There’s a book on my Amazon wish list that I can’t wait to read. It’s A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin: The Chilling True Story of the S-Bahn Murderer by Scott Andrew Selby. It’s not fiction and it’s not horror, but it inspires a thought that is appropriate to both. Just imagine this―amidst all the death normally associated with Nazi Germany, a serial killer methodically murders young woman using the nightly blackouts as cover. Now that’s not the typical war story is it?
It also begs the question about how to discriminate the work of an “abnormal” psychopath from the work of the “normal” psychopaths who ran the Nazi regime. It makes me wonder how the average German police officer discerned the difference. In a place where an atmosphere of terror and mistrust were normal, where the Gestapo making people disappear was commonplace, how would a missing person or even a murdered person have been treated?
As I see it, there are basically two ways to tell a story about murder in a totalitarian state/repressive regime. The first is to tell the story from the cop’s point-of-view. Even in a totalitarian state there must be cops who just want to get the job done, to protect the people until the veil of madness is pulled from the society at large. He would want to catch the killer and bring him to justice. Or is it more complicated than that?
The second way to tell the story, of course, is from the killer’s perspective. He (or she) would feel the rush of excitement, the feeling of god-like dominance and total control in a world in which he is otherwise powerless. Others kill because they have to. He kills because he likes it.
And then there is the nature of crime itself. Is every crime a crime against the state? How does the repressive environment affect crime within the state? Does even a petty crime make the perpetrator an enemy of the state? And then there is murder. That’s the big one, isn’t it? If a series of disappearances occurred would they even be reported or would the common citizen fear attracting the attention of his repressors?
The idea of the totalitarian state lends itself very well to horror fiction. There is just so much opportunity to really build an environment saturated with impending doom, fear in every word, terror in every heartbeat. And it’s not just the Nazi regime. The same can be applied to the Soviet and North Korean regimes, or even to more democratic regimes, anytime common police work has to be carried out in a highly politically charged environment where the wrong word or wrong thinking can have dire consequences