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Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 19:44 UK
Nazi Germany novel by British "spy" Frank Binder
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

Frank Binder
Frank Binder lived in Germany between 1922 and 1937

An 'important' novel about the rise of Nazi Germany has been discovered and published by a Suffolk man who used to be taught by the author.

The manuscript of Sown With Corn by the late Frank Binder was inherited by his daughter along with his other writings.

Mike Rines, of Woodbridge, tracked her down, edited the book and helped get it into print for the first time.

"One of the reasons I'm doing this is to get him the recognition he deserves," said Mr Rines.

Mr Rines has a theory that Binder may have been a British secret agent.

He was perfect material for a spy. He did admit he'd been approached by MI6.
Mike Rines

The novel is about a student's relationship with two Jewish sisters during the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Binder, who died in 1962 at the age of 68, worked in the English department at Bonn University from 1922 until 1933.

He had two books published in his lifetime - Journey in England (1931) and Dialectic (1932). He left Germany in 1937 and became a teacher at Scarborough School for Boys.

Mr Rines was one of his former pupils.

"He wrote the Chess Club reports for our school magazine and they were absolute little masterpieces," he said.

"Eric Partridge, editor of Usage & Abusage, called him one of the 'two great masters of alliteration' in the English language [the other being GK Chesterton].

"From 1932 until his death, there didn't seem to be anything else that he'd written, which was weird for such a great writer.

"When I retired I thought I'd do a bit of poking around. I tracked down his daughter and came away with a suitcase of unpublished works and Sown With Corn was one of them."

Mike Rines and Colin Richmond
Mr Rines and Prof Richmond at the book launch at The Shire Hall

Daughter and professor

Elsie Binder, 72, who lives in London said: "When my father died, I wasn't really quite sure what to do with the manuscripts.

"I know he sent them off several times to publishers and they kept getting rejected.

"He'd be pleased that the novel had finally been published, but he'd probably criticise the way it's been edited.

"He used to weigh his words very carefully and spend ages getting every sentence dead right."

Emeritus Professor Colin Richmond, who taught Jewish-Christian relations and the Holocaust at Keele University, said the novel captured that period of history.

"It may be unique," he said. "We know about the towns, but the novel is unusual in that it depicts the takeover of a village in the Rhineland by the Nazis.

"It advances our knowledge.

"The depiction of village life and the intrusion into it by a Nazi regime has, for me and other informed readers, an authenticity that would stand up."

Frank Binder's identity card
Frank Binder's Weimar Germany identity card from 1926

Espionage theory

After graduating from Liverpool University in 1915, he became a conscientious objector during World War I.

As a result, he spent the rest of the war imprisoned on Dartmoor breaking rocks. After the Great War, he left England for Germany.

Mike Rines supports a theory that Binder may have been a spy in the 1930s.

"What he was doing between 1933 and 1937 we just don't know," he said. "He did admit he'd been approached by MI6, but said he backed off when they told him that, if he was caught, he'd be disowned.

"He was perfect material for a spy. He was a university lecturer, spoke German like a native and had a deep understanding of German affairs and economics.

"Of course, Binder would have been bound to deny he was a spy by the Official Secrets Act.

"He certainly had to leave Germany in a hurry in 1937 when he left all his possessions behind."

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "It is a long-standing policy of government not to comment on intelligence matters."

Sown With Corn is published by Farthings Publishing and is available from their website, Browsers in Woodbridge and Treasure Chest in Felixstowe.

Mike Rines is also the President of the Maritime Woodbridge festival.

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