Riester: Gegen den Strom

Albert Riester. Gegen den Strom. Munich: Universitas Verlag, 1987.

Riester is best known for being one of Hans Hirzel's friends who (evidently) betrayed him to the Gestapo. While Riester was not one of the two Stuttgarter high school boys whose duplicity eventually landed Hirzel in prison, there still remains an aura of distaste (for lack of a nicer word) around Riester's story line. He seems to have wanted to be a good dissident and a good Nazi, all in the same breath.

I found the book rather difficult to comprehend. Grammatically, it's not especially complicated. Nor did Riester write with an excessively large vocabulary. Rather, his thoughts seem so disjointed and self-serving as to border on incoherency.

Besides his tales of Hans Scholl as a Hitler Youth leader, Riester's book is however valuable on a very specific level: He provides us with a living, breathing example of a Mitläufer, a person who may not have agreed completely with the Nazis but was happy enough to do whatever it took to placate the brown hordes.

The complexity of Riester's wannabe 'against-the-current' persona is additionally juxtaposed against the very blunt descriptions of himself as Gestapo V-Mann or informant... Which leaves his readers wondering how this political and emotional schizophrenia seems so obvious to everyone but Riester.

In other words, his life stands in stark contrast to his contemporaries whom we have come to respect as the White Rose.

(c) 2002 Ruth Hanna Sachs. All rights reserved. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.