazis won WWII, without specific detail. However, the Crosstime novel Curious Notions is set in "Alternate 3477" where Imperial Germany came to dominate the world after winning the First World War.

Turtledove has never stated that any of his Nazis-win-WWII works is connected to any of the others.

See Also:[]