Characters in Vienna on Fire

Apart from well-known people, the characters in Vienna on Fire are fictional. They are based in part on, or are composites of, real people who supported or fought against the Nazis during World War II. I renamed them out of respect but tried to remain faithful to what I learned through research about them and their activities. These are a few of the main characters and the people who inspired them in the order that they appear in the story:

Greta Kolbe is a composite of my mother, Gertrude (Trude) Blau, and other Viennese women in the resistance living under the Nazi regime. Her recollections, experiences, relationships, and dialogue in the story are fictionalized.

Oskar and Lotte Kolbe are based on my mother’s parents, Otto and Amalie Blau. The description of the forced sale of their business is based on original documents from the Assets Transfer Agency, the Nazi organization responsible for regulating personnel matters in the private sector and the Aryanization of Jewish businesses.

Hans Jaeger is a fictional character loosely based on my mother’s one-time suitor, who joined the SS after the Germans occupied Vienna. The surname Jaeger translates in English to hunter.

Helmut Pohl is based in part on Hans Pokorny, an employee of Otto and Amalie Blau. He was the sanctioned buyer of the Blau Parfumerie after he joined the Nazi Party.

Viktor Mann is based in part on Bruno Lohse, a German art dealer and SS officer who helped Hermann Göring amass a vast collection of plundered artworks.

Franz Kraus, aka Uncle Franz, is based in part on Fritz Kolbe, an anti-Hitler German who worked for Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nazi Germany. Fritz Kolbe spied for the Allies until the end of the war.

Hermann Göring was Hitler’s second-in-command, the commander in chief of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), and a notorious collector of stolen art. He plundered art from Jewish collectors who either fled or were deported to their deaths in Nazi camps. Göring’s personal collection of nearly 1,400 works of artists who Hitler described as degenerates.

Theo, Werner, and Ingrid are fictional characters based on Schlurfs and Schlurf Kittens, the names given to jazz-loving teenagers who belonged to an anti-Nazi subculture and fought street battles with the Hitler Youth and Brownshirts.

Siegfried Hoffman is based in part on Otto Hartmann, a popular actor from the Vienna Burgtheater and leader of the Austrian Freedom Movement. He was also a Gestapo spy.

Alex Daily is based on Allen Dulles, an American spy who was the director of the Office of Strategic Services in Bern, Switzerland, for the duration of WWII. After the war, he became the first civilian director of the CIA.

Bernard Gründig is based on Paul Grüninger, a Swiss police commander who saved approximately 3,600 Jewish refugees by backdating their visas and falsifying other documents so they could remain in Switzerland after the government stopped admitting refugees.

Max Hagen & The Hot Pretzels are composites of young German musicians in Frankfurt who played the illegal music of American jazz bands in jazz clubs during the National Socialist period.

Colonel Horst Wagner is roughly based on Hans Oster, a general in the German Army (Wehrmacht) and a leading figure in a plot to overthrow Hitler and the Nazi regime before the start of WWII.

Cornelis Hartmann is based in part on Wim Henneicke, a Dutch collaborator who hunted for Jews fleeing Nazi  persecution and turned them over to the Gestapo for a reward.

Darby Pierce is based on Captain Sigismund Payne Best, a British Secret Intelligence service officer who was captured by  German Foreign Intelligence officers in a shootout on the German–Dutch border in what became known as the “Venlo Incident.”

Hanna is based on Johanna Hannie Schaft, a Dutch resistance fighter who became known as “the girl with the red hair.” She was responsible for sabotaging bridges and railway lines, and killing German soldiers, Dutch Nazis, and collaborators.