“ Interrogation Tango by Donald Schwarz and Victoria King-Voreadi is a short novel that explores the inherent flaw of totalitarian systems of not being able to process truth.
The novel begins in Nazi Germany in 1939 shortly before the second world war begins. Georg Elser is a German worker who wishes to prevent the inevitable war he sees coming by assassinating Hitler. He makes his attempt by bombing a beer hall in Munich where Hitler is to give a speech and the attempt narrowly fails. The novel hints at some personal reasons why Georg mad his attempt and explicitly states that Georg found totalitarian Germany to be too oppressive and hopeless a place to live. For sensitive and intelligent persons like Georg, totalitarian life is particularly difficult. Anyone who has had to pretend at work that they too believe in the company’s propaganda has experienced only the most minute taste of Georg’s emotional and moral problem.
Georg is identified as the bomber quickly by Chief Detective Inspector Artur Nebe. Nebe is a highly cynical but brilliant detective who also has no faith in Nazism. However, Nebe’s problems are not solved but caused by his identifying the perpetrator of the bombing and he intuits this quickly when he observes that the Gestapo did not assert jurisdiction over the politically sensitive case. The problem is that Georg appears to have perpetrated the bombing with no foreign help and with no help from any of the officially undesirable elements of society. Georg is a German worker. The heart of the problem is succinctly laid out when it is said that “[t]he Fürher has the support of every German worker; therefore, a German worker cannot have plotted to kill the Fuhrer.” Nebe simply cannot make the truth the official record if he wishes to survive. As the story progresses it becomes clear that no one even expects the truth to ever be exposed. Indeed, unlike Nazi characters out of central casting, most of the officials in this novel are all too aware of the cruel absurdity of their roles in the system. The totalitarian machine in Interrogation Tango has taken on a life of its own that most do not have the courage or ability to confront even though destruction for all is the inevitable result of the machine’s functioning. Small echoes of this may be seen in our own society within some poorly managed organizations where bad news and inconvenient facts are not tolerated. Although it is unlikely that Interrogation Tango was intended to benefit business schools and firms, it is not inconceivable that this novel could be made part of a management training course in one of the more enlightened universities or corporations.
Nebe’s position is all the more impossible because he can’t just make up a false story and force Georg to confess to it. A false story would be detected as such by the Gestapo and subject Nebe to execution for conspiring to protect the “real” perpetrators of the crime. Thus, exposing either the truth or a lie could result in Nebe’s own demise. This is where the fundamental weakness of the totalitarian system of rule is exposed. One can only imagine that this problem played out on a grander scale for the Nazis when neither the truth nor a lie were acceptable factors in making military decisions. As the Russian army closed on Berlin, the inherent contradictions and intellectual and moral bankruptcy bound up in this inability to accept anything other than state-sanctioned fantasy must have become particularly tangible.
Interrogation Tango is a gem of a short novel that manages to punch above its weight in pages by implying and invoking grand issues in dramatic form. ”