Every Man Dies Alone takes place in Berlin, the heart, both symbolic and real, of Nazi Germany. The time is World War II. In this novel, based on a true story, the chief symbols of resistance to the totalitarian regime are the anonymous postcards a working class couple, the Quangels (based on a real couple, the Hampels), drop in stairwells and mailboxes, protesting the war after their son is killed in battle.
The postcards make statements such as "“Mother! The Fuhrer has murdered my son. Mother! The Fuhrer will murder your sons too, he will not stop till he has brought sorrow to every home in the world."
In Nazi Germany the Quampels' speech acts stand out as blazing, Good Year blimp-like symbols of resistance to the regime that wanted control of every thought. Their postcards are treason. To oppose the Fuhrer, even in words, is to court death:
“They had failed to understand that there was no such thing as private life in wartime Germany. No amount of reticence could change the fact that every individual German belonged to the generality of Germans and must share in the general destiny of Germany, even as more and more bombs were falling on the just and unjust alike.”
However, we see other characters in the novel resisting the regime in smaller ways: these include not going to work (the labor shortage is so acute that people can do this without getting fired) and stealing other people's ration cards. These acts undermine the war effort, but fly beneath radar.
In real life, in Nazi Germany listening to BBC radio broadcasts or giving a loaf of bread to a slave laborer were offenses that could lead to the death penalty. The Nazis took to extremes the notion that whoever is not for us is against us.