European crime fiction in the crosshairs
n°4 February-March-april 2006


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Das Luxemburg-Komplott

Christian v. Ditfurth

Munich (Droemer Knaur) • 2005 • 384 p.

By Elfriede Müller
Translation : Steve Novak


Das Luxemburg-Komplott (The Luxembour Plot) takes place at the time of the German revolution and counter revolution, a time when somebody’s life didn’t count for much. Instead of precipitating the demise of the 1918/19 revolution, Ditfurth helps its triumph. But it is a Pyrrhic victory, onto which a sophisticated criminal plot gets grafted.

The Workers and Soldiers Council votes in some members of the KPD and the USP to the new government. Karl Liebknecht enters his candidacy to the People’s Commisars Council, Rosa Luxemburg is put in charge of the economy. Sebastian Zacharias, the central character of the novel, next to Rosa Luxemburg, is a social democrat who’s taken as war prisoner in the young Soviet Republic, and becomes a convinced communist. He works for the Tcheka and soon learns the price paid for a victorious revolution. On orders of Lenin, Zacharias goes back to Germany to watch over Rosa Luxemburg and check on the political evolution of the revolution. Following a bombing directed at Rosa Luxemburg in the Reich chancelry, he becomes her bodyguard and the head of the inquiry commission formed to uncover the authors of the attack. The siuation becomes tense. In the background, the army is getting ready to intervene. Inside the KPD there is a fight between two factions : one that has no confidence in the dynamics of the revolution and wants to impose strict control, a precursor of stalinism, and another one which, with Rosa Luxembourg, opts for a social democratic regime.

Zacharias’ life is swept away in the maelstrom of revolutionary society: "In one day, everything had collapsed around him. If he was arrested one more time by the police, his life wouldn’t be worth much. Now he was totally dependent on Jogiches and Rosa. But they wouldn’t do anything more for him if they discovered the mission he had been entrusted with by Lenin in Moscow. On the other hand, if he didn’t fullil the assigned task, the Russians could very well drop him or even accuse him of treason. If they dropped him, there were great chances that the police would arrest him, especially if the spartakists dropped him too. He would feel much better in the devil’s kitchen.. And what had happened to Margarete ? And Sonja ? There was nothing in his life devoid of ambiguity" (p. 95).

One find exceptional descriptions of the immediate after war period, of the misery, the militarism, of a country out of breath.. Ditfurth brings out known historical characters like Radek, Ernst Reuter, Lenin or Wilhelm Pieck. Revolution and criminal plot are closely intertwined until in the second of the three novel parts, when the plot wins and implacably destroys the revolutionary democratic alternative.


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