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No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State (New York Review Books Collections) Hardcover – September 17, 2013


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No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State (New York Review Books Collections) + Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust + The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Collections
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590176812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590176818
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Sifton and Stern’s chronicle is brief but deeply informed. And while Hans’s name appears in most academic studies of the resistance, this new book is clearly written with a larger audience in mind. The prose conveys a sense of historical perspective but also, just below the surface, a compassion possibly born of the authors’ own long-distance links to these men and their era.” —The Boston Globe 

“A story that needs to be heard.” —Library Journal

"A convincing argument that theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his often overlooked brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi 'deserve to be remembered together' for their courageous resistance to Hitler's Nazi regime….A concise yet powerful contribution to an even larger history." Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Stern’s prior works:

“Fritz Stern’s pointed reflections [in Five Germanys I Have Known] upon the fragility of democratic liberties and the unpredictable ease with which they can wither and die should be required reading for every informed citizen.” —Tony Judt
 
“[The Politics of Cultural Despair] is a superb cultural history, erudite, thoughtful, imaginative, beautifully written.” —Klemens von Klemperer, professor emeritus of European history at Smith College
 
“No one has written better on the country’s rise and fall than Fritz Stern.” —Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
 
Praise for Sifton’s The Serenity Prayer:
 
“A landmark work on the liberal ideals of the progressive American tradition, reaffirming their relevance for today.... A major contribution to the intellectual history of modernity.” —Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

“[An] ebullient and shrewd meditation on faith and social action. . . . A peaceable state of mind simply accompanies the reader as he ends this effortlessly elegant, uniformly sensible paean to the human faith that Sifton inherited.” —Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
 

About the Author

Elisabeth Sifton has been an editor and book publisher for many decades. She is the author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War (2004), about the background to the famous prayer written by her father, Reinhold Niebuhr.

Fritz Stern is University Professor Emeritus and the former provost of Columbia University, with which he has been associated since the 1940s. His many books include The Politics of Cultural Despair (1963), Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the Building of the German Empire (1977), Einstein’s German World (1999), and Five Germanys I Have Known (2006).

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Customer Reviews

I found this book both enlightening and heartwarming.
Phillip C. Spurgeon
The book provides a window in to German life at that time.
Desert Rat
I found my copy of this book in the mail box at 1pm today.
Kraig W. Mcnutt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By James Connelly on September 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"No Ordinary Men" is brief; but its 150 pages vividly depict the related careers of two brothers-in-law, the well-known Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the lesser known Hans von Dohnanyi, in their courageous struggle against Nazi totalitarianism. It is hard to imagine how they kept to their righteous path through the temptations and terror and moral degeneracy that surrounded them as Germany foundered in the 1930s and 1940s. Yet they seemed to have seen themselves not as remarkable, but as men of ordinary decency.

As the authors remark at the end of their study, "Though the world knows of Bonhoeffer in detail and hardly at all of Dohnanyi, they deserve to be remembered together. The Third Reich had no greater, more courageous, and more admirable enemies than they. Dohnanyi aptly summed up their work and spirit when he said they simply took 'the path that a decent person inevitably takes.' So few traveled that path -- anywhere."

Quite a remarkable book. Very highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary Hartwig on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very well-researched. Some information was new to me, though I've read a great deal about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and family, and the tribulations they suffered during WW II. For example: Dohnanyi's wife contaminated food she brought him with diphtheria bacilli (at his request), so that he could be moved out of the prison to a hospital cell. It is humbling to read about a person of whom relatively little is known, and to see how he used his official position to help others in the face of grave danger to himself. Exemplary people, and a book that all of us would benefit from reading.

Unlike the present-day betrayer of U.S. secrets, [who has done all he can to escape the consequences of his actions, and whom I consider a traitor], Dohnanyi accepted the retribution he knew would come to him, even though the punitive actions of the criminal Nazi machine were far worse than anything that would be handed down today.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found my copy of this book in the mail box at 1pm today. I finished reading it by 10pm the same day, having been distracted by a basketball game and a football bowl game. Though small in size, this book packs a powerful punch. It's a great starter-volume on the Bonhoeffer-Dohnanyi story of passive and active resistance against the authoritarian and demonic Reich led by the murderous Hitler. After 'No Ordinary Men' I would suggest one read 'Bonhoeffer' by Eric Metaxas. The narrative on pages 100-101 and 135-136 is worth the price of the book alone. How could millions of people allow Hitler to do what he did over twelve years? Bonhoeffer's father said it was a result of the "Nazis' ceaseless propaganda, intimidation, and mass manipulation." An unholy triad that is not unaccustomed to the leadership of contemporary political world leaders today in our midst.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Julie M Randall on November 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
new book arrived promptly, priced reasonably. this is a well written story of two men who should receive highest praise for their unselfish and humanitarian acts...they paid the price with their lives. not many germans resisted hitler's reign of terror...these men did. an excellent book on a facet of the 3rd reich that is not as well known as it should be. highly recommended. thanks to NY review of books for publishing this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a brief but important joint biography of the anti-Nazi resisters, the brothers-in-law Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnyani. Bonhoeffer's story is well known, but Hans's much less so. This book details the moral imperative that caused these two men, supported by their family, to resist the moral depravity of Nazism before and during WW2.

At the end the book tanatlizingly mentions how the Bonhoeffer family (and other surviving resisters) were cold-shouldered by post-War German society, and how many of the perpetrators of Nazi atrocities and their fellow travellers fared much better in post-War Germany than the resisters. This topic, while necessarily outside the scope of this biography, whose two protagonists were murdered just before the end of the War, merits amplification and further examination.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Milligan on January 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very, very important story that is a must read for all that are concerned with our society as it reflects how good people can be "fooled" by an over-powerful, corrupt government with evil on its minds. The story reminds us that hiding under our desks and pulpits is not an option.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rita on February 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have long wondered how the Nazis managed to squelch any criticism of their management of the national policies. Granted, here in the USA we speak, nay, shout our disapproval of politics and policies we don't agree with. But, could the Germans be so docile, so ignorant, so tame, they just said, "so what?" to everything that was changing in their daily lives? And yet, that is what occurred. They seemed to knuckle under rather easily. I have been exploring this question through quite a few books recently after reading Ambassador Dodd's diary. He was our last Ambassador to Germany before WWII and it is quite a frank book. So, it was a real pleasure to come to know the Bonhoeffer family and to see that they were not the type of family to simply acquiese in behavior and policies they believed were inherently amoral. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian, could not in good conscience remain quiet. That he lived as long as he did proves his international influence and the uneasiness within the Nazi regime. Perhaps they had a fear of just removing him. Hans von Dohnanyi, Dietrich's brother-in-law, decided to work from within, collecting and cataloging the atrocities he was seeing from the inside. Both worked quietly and behind the scenes to overthrow Hitler. Bonhoeffer's name is still remembered but unfortunately for history, Dohnanyi has never received the credit he deserves. Good research and good footnotes are an additional plum in this very good pie!
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