hits counter The German War: A Nation Under Arms - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The German War: A Nation Under Arms

Availability: Ready to download

As early as 1941, Allied victory in World War II seemed all but assured. How and why, then, did the Germans prolong the barbaric conflict for three and a half more years? In The German War, acclaimed historian Nicholas Stargardt draws on an extraordinary range of primary source materials—personal diaries, court records, and military correspondence—to answer this question. H As early as 1941, Allied victory in World War II seemed all but assured. How and why, then, did the Germans prolong the barbaric conflict for three and a half more years? In The German War, acclaimed historian Nicholas Stargardt draws on an extraordinary range of primary source materials—personal diaries, court records, and military correspondence—to answer this question. He offers an unprecedented portrait of wartime Germany, bringing the hopes and expectations of the German people—from infantrymen and tank commanders on the Eastern front to civilians on the home front—to vivid life. While most historians identify the German defeat at Stalingrad as the moment when the average German citizen turned against the war effort, Stargardt demonstrates that the Wehrmacht in fact retained the staunch support of the patriotic German populace until the bitter end. Astonishing in its breadth and humanity, The German War is a groundbreaking new interpretation of what drove the Germans to fight—and keep fighting—for a lost cause.


Compare

As early as 1941, Allied victory in World War II seemed all but assured. How and why, then, did the Germans prolong the barbaric conflict for three and a half more years? In The German War, acclaimed historian Nicholas Stargardt draws on an extraordinary range of primary source materials—personal diaries, court records, and military correspondence—to answer this question. H As early as 1941, Allied victory in World War II seemed all but assured. How and why, then, did the Germans prolong the barbaric conflict for three and a half more years? In The German War, acclaimed historian Nicholas Stargardt draws on an extraordinary range of primary source materials—personal diaries, court records, and military correspondence—to answer this question. He offers an unprecedented portrait of wartime Germany, bringing the hopes and expectations of the German people—from infantrymen and tank commanders on the Eastern front to civilians on the home front—to vivid life. While most historians identify the German defeat at Stalingrad as the moment when the average German citizen turned against the war effort, Stargardt demonstrates that the Wehrmacht in fact retained the staunch support of the patriotic German populace until the bitter end. Astonishing in its breadth and humanity, The German War is a groundbreaking new interpretation of what drove the Germans to fight—and keep fighting—for a lost cause.

30 review for The German War: A Nation Under Arms

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Germany suffered a lot during World War II. As many as 5 million soldiers died. As many as 700,000 civilians were killed. Thousands more civilians died or were relocated during territorial dislocations at war’s end. Hundreds of cities were bombed; millions of homes were lost. These are all hard facts. Also a fact: the Germans started it. This bears repeating: The Germans started it. On the surface, this statement has all the ethical weight of a playground argument between five year-olds. But I t Germany suffered a lot during World War II. As many as 5 million soldiers died. As many as 700,000 civilians were killed. Thousands more civilians died or were relocated during territorial dislocations at war’s end. Hundreds of cities were bombed; millions of homes were lost. These are all hard facts. Also a fact: the Germans started it. This bears repeating: The Germans started it. On the surface, this statement has all the ethical weight of a playground argument between five year-olds. But I think it is actually a profound moral condemnation. It was the Germans who gobbled up Austria and Czechoslovakia. It was Germany that invaded Poland and divvied it up with Stalin. It was Germany that passed anti-Semitic racial laws, who euthanized the infirm and disabled, and sent undesirables to concentration camps. It was the Germans who murdered 6 million Jews and killed millions more Soviet civilians. It was the Germans who had a plan for world domination that would have made Cobra Commander envious. Germany suffered; Germany reaped what they sowed. This is the difficult balance that has to be struck when writing about the German experience of World War II. To empathize with the human suffering, while always recognizing that it did not occur in a vacuum. Some modern historians have difficulty with this tension. For instance, in Jörg Friedrich’s The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945, the systematic air war conducted against Germany is presented outside its historical context. There is never a mention about why the Allies might be bombing Germany. Only that it occurred, and it was horrible. If you’d never read a single thing about World War II, and only Friedrich’s book, you’d be fully justified in labeling the Allies as the most terrible fiends to ever draw a breath. The great accomplishment of Nicholas Stargardt’s The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 is that it perfectly walks this moral tightrope. It manages to look at World War II from the perspective of individual Germans; it gives voice to their own trials and tribulations; but it never lets them off the hook. Rather, by the end, Stargardt delivers a quietly powerful indictment on the “ordinary” German. You will not find the mythical good German here, the German ignorant of Hitler’s plans, the German trying to swim against an evil tide. Instead, you find people who knew the parameters of their nation’s crimes, who either participated in them or knew someone who did, and who showed enough commitment to fight a six-year war against incredible odds. The German War begins in 1939, with the Wehrmacht poised to swarm across the Polish border. Unlike the exuberance of 1914, the public response to Hitler’s invasion is chiefly anxiety. The German public had been on a knife’s edge as their Fuhrer conducted a high stakes game of chicken with Great Britain and France. Up until this point, Hitler’s gambles had paid off bloodlessly (especially with the infamous Munich Conference). That streak ended with Poland. This war, according to Stargadt, was unwelcome, especially for those with memories of 1918. That public sentiment started to change when the Wehrmacht smashed Poland before Great Britain or France could lift a finger to stop them. It changed even more when the Sitzkrieg ended with Germany rumbling through the Low Countries, toppling France, and sending England racing back across the Channel. Suddenly, the Germans were the masters of Europe. The German people were now part of a momentum that could only end with their total domination – or absolute ruin. The German War is first and foremost a people’s history. Stargardt’s main focus is on the ordinary soldiers and civilians who lived through this time. He cares about things like rationing, morale, and the limits of endurance. To that end he follows roughly twenty people throughout the course of the war, and supplements their story arcs with many other personal accounts culled from diaries, letters, and postwar interviews. You meet young soldiers in the heady early days of the war, as they bask in the golden sunlight of occupied France; you follow civilians on the homefront as they spend their Christmas huddled around crackling radios, listening to radio broadcasts from a besieged Stalingrad intercut with a rendition of Stille Nacht; and finally you view the hellish collapse, as traitors are hanged from trees, as young boys are dragooned into service to fight the Soviet steamroller, and as Germany crumbles and burns. The trick with a book like this is not simply doing primary source research. It is in choosing the best primary sources to highlight. Stargardt excels at this. He has found compelling people to follow, sometimes to their graves. At times, he manages to achieve an extraordinary level of intimacy. For instance, he devotes space to the love letters between Robert and his wife Mia. Robert was stationed in East Prussia, well away from the main action. Bored and frustrated, he tried to convince his wife to exchange dirty letters. Robert took the lead with a saucy reminiscence in which he referred to his penis as both “my giver of joy” and “my little mouse.” (As in “my little mouse was shaking with joy”). Later, he tries to convince his wife to masturbate. Yes, folks, I’m telling you there’s a passage on Nazi-era proto-sexting. Stargardt also cleverly relies on the use of reports from the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Nazi’s security service. The SD spent a lot of time taking the weather of the German populace. They listened to what people were saying, and then typed those observations into reports that were then filed. (Which is such a German thing to do). It is, of course, impossible to know exactly how everyone felt about any one thing. These reports, however, provide a pretty good way to generalize the German mood. (It also demonstrates some odd fixations, which are the hallmark of the Nazi regime. The SD was quite worried, for instance, about teenage sexual indiscretions in the absence of fathers who were away at the front). Stargardt’s narrative maintains a rough overall chronology that takes you through the war years. Certain chapters, however, are more thematic in nature, and allows Stargardt to explore certain issues at greater depth. One of these chapters, for example, deals with the Holocaust. This is one of the great questions of World War II: How much did the German nation know? In Stargardt’s telling, they knew a lot. He quotes letters from soldiers on the Eastern Front who witness the atrocities of the Einsatzgruppen. Some of these eyewitnesses are shocked; most are able to overcome their revulsion due to their belief that this is for the greater good. Despite the censors, a lot of these men took pictures, which they then sent home to be developed. In this way, rumors circulated on the homefront about Germany’s appalling crimes. Stargardt also spends a good deal of time on the Allied air war against German cities. Whatever else we might say about the air campaign (its morality; its effectiveness), it certainly served to cohere German resistance to the bitter end. For a totalitarian state, the Nazi Party proved surprisingly responsive to the needs of its people. With great alacrity, it provided assistance with food and shelter, thereby binding people and Party. A book like this – centered as it is on the experiences of ordinary people – runs the risk confusion. (The old forest verses the trees conundrum). You need a proper framework to avoid getting lost in the details. Stargardt does an excellent job accomplishing this by seamlessly transitioning between the Nazi leadership at the top, and the man (and woman) on the street. On one page, Stargardt will explain how Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels kept pushing for Germany to engage in “total war”; on the next page, he will show what that phrase actually meant for a typical German civilian. On one page you will read about a Nazi Party measure to boost civilian confidence; on the next page you get to read an SD report on how that measure went over. This is a book that’s going to appeal mainly to readers already invested in World War II. It is not a battlefield history; indeed, mention of battle is secondary to Stargardt’s story. To that end, it’s helpful to have a rough outline of the war’s ebb and flow before embarking on this volume. The German War also does not attempt to be comprehensive. There is almost no mention of North Africa or Italy, with most of the action centered on Western Europe and the Eastern (Soviet) Front. At the same time, this doesn’t read like a book aimed solely at WWII enthusiasts. It is well structured, easy to follow, and compellingly written. It is not a World War II story, but a human one. Stargardt does not set out to demonize the German people. He recognizes the difficult choices that each person had to make. Imagine, after all, saying “no” to your country. But he also makes clear that there is no easy separation between “German” and “Nazi.” (As though Nazis were an alien species). This is important, because history is cyclical. As Stargardt notes in a concluding chapter, there was a lot of German self-pity in the years directly following the end of the war. The Cold War gave a lot of Germans, including ex-Nazis, the cover they needed to return to normal life, often with bitterness at the way they’d been handled by the Allies. It required a different German generation to take responsibility for the crimes they inflicted against the world. Today, in stark contrast to Japan – who refuses to acknowledge their atrocities in China – Germany vigorously assumes responsibility for the Holocaust. Yet there are signs that is changing. Watch, for instance, the German miniseries Generation War, which peddles the notion that it was a few bad apples that spoiled the bunch. The German War does a masterful job in exploring the experience of the German people – and also their culpability.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    It may be good to have power based on arms, but it is better and more joyful to win and to keep the hearts of the people. -Joseph Goebbels, speaking in Triumph of the Will World War 2 began with German invasion of Poland - but in 1939 most Germans had a different view; they perceived the war as a defensive war, forced upon them by Polish aggression and Allied transpiration against Germany. Why did ordinary Germans see the war this way, and what made them keep fighting even when it became appar It may be good to have power based on arms, but it is better and more joyful to win and to keep the hearts of the people. -Joseph Goebbels, speaking in Triumph of the Will World War 2 began with German invasion of Poland - but in 1939 most Germans had a different view; they perceived the war as a defensive war, forced upon them by Polish aggression and Allied transpiration against Germany. Why did ordinary Germans see the war this way, and what made them keep fighting even when it became apparent that all was lost? Nicholas Stargardt is an Australian historian who teaches modern European history at Oxford, and The German War is a comprehensive look at various strata of German society and their approach to the war. Stargardt has compiled an impressive amount of sources - from private letters and diaries to newspaper articles and official speeches - to present a compelling picture on how Germans perceived and reacted to the war, both at home and at the front lines. With the harrowing memories of the First World War still being fresh in the minds of many, it is no surprise that the mood was generally reluctant when it came to the prospect of engaging in another. During the Munich crisis of 1938 almost the entire country was convinced that Germany simply could not win a war which would ultimately involve conflict with both Britain and France, and that such war would lead their country to complete ruin - and this was a belief shared both by civilians and the military elite. Opposition to war was so great that many prominent figures of the German military conspired to storm the Reich Chancellery and kill Adolf Hitler. Led by general major Hans Oster - who would later become a major figure in the anti-Nazi resistance - they intended to stage a coup, overthrow the Nazi government and restore the monarchy of the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II. In an ironic twist of history, their desire to keep peace was shared by the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was anxious to preserve it even at the expense of another country. By agreeing to Hitler's territorial claims in Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain succeeded in delaying the war, but also showed that the British and French were unlikely to act against Germany; after German troops occupied Prague in March 1939 and turned entire Czechoslovakia into a German protectorate, the lack of response from western powers boosted Hitler's domestic popularity and destroyed any chance of a successful plot against him. Poland was widely hated in Germany before September 1939. In the Weimar period newly reemerged Poland was perceived as an illegitimate creation of the Versailles Treaty, a Saisonstaat (state for a season) crafted by the victors of the First World War at German expense. American historian Gerhard Weinberg noted that, irregardless of their political orientation, no leading politicians in the Weimar republic recognized any benefit in the existence of a strong and independent Poland. Instead, official German foreign policy towards Poland was one of permanent hostility, with revisionist hopes of partitioning Poland with the Soviet Union and returning to the borders of 1914, and involved trade and propaganda wars. For centuries, Polish people were seen by Germans as uneducated, intellectually and culturally inferior, unfit even for self-rule; Weinberg notes that in the interwar years Polish people were perceived in Germany as "an East European specie of cockroach". German academics drew a line between high culture and complete barbarism at the Polish border, and the term polnische wirtschaft (Polish economy) - itself dating back to the Prussian partition, where it was used as a stereotype of Polish inferiority and justification for the need of Prussian administration - was commonly used as a description of any kind of hopeless mess. Clandestine reports by the banned political parties found that Poland and the Poles were already enormously hated, and that overwhelming majority of the population would support Hitler if he chose to act against Poland. At the same time, memories of 1918 were still very fresh and while most Germans believed that an invasion of Poland was justified, few thought it was worth another war with Britain and France. Furious at his nation for being "chicken hearted" in private, Hitler continued to present himself as a champion for peace and protector of persecuted German minorities. German propaganda blamed Poland for influencing British foreign policy, conspiring to encircle a resurging Germany and prevent it from attaining proper glory that it deserved; German newspapers accused the Polish government of tolerating or even encouraging violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland. As Hitler was publicly emphasizing his desire for peace, the SS and the police apparatus under Reinhard Heydrich enlisted the help of ethnic Germans in Poland to stage border skirmishes and create a series of false flag attacks on German newspapers, schools and cultural institutions. Named after the head of the SS, Operation Himmler culminated in an attack on a German radio station, complete with a broadcast in Polish and corpses of killed prisoners dressed in Polish uniforms left to serve as undeniable proof of Polish provocation. Flimsy as it was, combined with intense propaganda and deeply rooted hate for Poland and Poles it worked - as the Wehrmacht entered Poland, Germans were convinced that they were returning fire in a war which was forced upon them. As Stargardt notes, the German armies were ideologically primed to fight a culturally inferior and cowardly opponent; any resistance was met with utmost hostility, since the Germans believed that whatever brutality they were capable of the Poles would exceed and stab them in the back at any possible occasion. Where Stargardt succeeds is presenting how vastly different were the experiences shared by individual soldiers serving in the Wehrmacht: Wilm Hosenfeld, a Catholic, was apalled by the scale of sheer violence against the Poles. Although he believed that the Germans had a right to occupy Poland, Hosenfeld grew increasingly isolated and detached, finding comfort only in writing letters to his wife (Hosenfeld would later help to rescue several Jews and Polish people, including the famous pianist Władysław Szpilman). Another devout Catholic, Heinrich Böll, had a totally different experience - Böll believed that he saw real hatred and fanaticism in the eyes of the Poles he encountered, and was convinced that if not for the Wehrmacht not a single ethnic German would survive. Many thought that this justified any action - even killing civilian men, women and children with great ferocity, which the soldiers observed and photographed. One German general, Johannes Blaskowitz, was so shocked by the reports of atrocities which reached him that he wrote to Hitler personally protesting the behavior of the SS and the administration as damaging to military morale. Hitler dismissed his protests by saying that "one cannot wage war with Salvation Army methods." While to many Germans Poland was an abomination, and in the words of a German student Poles were "infinitely alien and incomprehensible to us so that there is no way to reach them(...)people whose life or death is a matter of indifference", Hitler did not pay as much attention to Poland as did his many German contemporaries. His real war aim were the vast and resource-rich lands of European Russia, which he sought to conquer and colonize with Germans, driving the "asiatic hordes" back behind the Ural mountains. As the Wehrmacht pushed further east, the environment and conditions became inhospitable, and the war much more brutal. Some soldiers viewed the war as a spiritual experience, recognizing with distaste their own transformation into brutal and harsh beings; one soldier wrote home that the war was comparable to the Apocalypse, and brought out "a new and true image of humanity(...)after we have followed a false, and increasingly distorting, image of humanity for so many hundreds of years." Seeing the terrible destruction left behind by the retreating Red Army, soldiers became convinced that the war must never come home to Germany, and must be won decisively; both convinced Nazis and ordinary conscripts knew that they must do all in their possibility to stop "the beasts" from having even a possibility of coming to their fatherland (interestingly enough, the exact same approach was adopted by the Red Army as Stalin discovered that traditional patriotism, love for family and the motherland boosted morale much better than communist slogans). Most Germans did not share Hitler's Social Darwinist view of the war as a great racial struggle, which the German race could either win or be completely wiped out by a stronger, superior power; soldiers at the front and their families at home knew that the war had to be won to safeguard a future for their children. As Stargardt argues, they could not wish for Germany's defeat not because they identified the war with National Socialism, but because they shared a deep sense of intergenerational responsibility which served as the strongest foundation for their patriotism. One soldier wrote that he fought precisely because he was an anti-Nazi: he fought for Germany, which only after defeat, after the end of the Hitler period, can exist again(...)never for the Third Reich.". Stargardt makes a solid argument that German war atrocities were widely known in Germany: "execution tourists" took photos of brutal murder of Polish civilians, and sent them home; soldiers wrote openly of the atrocities they either saw or committed. Soldiers often wrote quite frankly about the mass killing of Jews, even as censorship tightened; although taking photos was forbidden, spectators routinely photographed mass executions and sent the photo rolls home to be developed. As the tides of war turned and Germany found itself at war with Britain, Russia and America all at once, German propaganda began to describe the terrifying bombing of German cities as "Jewish terror"; the population was convinced that the bombing raids were retaliation for mass executions of Jews, and were even afraid that the advancing allied armies will employ their very own Jewish Einsatzgruppen, which would wage a bloody campaign of mass killings just as their own have done. As the war neared its end, the sense of guilt increasingly gave way to a sense of victimhood. Since Germany in the Nazi period was a totalitarian society which unified the party with the state and demanded total obedience and trust in the Nazi leadership and the Fuhrer, its people used precisely these factors to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility, putting the blame precisely on those whom they were told to trust for leading them into a disastrous catastrophe. The increasingly calamitous conditions of German civilians overshadowed any sense of responsibility for the suffering of German war victims, and by the time the Allied occupation of post-war Germany began German society was united again - this time in rejecting any idea of collective guilt: for many civilians the experience of defeat, hunger, mass death and expulsion made the first post-war years far, far worse than anything they have experienced during the war itself. In the last part of the book, Stargardt shows a truly fascinating and disturbing picture of a society emotionally detaching itself from its very recent past; theologians decrying the allied bombing of German cities while dismissing facts that it was Germany which waged war, despairing over the millions of expelled Germans while staying silent about millions killed to make space for German settlers. Worse still, allied surveyors discovered that not all wartime beliefs disappeared after the war: in 1945, "Jewish War" was still a popular explanation for American intervention - forgetting that it was Hitler who declared war on America after the Japanese army destroyed Pearl Harbor - and that the German defeat was best explained by the "power of the World Jewry". Even under Allied occupation in August 1945, interviewers found that 37% of the respondents thought that physical extermination of "Poles, Jews and other non-Aryans" was necessary to maintain security for Germany - confirming that most Germans were genuinely convinced that they fought a legitimate and defensive war. In August 1947 - two full years after the end of the war - American investigators conducted another poll, in which 55% of the respondents thought that National Socialism was "a good idea which was carried out badly". The level of support was even higher among those who were under 30, had at least a high school education, were Protestants, lived in Hesse and West Berlin - the figures reached 60-68%. To emphasize: this was a time when openly endorsing National Socialism was still a potentially capital offense. The German War: A Nation Under Arms is an excellent book for those who wish to understand how Germans perceived and reacted to the war. Stargardt has done great research and has written a compelling account on how both civilians and soldiers lived and what they thought during the Third Reich. Although I expected history composed less of personal accounts and more of a scholarly study of propaganda and its impact on the German populace, I have thoroughly enjoyed the book from beginning to end and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing the German perspective to the war an how it has developed and changed throughout and after it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    Although this book gives some interesting and in-depth information about the major battles of WWII, the main purpose of the author is to explain why the German volk continued to fight to the doors of the German Chancellery as Berlin was being destroyed around them. The war was lost and yet 60 year old men and 14 year old boys took up arms and sacrificed themselves for the "homeland" while the Nazi leadership huddled in the bunker below them. As one of my GR friends said in his review, "What were Although this book gives some interesting and in-depth information about the major battles of WWII, the main purpose of the author is to explain why the German volk continued to fight to the doors of the German Chancellery as Berlin was being destroyed around them. The war was lost and yet 60 year old men and 14 year old boys took up arms and sacrificed themselves for the "homeland" while the Nazi leadership huddled in the bunker below them. As one of my GR friends said in his review, "What were the Germans thinking?". The Wiemar Republic had been a disaster and when Hitler grabbed power, he approached society in a manner that appealed to the citizens.......homeland, blood ties, Aryan supremacy, exorcism of the defeat of WWI (the "stab in the back" belief), and one nation/one people. And he had the perfect man to instill and reinvigorate these principles and doctrines - his minister and master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. The public was inundated with the Nazi philosophies through different mediums and soon became of one mind......Deutschland Uber Alles. As the Allies approached Germany, the propaganda changed to sacrifice and fight to the last man. The people obeyed. As the "final solution" continued and the smoke continued to rise from the crematoriums , the public basically ignored what was really happening and continued to hate the Jews and abandon them from society, citizenship, and life. When the horrors of the death camps were clearly revealed at the end of the war, the average German declared that they had no responsibility and excused themselves from guilt. They insisted that it was not they who had responsibility for war leadership and politics. The book is filled with memoirs, diaries, letters, etc. from soldiers and families who suffered and died through the last years of the defeat and provides some insight into German thought about the war. and their encroaching feeling of being victimized. So, does this history really tell us what the Germans were thinking and how they justified their actions as their world was crumbling around them? Read this excellent book and then decide. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    The second world war from a German perspective in the form of letters and diary entries from ordinary people. The overriding impression is how eagerly an entire civilised nation become so stupid, self-righteous and brainwashed. Even the individuals who weren't Nazis bought the idea that Germany was fighting a defensive war, forced on them by "international Jewry" or colonial ambition on the part of the British. What was more depressing that even towards the end of the war these people were still The second world war from a German perspective in the form of letters and diary entries from ordinary people. The overriding impression is how eagerly an entire civilised nation become so stupid, self-righteous and brainwashed. Even the individuals who weren't Nazis bought the idea that Germany was fighting a defensive war, forced on them by "international Jewry" or colonial ambition on the part of the British. What was more depressing that even towards the end of the war these people were still deluding themselves with sentimental notions and visions of the German soldier as some kind of paragon of honour and virtue. It was interesting to discover many Germans believed the bombing raids on German cities were revenge for Germany's annihilation of the Jews. They clung on to the idea that Jews were pulling the world's strings until the very end. Probably I've read too many accounts of Jewish suffering to feel any sympathy for German individuals during the war and I felt little for any of the people in this book. When the war is over, the tendency seems to be to play the victim. Like Austria announcing itself as the first victim of Nazi repression. If there's any proof that Austrians on the whole were any less psychotically racist than the Germans I've not seen it. Much is made of the bombing of Dresden but it should be remembered that even when it was clear Germany had lost the war they not only carried on fighting "to the death" but sent children to fight and as a result tens of thousands of allied soldiers were being needlessly slaughtered every month. Also, that the Nazis were boasting of a secret weapon which no doubt was feared to be the atomic bomb. Nor that even at this late date the majority of Germans were still very much behind Hitler. It's to the credit of Germans that later generations have taken on board culpability, unlike the generations featured in this book who remained a deluded vainglorious shameful bunch who serve to personify the evils innate in mindless chest-beating nationalism. An interesting book rather than a must-read for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Geevee

    A very accessible and interesting account of German life and lives at war. It covers a number of topic areas that influenced or touched daily life including religion, air-raids, propaganda and news, theatre, rationing, industry, foreign/slave workers as well as hopes and dreams of people for the war and after. It is by nature of scale and people's involvement Eastern Front focussed alongside the home front but does cover war in the west. The extermination of Jews, Poles, Russians and others is c A very accessible and interesting account of German life and lives at war. It covers a number of topic areas that influenced or touched daily life including religion, air-raids, propaganda and news, theatre, rationing, industry, foreign/slave workers as well as hopes and dreams of people for the war and after. It is by nature of scale and people's involvement Eastern Front focussed alongside the home front but does cover war in the west. The extermination of Jews, Poles, Russians and others is covered and is very finely balanced when linked to how the German nation was told, knew, supported and accepted (or not) the war against Jewry. I would have liked some further detail on areas such as experiences of the Bund Deutscher Mädel [League of German Girls], the Hitler Youth, Volksturm, Reich Labour Service and also how for instance the German Post Office and say air raid precautions fared and worked. However, this is not to detract from the book but more shows the width of subjects touched and that more volumes could be covered (allowing for source material) for this reader's appetite. Photographs are well presented and of good quality as are maps. Notes and bibliography help the reader understand the source and offer further reading. The final chapter is illuminating in not only how some the correspondents and families fared but also how people in positions of authority ended up working in West (and East) German government offices. I found it fascinating how many former Gestapo, SS and SD men served in the West German Diplomatic Corps, the judiciary and Finance ministry. It also - briefly - covers the Victors' denazification programmes and how the German "victim" was emphasied by both East and West. Read alongside other histories by Richard J Evans, Richard Burleigh and Roger Moorehouse plus books on the home front of Britain it adds considerable interest and understanding to both Germany at war and people in general.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonny

    One of those oft - asked but never answered questions... Just what the hell were the Germans thinking? Quite often, it would appear, the answer would appear to be "why us?". Nicholas Stargardt attempts to puncture the myth of a nation of "Good Germans" victimised as bystanders in a war they neither wanted not supported through the examination of the experiences of German civilians and members of the military, often using the experiences of families both at home and on the front line. The book is e One of those oft - asked but never answered questions... Just what the hell were the Germans thinking? Quite often, it would appear, the answer would appear to be "why us?". Nicholas Stargardt attempts to puncture the myth of a nation of "Good Germans" victimised as bystanders in a war they neither wanted not supported through the examination of the experiences of German civilians and members of the military, often using the experiences of families both at home and on the front line. The book is eminently accessible, very readable and makes no bones that at least knowledge of, if not actual participation in, war crimes was widespread, especially in the East, and that this knowledge filtered back to the homefront, where people were pooling snippets of knowledge about the persecution of the Jews to build an incomplete, inaccurate only in the actual details, picture of the Final Solution. Indeed, by 1943 the building intensity of the British bombing campaign was blamed on "Anglo-Jewish" revenge for German Jewish policy (an awful lot of things seem to be the fault of the British, too). The effect and subtlety of propaganda is also finely balanced in determining how the attitudes of the population could be manipulated, and frequent examination of SD reports into public attitudes and how they have reacted to Goebels propaganda pepper the book. The final chapter with the post war period, the failure of the various de-Nazification programmes and the ridiculously rapid adoption of a cult of victimisation amongst the German populace - often ignoring or turning on its head the actual treatment meted out by Germans (the bombing war being a case in point). Finely balanced (who'd have thought that the Gestapo balanced their investigations with examinations of the motives and backgrounds of the purple they were investigating?) this is an excellent 5* read. One everyone ought to pick up.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is a very thorough examination of 1939-45 through German eyes. It takes us from the exultation of the conquering of France to the abyss of 1944-45. The author makes no excuses for this genocidal and racist regime. The German people supported the war, more so after their traditional enemy France was subdued in June of 1940. Several issues stand-out in this book: From the letters written from Poland and then from the Soviet Union there could be little doubt that the vast majority of the German p This is a very thorough examination of 1939-45 through German eyes. It takes us from the exultation of the conquering of France to the abyss of 1944-45. The author makes no excuses for this genocidal and racist regime. The German people supported the war, more so after their traditional enemy France was subdued in June of 1940. Several issues stand-out in this book: From the letters written from Poland and then from the Soviet Union there could be little doubt that the vast majority of the German populace knew that their soldiers were complicit in mass atrocities in eastern Europe. Page 233 (my book) Throughout the summer and autumn of 1941 there were many German eyewitnesses, and photographic evidence flooded back to Germany… spectators at mass executions routinely snapped pictures, including images of each other photographing the scene. The Red Army found thousands of images of killing sites in the uniform pockets of German prisoners and dead, kept next to pictures of their families, wives, and children. The German people also saw the war as an avenge reversal for 1918. For myriad reasons they did not feel defeated in 1918, they felt betrayed and humiliated. Page 77 Holding out against the “spirit of November 1918” featured as a measure of their own salvation. To fail for a second time would prove that Germany was not God’s chosen nation. This national Protestant version of German redemption was just a variant in an anti-liberal and anti-democratic culture which strove to overcome the German disaster of 1918… In the early 1920’s German culture had been awash with predictions of post-war decay, decline and degeneration. These dire predictions had been overturned by the “national rebirth” in 1933. They saw the invasion and defeat of France and then the attack on the Soviet Union as inevitable – as a task to be done now, so as to avoid passing the “problem” to future generations. The Nazi leadership, particularly Goebbels, were masters of propaganda. For example, the Katyn massacre by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) was blamed on the Jewish Bolsheviks and gave a foretaste of what could happen if Soviet troops and Jewry ever reached Germany. Also, Katyn was used successfully to divide the Allies, creating a gulf between the Soviet Union and Britain/U.S. As mentioned, the German populace, while avoiding direct discussion of the Final Solution was aware of what was happening. Hitler’s prophecy speech of January 1939 in which he stated that a new world war would lead not to the destruction of the Germans, but to the destruction of the Jews was used again. Page 243 Hitler repeated his “prophecy” in his public speeches no less than four times in 1942, now using the unmistakable “Ausrottung” – extermination. The Volkische Beobachter followed its’ masters voice on 27 of February 1942, screaming, “The Jew will be exterminated!” Page 244 The deportation to the death camps also involved too many different authorities for them ever to have been kept secret. Whether they were soldiers observing the shootings, railwaymen running the deportation trains or local government officials making sure that keys were handed over before their occupants left, all these people… passed their nuggets of knowledge into the general circulation of information. The Germans were convinced of their racial superiority over other people. In many ways Word War II was a race war for the German people to get what they felt was rightfully there’s. Slavs, Poles, Russians, Roma and especially Jews were seen as unworthy of life. Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine were to be used as part of Germany’s colonial empire and settled by Germans. The lands, villages and homes were simply expropriated of their inhabitants. Page 138 A student volunteer reflected on her own reaction to watching the SS herd Polish villagers into a shed during one such eviction. “Sympathy with these creatures? No, at most I felt quietly appalled that such people exist, people who are in their very being so infinitely alien and incomprehensible to us that there is no way to reach them. For the first time in our lives, people whose life or death is a matter of indifference.” Page 207 by February 1942 Two million Soviet prisoners had perished in German custody. Page 299 At least 2.4 million people were worked to death in Germany itself following the military crisis of 1941-42. Interestingly when Allied bombing (called “terror bombing”) started to destroy large tracts of German cities this was blamed on Jewish revenge for what had happened to them. This pulverisation fitted well into German cultures obsession with a descent into the abyss. This became a fixation of an apocalyptic struggle in 1944-45. War was viewed as an essential part of human nature. Page 467 Lisa de Boor November/1944 “The most miraculous stroke of fate that the German always brings his inner strength, the power of his spirit, to fruition when the trends of the outward world are most unfavourable.” This outlook of struggle and survival contributed to avoiding the prime issue of responsibility. The author has an excellent last chapter on after the war citing several religious leaders (Protestant and Catholic) revering the German soldier as being honourable and doing their heroic duty. This book presents many aspects of the German War and how they were troubled by their own predicament of their sons, husbands, and/or brothers dying or missing at the front, their homes burnt or obliterated by Allied bombing – but also their obfuscation of what caused this -the invasions of Poland, Belgium, Holland, France, the Soviet Union… the millions of destitute foreign workers in their country, the forced removal of German Jews from their homes – and the subsequent bidding for their belongings and houses. The author mentions that some were anti-Nazis, but they still supported the war which raises the question of how this was different from being a Nazi? This book is powerful indictment of Germany for this time period. But one cannot but be impressed that today Germany is a wonderful example of a democratic country.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have read many books about the Second World War, including many about the Home Front. However, this really is something different – a look at how the German people experienced the war and how those, from many viewpoints, witnessed unfolding events. This book takes us from 1939 and the outbreak of war to the total destruction of 1945. The author takes many different witnesses and uses letters, and diaries, from the time, to help give us a clear picture of how people responded to events. There a I have read many books about the Second World War, including many about the Home Front. However, this really is something different – a look at how the German people experienced the war and how those, from many viewpoints, witnessed unfolding events. This book takes us from 1939 and the outbreak of war to the total destruction of 1945. The author takes many different witnesses and uses letters, and diaries, from the time, to help give us a clear picture of how people responded to events. There are soldiers, their wives, girlfriends and parents, Jewish Germans, Jehovah’s Witnesses and people from every walk of life. It is clear that most Germans, like those people caught up in events in other countries, did not want war – it is also clear that most blamed England for not accepting Hitler’s attempts to make peace. As Hitler blustered about not wanting war, while fearing that he would not get the chance to have military success after the humiliation of World War I, then most people convinced themselves that war was forced upon them. However, while war was distant for most German people in the early days, it was clear that disturbing events were being voiced. While victory seemed easy and France fell, Germany conquered Poland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands, Hitler continually offered Britain peace in his speeches and laid the responsibility for prolonging war at their door. Meanwhile, the Church reported on the murder of the handicapped, those unwilling to fight were killed, or sent to camps, and rumours abounded. For those who suggest that the Germans knew nothing about the Holocaust, or the murder of the handicapped, and others, in their country, it is clear that – even if many did not know the facts – letters returned to wives, girlfriends and parents, which were oddly un-censored. There were lots of reports from the front about the burning of villages, the killings of Jews and civilians, and, much disquiet from many of the men involved. Some tried to justify the massacres they had been involved in. Gradually, the men became brutalised and harder to shock. They were involved in terrible events and wondered what they could report home safely. Meanwhile, there is much about the role of the Church in this times and the way they were outraged about some events, but not others; most notably most not coming to the aid of the Jews. This book looks at the Russian front, the starvation of those in the East, the shock of bombs falling on Germany and, finally, the ‘total war,’ as it became apparent that Germany was going to lose. Again, with those from the concentration camps being used to clear up, the prisoners were actually visible to those living in the bombed out cities. Many felt shame, or realised that they would have to answer for what had happened. Others poured scorn and blame on the pitiable people before them, perhaps feeling a confusion of shame and outrage for the situation they found themselves in. This is certainly a fascinating, interesting, and often moving, read. It helps explain the feelings of normal, German people, who started with the heady excitement of success and descended into the reality of fear, loss, death and collective guilt. Abandoned by their leaders, faced with the savage anger of an invading Russian army and besieged, this really is a tragic tale of the many witnesses of war. Although often uncomfortable reading, I am glad that I read it and felt it gave many different perspectives, to help you understand the experience of the average person. This would make an excellent documentary series.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Numidica

    I chose this book hoping to get a better understanding of why the German people went to war and fought so desperately hard, right to the end, for what many of them thought at the time was a bad cause, or at least a cause unlikely to succeed. I learned a bit of the answer, but certainly not as much as I was hoping to. I lived in Germany for three years in the 1980's, and a very close friend's wife is German; I have dealt with Germans on an ongoing basis for work for the last 25 years, so I think I chose this book hoping to get a better understanding of why the German people went to war and fought so desperately hard, right to the end, for what many of them thought at the time was a bad cause, or at least a cause unlikely to succeed. I learned a bit of the answer, but certainly not as much as I was hoping to. I lived in Germany for three years in the 1980's, and a very close friend's wife is German; I have dealt with Germans on an ongoing basis for work for the last 25 years, so I think I understand them a bit. There is a quote from Goethe: "I have often felt a bitter sorrow at the thought of the German people, which is so estimable in the individual and so wretched in the generality." Germans really do fit the stereotype of being reliable, punctual, hard-working, and so on, or they did in my experience. And they are rule-followers. Hitler knew this, and he used it to wreck Europe, Germany included, but this does not absolve the Germans of responsibility for the war, and the book reveals this in the words of the people who lived through 1939-45. Stargardt starts his account in 1939 with the invasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht, but anyone wanting to learn the context must go back to the militarization of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, and finally the negotiated acquisition by Hitler of the Sudetenland, followed by the occupation of the rump Czech lands. Fortunately, I recently finished a history of the Habsburg Empire, which helped me understand the pre-WW1 antecedents, e.g., why there were German “colonies” in the Sudetenland, Poland, Hungary, Romania and elsewhere. Hitler leveraged the presence of these ethnic Germans to fabricate claims in the east, but generally Hitler was fairly direct about his desire for Lebensraum, and he forthrightly declared that might makes right, and that he would eradicate Poles, and later, Russians, to create new German states. The author uses excerpts from hundreds of letters from ordinary Germans to show what they were thinking at the time, and he weaves in data from German government polls and surveys conducted during the war to illustrate the national mood. With few exceptions, Stargardt does not cover battles in detail, but he gives the flow of events context through the letters. One thing it is easy to forget is that in 1939, the Great Depression was still had Germany firmly in its grip, and countries’ poverty increased the further east one went. So while Germans were astounded by the bounty they found in France (“real butter, real coffee!”) they were equally appalled by the conditions in which they found Russians living. The letters reveal what historians have pointed out: Stalin had so mistreated his people that Germans were often greeted as liberators – until the SS showed up to deal with rear area security. There were at least two ways in which Hitler threw away any chance of victory in Russia: first he started his invasion at least a month too late, so that the Russian winter stopped the Wehrmacht before it could get to Moscow, and second, the harsh treatment (murder) of the Russians in the territories occupied by German forces meant the Wehrmacht was always hamstrung by the need to secure its rear areas against partisan attacks. A third way he ensured defeat, is that Hitler’s Armies were in no way prepared for the Russian winter, or for the logistical challenges of supplying themselves over the thousand-mile distances from the Reich to the front lines. At times, one feels for the average German who perhaps did not even support Hitler (and it is a fact that the majority of Germans did not vote for him for Chancellor in 1933), but felt duty-bound to answer his call-up notice and report for service in the Army. But then a comment will emerge from a page of a letter about “the necessity to deal with the Jews (or Poles, or Russians)”, or even something more explicitly worded about killing the "lesser races", and that sympathy collapses. As the war went on, Germans began to feel, perhaps rightly, that having mounted the tiger, it was best to remain in the saddle than to try to get off. But a few disagreed. I chuckled at the story of a German veteran of the invasion of Poland and the Battle of France, a grizzled sergeant, who was sent to the Russian front. As his unit made its way east, this NCO talked to more and more German soldiers returning from the front who explained how bad it was. Finally, the sergeant said to himself, “this is just too stupid”, and he slipped away from his unit and headed west, using his gruff, laconic veteran NCO exterior to bluff his way all the way back to Germany. He then boarded a train whose route came close to the Swiss border, where he jumped the train, crossed into Switzerland, and turned himself in. His answer to the Swiss interrogators as to why he deserted, was simple, “I saw no reason to die in Russia”. He lived out the war in Switzerland and then returned to his farm in Austria, where he lived and farmed for another sixty years, unrepentant for deserting. In the general population, however, a significant drop-off in support for the Nazi Party did not come until 1945, when it was becoming clear that the war was lost. Despite a handful of resistors, like The White Rose group, and the July 20th plotters, the majority followed orders even when the orders included shooting civilians - including children. Feelings of shame for their actions finally began to emerge as the war ground on in the letters soldiers sent home to wives and sweethearts. In fairness, one must remember how the Nazis dealt with backsliders; in the US, conscientious objectors during WW2 had the option to become medics; in Germany, they were executed. In the US Army in WW2, one (1) soldier was shot for desertion; in Germany, at least 50,000 deserters were shot, and it is likely the number was higher. So if one chose to follow one’s conscience, death was likely to attend your steps, as they say. Germans also fought because they felt they were protecting their country from "the Asiatic hordes", and they had seen enough of how Stalin treated his own people to know how he would treat Germans. But the reason the German Army survived the winter of 1941-42 in Russia was the inherent grit and sense of duty of common German soldiers, even in the face of inadequate food, clothing, and equipment. After the failure to take Moscow, and with the entry of the US into the war in December 1941, the war was effectively over (as Charles de Gaulle declared on the day he learned that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor), but Germany would not let it be over for three and a half more years. Some Germans were disgusted enough by the wanton killing of prisoners, Jews, and other marginalized groups to say so in their letters, but a vanishingly small number were willing to act. And even if the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler had succeeded, it is likely that Himmler or Bormann would have taken charge, quashed the plotters, and the war would have gone on. And so then, the Holocaust. This is the hardest thing to understand. I must find a book to explain anti-semitism to me, because I don’t understand it. A major finding in the contemporary letters, by Stargardt and others, is that Germans did know what was happening to the Jews; perhaps not in detail, but they knew they were being killed, exterminated, not "re-settled" as the Nazis claimed initially. The letters reveal this knowledge over and over in lesser or greater detail, and it was most clear in the last year of the war, when many letters expressed the belief that Germany was being punished "for what we did to the Jews". It was not until years after the war, in Richard von Weisacker’s famous speech of 1985 that a high official of Germany accepted full responsibility for what happened to the Jews, whereas in the ten to twenty years following the war, there were concerted efforts to conceal the extent of the collaboration of the people with their leaders in the Final Solution. There were a small number of Germans during the war who refused to believe that “such things are really being done”, but that was willful ignorance. They knew. As the war entered its last year, the German Army finally felt the massive resources of the Allies begin to crush them. There has been a lot of nonsense written about German “miracle weapons” like the V2, and jet fighters, and Tiger tanks. Did the Germans have some very high-quality weapons? Yes, but such weapons are useless without the fuel to run them, the pilots to fly them, or ability to manufacture them in significant numbers. Exempli gratia: the Germans built 2,000 Tiger Tanks in WW2; but the Russians built 64,000 T-34 tanks, and the US built 50,000 Sherman tanks. The German fighters were handily outclassed by American P-51 fighters in both quality and numbers. Virtually every U-boat which left harbor after 1943 was destroyed because Germany had lost its surface navy, and the sheer numbers of Allied vessels made each U-boat sortie a suicide mission. As one German arms ministry director said, by January 1945 the German effort against the Allies was not really a war, it was an imitation of a war. The Germans never developed an arms industry equal to the task that Hitler had set the nation to perform. By the way, in a truly impartial post-war court, not only would Nazis have gone to the gallows, but Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris and Churchill would have been convicted of war crimes for at least the bombing of Dresden, if not many other cities. In the case of Dresden, they knew, knew for certain that there was no military reason for destroying that city. Even Churchill called it a "terror bombing". Nothing justifies the incineration of children, not even when the parents of those children may have incinerated Jews or others. If killing children is not a crime, then nothing is a crime. It is a sad fact that more than 50% of all civilian deaths from bombing in Germany occurred in the last six months of the war, when everyone knew that Germany was already defeated. One of the things that resonated with me is the degree to which many educated German soldiers fell back on literature and poetry as a key spiritual support to get them through whatever horrendous experience they found themselves in. Many, many soldiers remembered poetry from Holderlin, quotes from Goethe, arias from Mozart to help them cope. Sadly, this love of culture did not seem to increase their compassion or empathy, or at least, not enough. So why did the Germans fight for six long years? In the beginning, because Hitler told them to, and most people initially had confidence in Hitler, who, up until 1941 had always been a successful gambler. Later they fought because they knew they had to defeat Russia to prevent the destruction of Germany via retribution. And in some ways they fought because it became a habit after years of war. Such a sad vicious circle and such disgusting ringmasters in the form of the Nazi leadership. The only analog in American history is the Civil War, in which the South fought for a cause which was demonstrably wrong and equally unlikely to succeed – perhaps that is a starting point for Americans trying to understand the German point of view.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The German War – What the Germans Really Knew Since 1945 many books have been written about Germany and the action of its people’s during the Second World War, what we have not had in that time is what the German people actually thought. Nicholas Stargardt attempts to change that with The German War, using testimony from those who lived through the period, as well as letters home from the front. One thing I do need to state for a book that is an academic study is that this book is an enjoyable re The German War – What the Germans Really Knew Since 1945 many books have been written about Germany and the action of its people’s during the Second World War, what we have not had in that time is what the German people actually thought. Nicholas Stargardt attempts to change that with The German War, using testimony from those who lived through the period, as well as letters home from the front. One thing I do need to state for a book that is an academic study is that this book is an enjoyable read whether you agree with the conclusion that is a different matter. One of the important things about this book is that Stargardt brings together so many different sources, from a wide range of people. This book takes its testimony from all sections of German society of the time as all views are important in this book, so we receive the views of soldier, housewives, teachers as well as active Nazis, Christians and the persecuted Jews. So what we, the reader, learn of the political concerns, but also of their hopes and fears. One of the biggest themes throughout the book is that the war is viewed as an ‘intrusion’ in their daily lives. Also in The German War, Stargardt challenges the idea that the ordinary citizen did not know anything about the round up and murder of Jews. Especially as soldiers returning home on leave or injured tell about the round ups and the systematic murder of Jews in all territories they occupy. 1943 is seen as an important year for the Germans when they had suffered on the battlefield with loss after loss and territory given up. But when there is an attempt on Hitler’s life, the population were relieved that Hilter had survived. Stargardt also shows the losses that were felt on the home front due to the allied bombing campaign in which 420,000 lost their lives many after August 1944 when the German’s were losing on all fronts. The author also suggests that on every day in 1945 until the surrender cost 10,000 German soldiers lives, a heavy toll indeed. Even with these losses the German people still felt that the war was legitimate, which may seem odd to those of us not from Germany at the time. As any student of German History is aware that throughout the 1920s and 30s, most German’s felt the humiliation of the Great War betrayal at Versailles, which helped to motivate the people. This also helped the Nazi’s messages of humiliation by German Jews at Versailles in surrendering so much to the victors. What The German War does do is challenge the perceptions about what the German’s knew about what was going on in their name throughout the war. That this was not a war of honour, but a very cruel and callous war that led ultimately to the use of genocide. The book is brilliant at bringing a personal context to the theme of the war and what happened after the invasion of Poland. An important history of Germany that has been needed for a long time and also certainly challenges a lot of what we thought we knew and uses excellent source material to prove his arguments. An excellent and very readable book that has the opportunity to open one’s eyes to what German’s actually knew.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    One thing always bothers any Western scholar is to understand how a modern nation could so completely buy into a genocidal war. How could a nation with brilliant writers, composers and intellectuals buy into, in a wholesale way, the conspiracy theory that the Jews, this small subgroup, actually ruled the entire world, had absolute power over every nation...the very concept defies logic. That almost an entire nation could believe that Slavs were so sub-human that their extermination whether throu One thing always bothers any Western scholar is to understand how a modern nation could so completely buy into a genocidal war. How could a nation with brilliant writers, composers and intellectuals buy into, in a wholesale way, the conspiracy theory that the Jews, this small subgroup, actually ruled the entire world, had absolute power over every nation...the very concept defies logic. That almost an entire nation could believe that Slavs were so sub-human that their extermination whether through slaughter or starvation was totally acceptable so that Germans could have more farmland and forests to hike through. One thing that has to be understood is that Antisemitism was rife throughout Europe and Russia and that few national governments could absolve themselves of their complicity in the Holocaust. It is something that has haunted me since my 20s. One thing I think of is the reality that Europe had been at war for hundreds and hundreds of years with its neighboring nations, experiencing ever changing borders, taking turns occupying each others territories. This allowed them to culturally create their own myths about themselves and those they perceived as enemies. It is hard not to see the communal hatred of the 'other', regardless of past alliances to wage war against the enemy of the moment. It is not that I am blind to the excesses of my own nation, the genocidal war we waged against Native Americans, the dehumanization and violence perpetrated against Negros and Mexicans, or the Filipinos who we incarcerated in concentration camps every bit as horrid as any Nazi camp. But as large and as populated as our country is, I could never imagine that it could rise in one voice and belief that entire races of peoples could be eliminated for the greater good. Nicholas Stargardt focuses this text on the attitudes, beliefs and motivations of the German populace at large, how they internalized Nazi propaganda, and bought into genocidal policies and rationalized their implementation...this was a very religious nation where 94% of the German population were practicing Christians and Catholics. The book opens on the German move into the territories they felt they rightfully owned and against their enemy Poland. I was drawn to a paragraph on page 41 and read it several times: '...Heydrick grasped their opportunity to organize the 'action against the intelligentsia' - the liquidation of the Polish elite. Key targets were teachers, priests, academics, officers and officials, landowners, politicians and journalists. All became libel to arrest, summary execution or deportation to concentration camps where further mass executions could be carried out. Pursuing their own ideological common sense, militias and 'Einstatzkommandos' routinely included Jews as well as psychiatric patents in their 'actions' without seeking further clarification. The largest massacres were conducted by ethnic German militias, often acting under SD and Gestapo command, in former West Prussian towns. Six thousand were shot in the woods around Piasnica/Neustadt, 7000 in Szpedawsk (PreuBish-Stargard), and at Kochborowo 1,692 asylum patients were killed. On the Gruppa parade ground 6,500 Poles and Jews from Graudenz were shot while 3,000 were killed in Lszkowko. In Minsk 10,000-12,000 Poles and Jews from the Schwetz area were shot in gravel pits. Some 3,000 Jews and Poles were killed on the airstrip at Fordon and in the sand dunes of Miedzyn by Gestapo, SS and militiamen. In the woodland of Rusinowo (Kreis Rippin) the militia shot 4,200 people, and by 15 November members of the militia and the Wermacht had executed 8,000 people in the forests near Karlshof. In the absence of complete figures, some order of magnitude is suggested by the fact that these major 'actions', in each of which more than a thousand people had been killed, alone accounted for over 65,000 deaths. Of these 20,000-30,000 people were killed by local German militias. The overall death toll in the first months of German occupation must be far higher still. Already, these massacres set a new precedent even in the bloodstained annals of Hitler's regime. They would serve as the starting point for the future campaigns in the east." It is hard to grasp, these were not mobs run a muck like the Irish riots which swept New York against Negros where the death toll reached 120, and petered out from exhaustion of chasing and beating and killing. These were not combat deaths, they were organized and orchestrated 'actions' that occurred after the governments' surrendered: where people were rounded up, and marched and/or transported to sites where bullet by bullet men raised their guns in close quarters and shot over 65,000 people to death in two months. Not that there had never been state violence against civilians, but the scale of slaughter aimed racially at Poles, Jews and Slavs as part of a theory of pacification and the cleansing of occupied territories is still beyond imagination. I think of the men of my father's generation and can not imagine any circumstance that could induce them to personally kill 65,000 human beings standing just feet away from them in any time period much less with in two months, not that there were not misdeeds in the chaos of war, because I know full well there was...but such a personal and intimate slaughter of civilians at this rate: not possible. I have known survivors of that war, who were both German who were perpetrators and have know survivors from the camps and from forests and basements that somehow held out for five long years. I have read many of the immediate post-war histories that absolved the German people...it was only a few bad apples, those ideologues...the SS the SD the true Nazis, regular Germans had no idea what was being done in their names. Yet survivors I met were well aware of the killings and later the death camps. One acquaintance who was a teenager at the time told me how when visiting her grandmother the whole town could smell the sickly sweet smoke from the crematories, if she knew at 13 I know the adults knew full well. This one paragraph listing the known massacres in the first months after Poland fell was particularly chilling because when they occurred the reader knows that the concept of a genocidal 'total war' against the east was forth coming, with deliberation that their actions would cause the deaths of 30,000,000 plus people either through the hunger wars or outright murder: and those figures while they ended up being a grave under estimate were totally acceptable. My father and my uncles knew full well that they killed many enemy soldiers, they knew that there was going to be considerable civilian causalities that were part of their assignments of bombing or shelling targets, but they took no pleasure in the killing, and to some extent it wore on them, but they knew that in war there would be causalities. The wholesale slaughter of civilians, or even the belief that any group of people were so sub-human that they could be treated in this way was beyond their frame of reference. It is interesting how churches and religious people rationalized this concept of an existential 'total war' wherein the land would be cleansed of all enemies, each man woman and child. The people the author selected to be followed through this period and their letters and recollections is a very reveling look into the minds of a nation who perceived that others had started and were waging the war against them, and that they were in mortal fear of having others do unto them what they had done.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Cole

    I hope one day to write a more detailed review of this important book. For now, I'll only say it's fantastic: easy to read and enlightening. I appreciate histories that don't focus on the major players but draw instead from the rich source material provided by everyday Germans through the form of letters, diaries, etc. One soldier, in particular, made an impression on me. He wrote his girlfriend constantly, and the letters sound like they could've been written by Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Aft I hope one day to write a more detailed review of this important book. For now, I'll only say it's fantastic: easy to read and enlightening. I appreciate histories that don't focus on the major players but draw instead from the rich source material provided by everyday Germans through the form of letters, diaries, etc. One soldier, in particular, made an impression on me. He wrote his girlfriend constantly, and the letters sound like they could've been written by Joker from Full Metal Jacket. After decades of books pushing the view of World War II as "The Good War," a few decades have now passed with histories focusing on aspects that weren't so good. With this book, the War (in my mind) keeps from going too far in that latter direction. It strives, I think, to be balanced to a fault. I find this healthy. We should always condemn what was bad, praise what was good - across the board.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lee Osborne

    This book is a fascinating account of World War 2 as it was experienced by a wide range of different people - civilians, soldiers, Nazis and their victims. The author uses letters and diaries to follow and examine the opinions and motivations of Germans as the war first went in their favour before later going very badly wrong, causing the country to collapse in almost apocalyptic destruction. Moving, detailed and very engrossing, although extremely sobering - the ruination and death resulting fr This book is a fascinating account of World War 2 as it was experienced by a wide range of different people - civilians, soldiers, Nazis and their victims. The author uses letters and diaries to follow and examine the opinions and motivations of Germans as the war first went in their favour before later going very badly wrong, causing the country to collapse in almost apocalyptic destruction. Moving, detailed and very engrossing, although extremely sobering - the ruination and death resulting from the war was just unbelievable. There's lessons here for all who will listen, for sure.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bfisher

    Unlike 1918 Hohenzollern Germany, Nazi Germany did not collapse either militarily or socially; it ended when most of Germany’s cities were destroyed, most of its armed forces were lost by combat attrition, and most of its territory was occupied. This books provides some explanation for Nazi Germany’s extraordinary cohesion down to the bitter end, via the documented war experiences of a cross-section of mostly ordinary German soldiers and civilians.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Brilliant. What an ineresting way to look at history - through the lens of letters and correspondence between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, colleagues, managers and subordinates. Add in some futher more ' official' historical documentation and marry that with general history timelines and what you get is a fascinating look at what real Germans were thinking and doing in the lead up to, during, and just after WW2. Really really compelling stuff. Brilliant. What an ineresting way to look at history - through the lens of letters and correspondence between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, colleagues, managers and subordinates. Add in some futher more ' official' historical documentation and marry that with general history timelines and what you get is a fascinating look at what real Germans were thinking and doing in the lead up to, during, and just after WW2. Really really compelling stuff.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    This was a fascinating account of life for the people "on the other side" in WWII. Although Nicholas Stargardt is an Oxonian academic, he certainly does not write like one. Through historical research, diaries, and letters, this author brings a realistic and highly readable depiction of daily life and the moods the German population went through from the outbreak of the war to its devastating conclusion with the Allied occupation. Although I was concerned that it would be difficult to track all o This was a fascinating account of life for the people "on the other side" in WWII. Although Nicholas Stargardt is an Oxonian academic, he certainly does not write like one. Through historical research, diaries, and letters, this author brings a realistic and highly readable depiction of daily life and the moods the German population went through from the outbreak of the war to its devastating conclusion with the Allied occupation. Although I was concerned that it would be difficult to track all of the various persons whose accounts he outlines, Stargardt had a knack for mentioning at least the key personae frequently enough so that you can, with some effort, keep track of who was who. Neither does he get bogged down into personal day-to-day details; he instead is able to bring forth the philosophical and psychological aspects, which is something I am most interested in learning about when it comes to German thinking under the Nazis. Probably one of the most interesting psychological effects discussed in the book, is Stargardt's examination of what he calls "the spiral of silence", in which the German people are subtly allowed access to enough rumours and second-hand evidence to "know about" what is happening to the Jews in their name, but not enough to quite openly discuss it and potentially act against it. Foreign criticism of Germany's treatment of the Jews is scoffed at by the high leaders, but never really denied. In this way, Goebbels, who Stargardt believed actively managed this effect, was able to put a Sword of Damocles above the head of each citizen. The terrible deeds happening in the east are known but not known. They are subtly and privately realized in the imagination of each German, and this in itself is a powerful deterrent from surrendering to the Allies. Goebbels doesn't quite need to say openly, "Do you dare to surrender, given the terrible persecution and killing of the Jews done in your name?" It is unspoken, but suggested, and ultimately understood. This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the events of WWII and how they affected the German people as individuals and as a nation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gerbrand

    After I read earlier this year The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littel I became interested in the Second World War written from a German perspective. Nicholas Stargardt is exactly doing that. From 1939 to 1945 we follow ordinary Germans. At the front and at home. Stargardt uses their letters and diary entries and we learn what goes on in their minds and hearts. And how they experience the various phases of the war. Throughout the book you also get a better understanding of the importance of Nazi prop After I read earlier this year The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littel I became interested in the Second World War written from a German perspective. Nicholas Stargardt is exactly doing that. From 1939 to 1945 we follow ordinary Germans. At the front and at home. Stargardt uses their letters and diary entries and we learn what goes on in their minds and hearts. And how they experience the various phases of the war. Throughout the book you also get a better understanding of the importance of Nazi propaganda. Almost everything was blamed on the Jews. The allied bombing of Hamburg (July 1943) and Berlin (November 1943) and all other bombings later were referred to by the public as Allied punishment or Jewish retaliation. If these bombings or the losing battle in the east let to defeatism, the Nazi regime reacted like this: “On 6 October 1943, Himmler took the unprecedented step of addressing the wider Nazi leadership gathered in Posen, telling them how he had dealt with ‘the problem of defeatism’ through a small number of exemplary executions of those talking out of turn: We will never catch every winger and neither do we want to do so…Those who are caught have to pay the price – that is after all the point of any law – and by their death serve as a lesson and a warning to thousands of others, so that they don’t unwisely do the same. The small, selective wave of terror against individuals accused of spreading the same ‘defeatist rumours’ which the SD continued to report from all across Germany was meant to demonstrate where the limits of public speech lay. In the same address at Posen, Himmler made the first explicit announcement about the extermination of the Jews. This was hardly news to his audience, but it was different for the Reich leaders and Gauleiters to be told officially and bound to secrecy. Himmler told them, ‘I believe it is better, we – we collectively – have done this for our people, have taken the responsibility on ourselves – the responsibility for a deed not just for an idea – and we then carry the secret with us to our graves.” After the war, the Americans held several polls in Germany. In August 1947 still 55% endorsed the proposition that National Socialism had been ‘a good idea carried out badly’. A fascinating read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rick Slane

    I have been looking for books like this. The focus here is not on the leaders but more on common men and women. I always wondered how the masses could follow the Nazis through to the end of the war. The answers are complicated by many factors many going back to World War I. The support of the Nazis does not necessarily make sense to me but I understand it better after reading this history. One of the chilling lines from the author was that at the beginning of 1942 most of the Jews in Europe were I have been looking for books like this. The focus here is not on the leaders but more on common men and women. I always wondered how the masses could follow the Nazis through to the end of the war. The answers are complicated by many factors many going back to World War I. The support of the Nazis does not necessarily make sense to me but I understand it better after reading this history. One of the chilling lines from the author was that at the beginning of 1942 most of the Jews in Europe were still alive but at the end of 1942 the majority were not. Many Germans thought the Allied bombing was a response to what was being done to the Jews.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    this book really delivers what it promises . You get the point view of the war from the people that were not necessarily active members of it, you get to see how normal lives were affected by a war that touched every aspect of the German nation. It doesn't give you a really deep look inside the war but there are plenty of books out there about that, no this book deals with the changes that civilians had to put up with at the beginning of the war and it also deals sparsely with the why the german this book really delivers what it promises . You get the point view of the war from the people that were not necessarily active members of it, you get to see how normal lives were affected by a war that touched every aspect of the German nation. It doesn't give you a really deep look inside the war but there are plenty of books out there about that, no this book deals with the changes that civilians had to put up with at the beginning of the war and it also deals sparsely with the why the german people felt like they "had" to fight with the tenacity in which they did, all the way to the end. A great read altogether.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “The German War: a nation under arms, 1939-1945,” by Nicholas Stargardt (Basic Books, 2015). This is simultaneously a work of tremendous scholarship and research; a mesmerizing, even page-turning account of World War II as seen, thought, felt and lived by Germans; a terrifying, disturbing portrait of thoroughly cruel, ruthless, and inhuman humans can be; and an infuriating recounting of how quickly the perpetrators of unfortunately too-imaginable atrocities can deflect, deny, and forget what the “The German War: a nation under arms, 1939-1945,” by Nicholas Stargardt (Basic Books, 2015). This is simultaneously a work of tremendous scholarship and research; a mesmerizing, even page-turning account of World War II as seen, thought, felt and lived by Germans; a terrifying, disturbing portrait of thoroughly cruel, ruthless, and inhuman humans can be; and an infuriating recounting of how quickly the perpetrators of unfortunately too-imaginable atrocities can deflect, deny, and forget what they did in the war. Stargardt uses letters, diaries, newspapers, concert programs, speeches, internal documents---every type of historic material imaginable, including a few interviews with men and women still alive when he was doing the research. Several things beside Nazi ideology motivated German behavior during the war: the sense that Germany had been betrayed and not defeated during World War I; and the deep belief in a German people and nation that had a grand role and destiny to be played out in the world (this last nourished by the depth and richness of German poetry, music, art, and literature. Hitler described Germany as surrounded by enemies driven by Jews to destroy the nation; the great majority of Germans accepted that. The French and the British were implacable enemies; the Germans accepted that. By the time of the invasion of Poland, Germans accepted without demur the fiction that the Poles had attacked first, and that Poles had been carrying out vicious attacks on Germans within Poland. Right until the end of the war, despite all the horrors that were visited upon them by Allied bombing and Soviet brutality, most Germans believed that Germany would triumph, or at least would join an Anglo-American alliance against the Bolsheviks. At the same time, Germans did not want a war. They remembered the privations of World War I and did not want to live through that again. When the fighting began they were stoic and accepting, and went to war with conviction if not wild enthusiasm. Soldiers did see the terrible things they were doing to civilians---Poles, Russians, Slavs, and above all, Jews. Many of them were disturbed by what they saw and what they did, but almost never to the point of refusing to do it. They knew the Jews were their enemies, after all. The Nazis were expert propagandists whose informers and internal spies kept very close and sophisticated watch on the mood and morale of the nation. Not until late 1944, when continuous destruction of their cities from the air, and the constant retreat of their armies forced them to realize there was no salvation, did they stop believing that Hitler and his regime had secret weapons and would visit massive retaliation and vengeance on their tormentors. Stargardt vividly documents the quality of life within the Reich, the feelings of the soldiers (who never, ever gave up), their personal lives and dreams for the postwar future. The German social and governmental structure did not collapse until there was no way physically to continue: trains ran, food was distributed, mail was delivered, schools were open. All of this is very disturbing to read. And in the epilogue, Stargardt demonstrates that not only were former Nazis prominent figures in both East and West Germany after the war, but that Germans as a whole almost immediately began to deny that they knew what was happening, that anyone outside a small cadre was involved. He describes struggles between the Church, Catholic and Protestant, and the Party---but these were mostly struggles for power, not about the morality of what Germans were doing. One slightly hopeful note I take from this: there really is no sense of an American nation in the US, not in the way of the German nation. Even though there is a large mass of European-American whites who consider themselves the only real Americans, the country as a whole is far too heterogeneous. And our national myth are not like the romantic, death-worshiping, racial myths of the Germans (nor the French nor Russians, neither). I may be naïve and optimistic about that, but I must believe it, and act on it when I can. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ger...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Extremely interesting history of the German population during the war years from 1939-1945. Did they want the war, how did they behave when it came, what were their fears, their feelings about Adolf Hitler, how much did they know about the destruction of the Jews and when did they know it? All of this and much more is discussed in The German War. This is a homefront history, so to speak. Based on recently discovered archival letters and diaries from a wide variety of people, soldiers, ordinary G Extremely interesting history of the German population during the war years from 1939-1945. Did they want the war, how did they behave when it came, what were their fears, their feelings about Adolf Hitler, how much did they know about the destruction of the Jews and when did they know it? All of this and much more is discussed in The German War. This is a homefront history, so to speak. Based on recently discovered archival letters and diaries from a wide variety of people, soldiers, ordinary Germans, housewives, politically active and those not so aware, they present a complete picture of what the German people were doing and thinking at the time. These writings also put to rest some serious questions about how the Germans got to this point - at war with everyone and how they explained it to themselves. It answers the question of whether or not they knew what their government was doing in their name - they did. The book also deals with the carpet bombing by the Allies and how that affected the populace, making them even more determined to fight on. Unbelievably, the majority of the population backed Hitler right until the end and remained convinced that he did not know all the things that his government was doing. Then, when it was all over, they managed to equate what they were put through with what they did to the rest of Europe and manufactured a victimology for themselves. Some of the quoted passages are so poignant with longing for loved ones and a wish to return to normalcy they almost make you cry but then the next phrase is something so self-serving and cruel that you just want to scream. Balancing the people's words are detailed descriptions of fighting and the inexorable advance of the Allied armies on two fronts. This slowly turns victorious German arrogance into fear and despair as the war nears its end.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    This is an excellent and thought-provoking book about how the German people understood their part in World War II and the Holocaust. Obviously, there are going to be exceptions to everything Stargardt says, but he's quite good at tracking those down and presenting a spectrum of opinions, from Victor Klemperer to Joseph Goebbels. The most surprising thing about what he finds (for me) is that the Germans believed Hitler's lie about Poland attacking first. It's such an obvious. clumsy, amateurish l This is an excellent and thought-provoking book about how the German people understood their part in World War II and the Holocaust. Obviously, there are going to be exceptions to everything Stargardt says, but he's quite good at tracking those down and presenting a spectrum of opinions, from Victor Klemperer to Joseph Goebbels. The most surprising thing about what he finds (for me) is that the Germans believed Hitler's lie about Poland attacking first. It's such an obvious. clumsy, amateurish lie---but the Germans believed from the beginning that they were fighting a *defensive* war, and then, when they'd conquered all of their immediate neighbors, that it was *England*'s fault, for rejecting Hitler's generous offers of peace. And an astonishing number, including people who were fervently anti-Nazi, believed that the bombing of German cities was retaliation demanded by "world Jewry" for "what we did to the Jews." (Never mind "what we did" to the Poles and the Ukrainians and the rest of the untermenschen.) Stargardt is particularly good at showing the way Goebbels' propaganda machine fostered a culture of complicity without ever admitting that anybody knew what was happening. It was all rumor and half-truths and knowing nods. Between the bombing and the horror of the Russian invasion at the end of the war, Germans in general believed that their suffering was equal to the Jews, and that somehow this should let them off the hook. (I don't want to get into ranking atrocities, but being the victim of one atrocity does not cancel out perpetration of another.) Germany's collective narrative of victimhood proved horribly resilient and resulted ultimately in the failure of the Allies' de-Nazification efforts. (The Nazi leaders who weren't executed immediately and didn't fall into Russian hands were mostly back in German society, being judges, mayors, etc., just like they were before the war, by the 1950s. Because Germany's indelible belief was that they didn't do anything fundamentally wrong. Not unlike Trump saying there are "fine people" on both sides. In fact, the parallels between the failure of Reconstruction and the failure of de-Nazification are striking and bone-chilling.) Stargardt is an excellent writer who presents his complicated and diverse evidence clearly and effectively.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    The book excels when it tells the personnel story of the 10 or so characters focused on within the narrative while summarizing their letters, diaries and life. Unfortunately, most of the book seems to dwell mostly on a story that's been better told in other WW II books such as The Second World War. Overall, the author does tell the story of how a nation justifies its mass insanity and how a society can completely lose its moral compass, but he does that while making the war itself the principal c The book excels when it tells the personnel story of the 10 or so characters focused on within the narrative while summarizing their letters, diaries and life. Unfortunately, most of the book seems to dwell mostly on a story that's been better told in other WW II books such as The Second World War. Overall, the author does tell the story of how a nation justifies its mass insanity and how a society can completely lose its moral compass, but he does that while making the war itself the principal character. There's a telling quote from Goebbels cited in this book which was made after the fall of Stalingrad, "at first we won the war, next we will win the war, then we must win the war, and finally we can not lose the war". That capsulizes how the German nation saw themselves through out the war and how their madness at each different phase was used to justify their making anyone who wasn't part of the selected an 'other' to be objectivized and thought of only as a means to an end and a hurdle to be eliminated and then less euphemistically exterminated. A democracy can be just one person away from complete madness. Building walls between us and demonizing the 'other'. Generalizing the out group as serial killers and rapists, instilling fear and turning a religion, for example, into comic book characterizations. Making statements such as 'we should not only kill the terrorist, but their families, and if need be we will order our Generals to carry out those death sentences", and we will patrol neighborhoods based on the religion of the inhabitants for their own good as well as our own, and so on, and so on. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. I find that which details the madness that gripped a nation 70 years ago can be a useful warning for today. Trumpus delinda est.

  24. 4 out of 5

    S.

    straightforward 4/5, not dazzling, but competent, well put-together. a work for WW2 buffs. the prose flows.

  25. 4 out of 5

    T. Fowler

    This is an impressive, thoroughly researched book that follows German civilians and soldiers from the invasion of Poland to the fall of Berlin, using a multitude of primary sources. He reveals, through thse sources, how the average German civilian was fearful at the start of the war that was instigated by Hitler and the Nazis, but how the citizens rejoiced and became proud of the early victories. Stargart fully describes the atrocities, first in Poland, then in Russia, that were carried out with This is an impressive, thoroughly researched book that follows German civilians and soldiers from the invasion of Poland to the fall of Berlin, using a multitude of primary sources. He reveals, through thse sources, how the average German civilian was fearful at the start of the war that was instigated by Hitler and the Nazis, but how the citizens rejoiced and became proud of the early victories. Stargart fully describes the atrocities, first in Poland, then in Russia, that were carried out with enthusiasm as people both in Germany and on the front lines were influenced by Nazi propaganda that declared that Germany was in a fight for survival against their Jewish-Bolshevik enemies. Then the Allied bombing of German cities began, and the crumbling of German morale began. The only criticism that I can make is that I think it would be a more effective narration of this story if there were a bit less detail. However, that is a poor criticism because every topic that he deals with is so fully explored and is fascinating in its own right.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This lengthy text attempts to portray the evolution of attitudes and opinions of ordinary Germans, civilian and military, during the second world war and its immediate aftermath. Several persons, male and female, are focused on throughout as are a number of others both through their own testimonies and through the eyes of the German government itself. Most interesting is the evidence as regards what was commonly known about the genocidal policies of the Nazi regime. Here one learns that most Ger This lengthy text attempts to portray the evolution of attitudes and opinions of ordinary Germans, civilian and military, during the second world war and its immediate aftermath. Several persons, male and female, are focused on throughout as are a number of others both through their own testimonies and through the eyes of the German government itself. Most interesting is the evidence as regards what was commonly known about the genocidal policies of the Nazi regime. Here one learns that most Germans were (a) generally aware of these policies and, conveniently enough, (b) accepted the official rationales. Indeed, when events turned against them many saw the Allied terror bombings as a form of Jewish revenge.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Walt

    An outstanding work, well-written and thoroughly researched. Through letters between German soldiers and their families, it provides a clear understanding of how ordinary German people dealt with the Nazis and the need to support their country. It also shows how the people were duped by the Goebbels propaganda machine - to the end, they saw the enemy as the Bolsheviks and 'World Jewry'. The book is loaded with accurate statistics about the numbers of prisoners, murders, and other unfortunate dat An outstanding work, well-written and thoroughly researched. Through letters between German soldiers and their families, it provides a clear understanding of how ordinary German people dealt with the Nazis and the need to support their country. It also shows how the people were duped by the Goebbels propaganda machine - to the end, they saw the enemy as the Bolsheviks and 'World Jewry'. The book is loaded with accurate statistics about the numbers of prisoners, murders, and other unfortunate data about the invasions and battles of World War II.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Campbell

    You're either interested in this subject or you aren't. Obvious, I know. What I'm trying to say is that if this sort of thing interests you, you'll really like this as it's one of the more readable histories of the period that I've read. Conversely, if you are not interested then you'll struggle with this as it is incredibly detailed. You're either interested in this subject or you aren't. Obvious, I know. What I'm trying to say is that if this sort of thing interests you, you'll really like this as it's one of the more readable histories of the period that I've read. Conversely, if you are not interested then you'll struggle with this as it is incredibly detailed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lloyd Fassett

    10/31/15 Wall St Journal had a good review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia

    An excellent historical analysis of Germany's citizens, leading up to war, and of its citizens and soldiers as the war stumbled forward. I am not a scholar of history, but I have read many books on the Holocaust and on other aspects of German history. This book is distinctly different. Based on complete correspondences between ordinary (and some extraordinary) people, Nicholas Stargardt builds an understanding of what they knew and when they knew it, and how they participated in the atrocities a An excellent historical analysis of Germany's citizens, leading up to war, and of its citizens and soldiers as the war stumbled forward. I am not a scholar of history, but I have read many books on the Holocaust and on other aspects of German history. This book is distinctly different. Based on complete correspondences between ordinary (and some extraordinary) people, Nicholas Stargardt builds an understanding of what they knew and when they knew it, and how they participated in the atrocities and how they also turned every open eye against what was happening before them. I will no longer ever believe the lie that the Germans didn't know about the Holocaust - it was a shared, open secret that the Jews, along with the mentally disabled, Roma, and others, were being systematically murdered by the state. The spectre of the failure of World War I was expertly wielded over the nation so that anyone standing opposed to Hitler's plans could be instantly discredited as a traitor to the honor of the nation. It is an astounding read, and put together very well. I recommend utilizing the maps in the first few pages to orient yourself as the battles unfold. I may have read the most terrifying segment I have ever read when I read about Erna Petri on pages 291-2: "In the summer of 1943, she was returning from shopping in Lwów when she saw a group of nearly naked children crouching by the side of the road. She stopped the carriage, calmed the six frightened children and took them home, where she gave them some food and waited for her husband to return. When he did not turn up, she took matters into her own hands. Pocketing an old service revolver which her father had given her as a parting gift, Erna Petri led the children through the woods to a pit where she knew other Jews had been shot and buried. There she lined them up in front of the ditch and went along the line firing into the back of each child's neck. She remembered that after the first two, the others 'began to cry', but 'not loudly, they whimpered.'" Looking up this excerpt via footnote, it turns out that Stargardt referenced Wendy Lower's historical account, Hitler's Furies. Nevertheless, it is a powerful account, and Stargardt is wise to include it. Stargardt is at his most effective when building a storyline about persons and their trajectory through the period. The stories of Peter Stölting, Marianne Strauss, and Victor Klemperer are compelling because we can see more of the whole person. Through it all, there are many faceless, nameless victims and sacrificed innocents that tugged at my mind, the names of the countless that we will never know, buried in pits in forests, burned in ovens to ash. But there are also those faceless and nameless murderers and accomplices that slipped back into the fabric of society, seemingly never to pay the price for their crimes against humanity.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.