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On the Road to the Wolf's Lair: German Resistance to Hitler Hardcover – April 15, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0674636804 ISBN-10: 0674636805 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1St Edition edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674636805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674636804
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,773,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Though written as an historical account, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair reads at times like a spy thriller, complete with intrigue and danger. It is also meticulously researched, offering insight into the rise and fall of the Third Reich from the perspective of German resisters who once supported the movement. What is most interesting about the members of the civil service, military, and the clergy who came to oppose Hitler is that they initially embraced the party warmly, many of them sharing the nationalist fervor and anti-Semitism that characterized the Third Reich. In fact, it was their level of enthusiasm that originally granted them their high status and privilege within the dictatorship.

In this engrossing account, historian Theodore S. Hamerow closely examines why these people chose to reverse their alliance not only in spirit, but to take active steps to overthrow the regime, culminating in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler at his headquarters--the "Wolf's Lair"--in East Prussia in 1944. The book is less a strategic rendering than an analysis of motives, and Hamerow does not paint the resisters as unconditional heroes or moralists. Rather, he reveals all their foibles in an attempt to highlight the depth of their ultimate repulsion to Hitler's monstrous master plan. In telling his story, Hamerow also makes it clear that the resistance was stronger than initially believed by both Germany and the Allies, for it included high-ranking officers as well as bureaucrats at virtually every level of the government. In this way, the author makes a sizable contribution to the history of the Nazi party, adding a valuable volume to the ever-expanding World War II archives.


[Hamerow] paints a candid picture of the resisters: there were no unflawed supermen; rather, many were elitists who enjoyed their improved status under Hitler's regime. Some were anti-Semites who believed that the Third Reich was correct to segregate Jews from the rest of Germany. Hamerow's painstakingly researched book...does an outstanding job in showing how and why the resisters became more than just blind followers of a movement. (Carolyn T. Hughes New York Times Book Review)

On the Road to the Wolf's Lair is a rigorous and pleasingly accessible account of the motivations and actions of those German military, bureaucratic and religious leaders who could have created an organized opposition to the Nazi regime--but didn't. (Marc Fisher Washington Post Book World)

Hamerow chronicles in fascinating detail how such people as the aristocratic von Stauffenbergs and the theologian Michael von Faulhaber became alert to the Reich's evils, often slowly, haltingly and despite themselves. (Toronto Globe & Mail)

Theodore Hamerow's study of the German resistance to Hitler focuses on the 'ideas, ideals, motives, and aims' of the few prominent German clergy, civil servants, and members of the military who opposed Hitler. The book stands out in the enormous and growing body of literature on the German resistance for its accessibility to a wide audience. The work's greatest asset though is Hamerow's sensitivity and balance in judging the motivations of the German resisters about whom he writes. Hamerow steers a middle path between writers who would celebrate the resisters as the 'true spiritual founders' of the postwar Federal Republic and those who would condemn them as reactionary militarists scarcely better than Hitler. (Virginia Quarterly Review)

This is not another history of the entire spectrum of German resistance...Instead, Hamerow...focuses on those soldiers, bureaucrats and clergy who were 'in a position to form a systematic, organized opposition to the Nazi regime.' Stripped of their apologists' martyrology and their critics' cynicism, people like Johannes Popitz, Wilhelm Canaris, Bishop Wurm and Claus von Stauffenberg emerge as complicated figures...Hamerow's intensive archival research, his extremely accessible style and his analysis of resisters' practical and ethical motivations (particularly of churchmen whose moral duty often teetered uneasily behind their parochialism and desire to protect ecclesiastical autonomy) make this a worthy addition. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

Hamerow writes of a complicated subject with great ease...He shows that many welcomed Nazism because of their disgust at the Weimar Republic. How these men turned from mild support to active resistance, a resistance that resulted in a hideous death for many, is the theme of this book. Hamerow also discusses the varying and often competing motives of the resisters and sheds new light (at least for English speakers) on the complexities and idiosyncrasies of those who resisted Hitler. While they were not heroes when they started they were heroes when they ended. (Contemporary Review)

In his history of the German resistance, Theodore Hamerow provides us with an account of the intellectual, political, and moral journey of the leading members of the resistance to their fateful decision to conspire in a coup to overthrow Hitler. On the Road to the Wolf's Lair convincingly succeeds in answering the question of what transformed the thinking of members of the resistance in the military, the bureaucracy, and the churches into turning against the Nazi regime which they had enthusiastically supported. (Joseph A. Biesinger German Studies Rewiew)

While refusing to exonerate the men who had sought to overthrow the Nazi regime, Hamerow's study nonetheless explores their social backgrounds, personalities, ideals, and attitudes in a way that reflects the complex and often contradictory nature of their motives and actions...His tale is one that emphasizes the complex interplay of resistance, support, indifference, compromise, and vacillation. (Manfred B. Steger Southern Humanities Review)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MARGARET& PETER on February 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A lot has been written on this topic over the years; however, with Prof. Hamerow's name on the cover of this book, the reader is promised historical scholarship of the highest order, and a new take on the conspiracies between 1940-44.
This treatise is indeed indispensable to a proper understanding of what went on in Germany and the German resistence. Additionally, it is written
in a style which carries the reader forward, and makes it hard to put the
book down. Highly recommended by this reader.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Contrary to popular understanding, the members of the German military, civil service, and church who opposed Hitler in 1944 had little allegiance to democratic principles, and had mostly welcomed National Socialism. Some quickly became disillusioned by Nazi barbarism. Others were inert until their beloved Germany seemed doomed to total destruction. Many, interestingly, were not opposed to the goals of National Socialism, but only to its policies or methods. In the end, as martyrs, they became symbols of a new, united, democratic Germany.
Their complex and evolving history is well told in this thorough and highly readable account, which will be essential for students of the German resistance, and of interest to anyone concerned with the history of Nazi Germany.

(The "score" rating is a fault of the format. This reviewer does not "score" books.)
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