“The Hunt” and the American Fourth Reich: Alternate History or Secret History?

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’ve been posting very little of late. 

In my own defense, I’ve been wrapping up the final editorial changes to my forthcoming book, The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, which will be published by Cambridge University Press in the spring of 2019.  

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the book includes many counterfactual elements.  It explores various “what if” scenarios involving ways in which ex-Nazis (in Germany, Latin America, and beyond) could have been more successful in pursuing a political comeback after 1945.  In tackling this speculative question, the book seeks to determine whether or not postwar fears of a Fourth Reich were exaggerated or grounded in reality.  (in so doing, it implicitly speaks to contemporary fears about whether we are facing a new "fascist" threat today).

I’ll be posting more on the subject as the book’s publication date gets closer.

In the meantime, I was struck the other day by a bit of karmic news that underscores the Fourth Reich’s topicality: namely, the news release that Amazon.Prime will be following up the success of The Man in the High Castle with a new 10 part series (release date still unknown) called “The Hunt.”

As Variety reported: “The Hunt follows a diverse band of Nazi Hunters living in 1977 New York City. The Hunters, as they’re known, have discovered that hundreds of high ranking Nazi officials are living among us and conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S. The eclectic team of Hunters will set out on a bloody quest to bring the Nazis to justice and thwart their new genocidal plans.”

The series will be produced executive producer, Jordan Peele (known for the recent hit film, Get Out, among other productions).

I’m interested to see how Peele and his writers will tackle the premise of Nazi hunters in the 1970s.  Shows set in the bleak 1970s (especially the gritty New York City of that decade) have enjoyed a good run of late; think of Life on Mars, The Deuce, The Get Down, and so forth. 

The 1970s is the right decade to explore the fascination with fugitive and unrepentant Nazis, as it was the era of the “Hitler Wave” and a whole host of books, films, and television shows exploring the subject of the Third (and, as my book shows, Fourth) Reich.  Think The Odessa File, The Boys from Brazil, The Holcroft Covenant, etc.

What I’m not sure about is whether “The Hunt,” will go down the road of alternate history (and portray ex-Nazis actually moving to alter history’s real course) or whether everything will be taking place behind the scenes in “near-miss” fashion.

The ways that the producers ultimately decide to pursue the show’s narrative arc, will determine what genre the show ultimately belongs to.

I have no idea whether the series or my book will appear first, but if the timing works out, I’d like to think that both will facilitate a larger conversation about the enduring danger of Nazi – and more broadly, fascist – ideas.

It’s certainly a – gulp -- timely topic.


RJS said…
Mr History Man, I hope your book includes a reference to the popular children's tv series Freewheelers (1968). An ex-Nazi von Gelb threatens to launch a Polaris missile at London. Our chap Colonnel Buchan (played by the wonderful Ronald Leigh-Hunt) saves the day with the assistance of teenage adventurers.
RJS said…
I even remember them filming Freewheelers one year when we were holidaying at Durdle Door in Dorset. It was a cult show for children. Back in the late 60s we really did think it plausible that an ex-Nazi might hijack a submarine and then threaten nuclear destruction.