A gravely injured soldier wakens from a coma in the Royal Ear and Nose Clinic of Charité Hospital in Berlin eight months after the end of WWI. Having no recollection of his past during or before the war, the soldier is transferred to Pasewalk Military Hospital, where he receives a new identity—Friedrich Richard—and begins a relationship with an enigmatic, troubled man—Wolf, also known as Adolf Hitler. The two men interact with one another across the tumultuous postwar period, while the German economy fractures under pressures from the Versailles Treaty, the Republic implodes, and nationalists and communists vie for power.
As described by the authors, Wolf relies on new and hitherto unrecognized aspects of Hitler’s personality. While historians have reported that Hitler was unable to forge friendships or sexual liaisons, Stern and Winter have uncovered interviews that demonstrate Hitler had many loyal friends and young lovers. The book is carefully researched, and details are documented in comprehensive Historical Notes that are separately available (at notesonwolf.com).
Wolf views Hitler through Richard’s eyes, first as a man whose blindness after trench warfare has more to do with his psyche than mustard gas, later as a charismatic speaker and seducer of teenage girls. Richard traces key events in the rise of Nazism from the beerhall putsch to the Night of the Long Knives and the burning of the Reichstag. While Richard is a witness, he is not an in-depth observer. He tells what happens but does not show how. As a result, the nuances of behavior and cadences of speech that bring understanding are lost to the reader. New light shines on Wolf, but he is still not fully seen.