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Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192802910
ISBN-10: 0192802917
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Using newspapers and radio broadcasts of the day as evidence, Gellately (The Gestapo and German Society), Strassler Professor in Holocaust History at Clark University, effectively demonstrates how "ordinary Germans" evolved into a powerful base of support for the Nazi regime. Although Hitler and the National Socialists had never garnered an outright majority in elections before 1933, the author convincingly shows that "the great majority of the German people soon became devoted to Hitler and they supported him to the bitter end in 1945." The Nazis achieved this political miracle by "consensus." The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci argued that political regimes could hardly expect to use unlimited terror against their subjects a technique combining the threat of terror and coercion would be more effective. Using Gramscian theory is hardly new in an analysis of Nazi Germany, but Gellately does make a provocative claim: that the Nazi use of terror against certain categories of "undesirables" (first Communists, Socialists and trade unionists, then Catholic and Protestant opponents, then the mentally and/or physically impaired, then the Jews and Gypsies) was purposively public and that most Germans agreed with such policies. Decrees, legislation, police actions and the concentration camps were not meant to be hidden from the German people, but in fact were extensively publicized. Some of the same arguments have been made in Adam Lebor and Roger Boyes's Seduced by Hitler (Forecasts, Mar. 26), but readers will notice that Gellately offers a far more sophisticated argument and more abundant evidence than Daniel Goldhagen's cause c‚lŠbre, Hitler's Willing Executioners. In truth, Gellately's work is what Goldhagen's book could have been, but wasn't; that is, a closely reasoned and tightly constructed analysis. 42 illus. not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Gellately (Strassler Professor in Holocaust History, Clark Univ.) analyzes the role of "ordinary" Germans in the Nazi persecution of those deemed social and political outsiders. Under the guise of "law and order," the Nazis suspended regular jurisprudence and substituted arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Far from carrying out their activities in secret, the Nazis publicized them as steps to the social, political, and racial regeneration of Germany. Many ordinary Germans actively participated in this process, denouncing neighbors as "asocial" elements for associating with Jews or for "suspicious" activities. Denunciations derived from a variety of motivations personal grudges, economic self-interest, or ideological commitment with the full knowledge of what would happen to the victims. By effectively overturning the belief that Hitler and the Nazi party imposed their ideology upon the German people and maintained control through massed police terror, Gellately's book forces us to consider the role of the ordinary citizen in the maintenance of the Nazi dictatorship. His arguments are more sophisticated and ultimately more convincing than Daniel Goldhagen's in Hitler's Willing Executioners (LJ 3/15/96), which saw the German people's adherence as mono-causal (i.e., anti-Semitism). Recommended for all libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802910
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.2 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Gellately is the Earl Ray Beck Professor of History at Florida State University and recently was the Bertelsmann Visiting Professor of Twentieth-Century Jewish Politics and History at Oxford University. He is the author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe; The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945; and Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Although many books have been written within the past decade regarding the policies and power of Hitler during the 'Third Reich'-including "Nazi Terror", by Eric Johnson and the duelling theories of Daniel Goldhagen and Christopher Browning- this is so far the most complete history of the Nazis power and terror. In Gellately's study, he examines the methods that Hitler and others in all levels of the heirarchy used propaganda and popular german sentiment to shape both policy, the public opinion of said policy, and the manner in which his policies were policed. In every example, from the sweeping national arrests and terror against the Communists, to the use of slave labor at wars-end, Gellately is very thorough in documentation and in using examples to make his points. This is a key point I think, which also happens to be one of the failings of Goldhagen's book-if an author is going to make a sweeping generalization(for example Goldhagen's 'the women camp guards were more brutal and sadistic than the male camp guards'), then he needs more than a few examples to make it. He makes his points very clearly using case after case from Gestapo files and other sources, without demonstrating the tendancy to revert back to the same few examples as proof positive of a specific trait, such as Goldhagen does. Another strong point is that he does not tend to 'bulls-eye' on any single topic in his book. Gellately gives a fair accounting of a wide variety of issues in which the German people were willing accomplices in sending Communists, Jews, asocials, and increasingly in the war years, their fellow neighbors and relatives to the gallows or camps. My single largest complaint with this book is in the manner of presentation.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Gellately's "Backing Hitler" may be the most thought provoking, extensive study as to how and why the German people ultimately embraced both Nazism and Adolf Hitler during the course of the Great Depression and World War II. Gellately makes the startling claim that most Germans were aware of Nazi atrocities - though not necessarily the worst - and yet found them tolerable as a means to combat crime. Indeed, he notes how Germans embraced Nazism as a succesful antidote to the financial and cultural corruption they'd seen in the 1920's and early 1930's during the Weimar Republic. With the notable exception of the Holocaust, Nazi goverment officials and agencies such as the Gestapo and the SS did not hide the existence of concentration camps and torture from the general public, but instead, allowed them to be published both in Nazi popular journals and daily newspapers (And the Holocaust itself was not hidden, except for its most virulent, deadly phases, in which Jews were dealt with via "special handling", the Nazi euphemism for genocide.). Only towards the end, during the final months and weeks of the war, did the German public see the most brutal aspects of the Nazi regime. Yet surprisingly, many Germans continued to support the regime until the very end. Gellately's premise may seem unoriginal in light of Daniel Goldhagen's popular book indicting the entire German nation for the Holocaust, yet unlike Goldhagen, Gellately offers substantially more persuasive evidence to demonstrate how a social consensus was reached within German society in support of the Nazi regime. Gellately's book may be the seminal work looking at how the Nazis successfully used the media in disseminating their philosophy to Germany.
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Format: Hardcover
"Backing Hitler" tackles a difficult question: how much did the German people know about what Hitler was actually doing to the groups he so zealously persecuted? The answer to this, according to the author, is that they were well aware of what Hitler was doing.
By examining the surviving newspapers, magazines, and dossiers from the police and Gestapo, the author explores what the German people knew, and how they participated in the Holocaust. We learn, for example, that the Gestapo appears to have largely relied on denunciations from the public, not its own research and intelligence.
The mathematician in me would like to have seen more discussion of the sampling techniques used in the book. In many cases where the author examined police dossiers, he said that he looked at "every other" file. This raises many questions: what exactly does he mean by every other file? What order were the files in: chronological, alphabetical, random, some ordering scheme he used while going through them? This question is not answered. With a good ordering, it would be trivial for him to adjust the files to give the results he wanted to "prove".
Ignoring my reservations on the statistical methods used by the author, this book is an excellent discussion on the propaganda fed to the public. It is not an introductory reader for those interested in Nazi Germany, but would make an excellent complement to a book collection with a heavy emphasis on that time period.
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Format: Hardcover
In this relatively brief but searching analysis of how much the German public knew about the underside of the Third Reich--from violations of civil liberties to euthanasia and the Holocaust--Gellately demonstrates fairly conclusively that there was a fair amount of both media publicity and common knowledge about Nazi excesses. Far from being reluctant to have the public know about their misdeeds, Hitler and the Nazi leadership are shown to have been concerned about how the public perceived what they were doing and to have carefully manipulated public opinion in the process.
The destruction of civil liberties and the rule of law from the Wilhelmine and Weimar eras was depicted as restoration of "law and order," in terms that are hauntingly reminiscent of those used by some of the more extreme American proponents of "law and order." The concentration camps during the prewar era were portrayed as places for reforming and reeducating those who for one reason or another had gone astray politically or socially; in this sense, the common threads of totalitarianism are evident, as the Third Reich sounds similar to Stalin's Russia and Mao's China.
Gellately argues persuasively that there were three distinct phases to how the Nazis portrayed themselves and in the degree to which they resorted to radical means of controlling society. The prewar era showed much more concern about public opinion and rationality. Once the War began, the methods became more radical and the arguments to support them became more extreme. (As others have also shown, Gellately posits that this is when the genocide against the Jews really went into high gear.
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