A couple of reviewers questioned the speed in which the Reich collapsed, once the protest movement went to work. While I understand their doubts, there are a number of countervailing points.
First, the Reich is economically on the brink. They’ve been stealing from Peter to pay Paul for years now and they’re running out of resources. (This is basically what happened to the Soviet Union in OTL.) The last thing the Reich needs is a prolonged period of instability, as it would cripple what remains of their economy. This is why Gudrun’s mother notes that costs are going up; the Reich has been trying to impose price controls, but such controls rarely work in real life.
Second, the nature of the protest movement – specifically, the fate of wounded or dead soldiers/SS – touches almost every German where they live. There are very few households in Germany that don’t have some contact with the military; theoretically, every German male is supposed to spend some time in uniform. (In reality, the numbers are somewhat lower.) It isn’t hard for everyone with a relative in the military to start wondering if a week or two without a letter means that their relative is dead … and that the government is covering it up. Even loyalists like Volker develop doubts when they think (and know, in his case) that their children are being expended and the government doesn’t even have the decency to tell them.
Third, Gudrun’s campaign basically starts an avalanche. The leaflets provide an excuse to talk to Volker (a former SS officer) about the fate of his son. Volker realises just what happened to Konrad and uses it as a gourd to start a union (not that this is the only reason for the workers of the Reich to unite.) The government’s failure to squash the first strikes only emboldens countless others who have suffered in silence for years, too fearful to raise their voices.
Fourth, the government is actually in a very weak position. Storming the factories would result in the destruction of a lot of very expensive machinery and the deaths of a significant percentage of the Reich’s trained manpower. Gunning down protesting crowds that include women and children might just start a mutiny. The best case for the government is that they might successfully stop the protesters, only to discover that they’ve crippled the Reich themselves. Their only real hope is to concede as much as they can, then work to undermine their concessions. Which leads to …
Fifth, the hawks in the Reich Cabinet deliberately set out to cause a riot towards the end of the book. Their thinking is that they can use special troops (i.e. men who won’t hesitate to butcher German civilians) to teach the mobs a lesson, then take advantage of the shock to re-establish control over the country. Instead, it sparks a mutiny. Soldiers who have been taught that their duty is to protect German civilians, soldiers who are already wavering because of the fate of their dead or wounded comrades, turn on the SS troops. The mutinies spread from there as an already badly-weakened structure starts to collapse.
Obviously, the trouble has only just started <grin>.
There’s another point that should probably be mentioned, although it’s not an easy point to make clear in the book itself. Gudrun isn’t as afraid of the Reich as, perhaps, she should be … because her father is a policeman and her boyfriend is an SS stormtrooper. She knows it isn’t safe to open her mouth and speak freely – she watches her mouth as closely as anyone else – but she feels safer because she knows the prospective enemies. This may not be a wise attitude, but it’s part of her.