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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified 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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified 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
on June 17, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I had just finished reading "Hitler's Pope" by John Cornwell, which is an account of the actions (or inaction) of Pope Pius XII in the lead-up to and the duration World War II.
I then saw a review of "No Ordinary Men" and was intrigued by the contrast between the decisions made by the Catholic Church, and what Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi had done in the face of the Nazi totalitarianism and brutality.
According to Cornwell, Eugenio Pacelli (later Pius XII) bargained with Hitler to secure church rights in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. In return, Pacelli allowed the Catholic political party in Germany, perhaps the main political opposition to Hitler, to be dissolved.
And when the world became aware of the Holocaust, Pacelli (now Pope) continuously resisted calls for the Church to unequivocally condemn the genocide.
Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi, on the other hand, risked and ultimately lost their lives opposing and even conspiring against the Nazis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
American Protestantism is anemic, lame and lazy. All too often we conform to the status quo...pastors are afraid to be prophetic for it will not profit their ministries....so we get bland sermons and blighted beliefs...No Ordinary Men should be a must read for all Protestant pastors. This slender volume is insightful and inspirational. Their story is told with compassion and conviction yet balanced. The authors provide a small window in which to view the horrible events of Nazi Germany. And they do so without clutter or vagaries. It is a well written historical perspective on a very evil age when the church sought to keep the status quo...and did was afraid to speak out and up...I frankly find most of Protestantism and much of today's preaching much like the German church...and all too little like the confessional church of Bonhoeffer . If for no other reason than to see what the church today ought to be contrasted with what it in fact is is why you should read this book!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I've grown attached to Dietrich Bonhoeffer after reading Eric Metaxix biography. It's nice to read more and to learn about another great man, Hans von Dohnanyi. I had to stop every time I read that name and think about how it may have been pronounced. I'm still unsure. :-) BTW, I must recommend Metaxis as well.
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