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Plotting Hitler's Death: The Story of German Resistance Hardcover – October 15, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The only large-scale German resistance to Nazism came from the Communists, who received little credit for it after the war, with Europe divided on Cold War lines. Indeed many post-war Germans at first were reluctant to acknowledge that any wartime resistance had been heroic, given the contrast with their own active or passive support for the Nazis. Later, however, a loose grouping of disaffected German liberals who had plotted Hitler's assassination were adopted as saviors of Germany's soul, as proof that there was another, moral, Germany. Fest's book, published first in Germany in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the failed attempt by von Stauffenberg to blow up the Fuhrer, is a compelling, fair-minded account of these plotters. Fest avoids canonizing them as redeemers of Germany, but acknowledges the bravery and integrity of their efforts. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Prodigious research and a commonsensical tone distinguish this compelling survey of the German resistance. Fest (Adolf Hitler, etc.) challenges the idea of "everyday resistance" in Nazi Germany, which has often been extended to include adolescent rebellion, antisocial behavior and the telling of jokes about Nazi bigshots. Any attempt to give ordinary people a consequent role in resisting National Socialism founders, he contends, on the realities of a totalitarian system, which can be challenged effectively only by those with the protection and influence to shield themselves as they draw conclusions and make plans. Fest focuses on the men and women whose rejection of Nazism culminated in the July 20, 1944, attempt on Hitler's life. Carl Goerdeler, Claus von Stauffenberg and most of their counterparts were slow to accept the need to act until well into the war. The author insists that the resisters were more than simple opportunists seeking to escape a sinking ship, however. Their growing awareness of Nazi atrocities, he explains, generated a corresponding sense that Germany was under the rule of a criminal regime. Opposition became a moral imperative regardless of its practical chances for success. While the resisters had no head for conspiracy and no coherent concept of Germany's future, they did accurately perceive their essential task: to remove Hitler, at whatever cost. Though they failed, Fest makes a convincing case that they nevertheless established an enduring moral standard not only for Germany but for the world. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; Reissue edition (October 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080504213X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805042139
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
One of the things my sons and I have in common is an interest in World War II. I am interested in the personalities, one son is interested in battle specifics, one in the political ramifications, and the other in the over all picture. But in the past, they were united "against" me in one specific. They said that Hitler's generals who plotted to kill Hitler in July, 1944, did not begin their plot until they saw that they were going to lose the war. However, after reading Fest's "Plotting Hitler's Death" my sons and I all understand better what really happened--and we are now of the same understanding of this resistance. In his book "Hitler," Fest was quite contemplative, apparently trying to make sense of Hitler, his accomplishments and failures, and Germany's responsibility in bringing him to power. This introspection is lacking in "Plotting Hitler's Death." Perhaps that is because those who tried to get rid of Hitler compensated for those who brought him to power. Perhaps it is simply because it is a different tale to be told-a tale that Fest tells well. He rehearses in clear detail the events leading up to that July 20 th, the anxious and feverish moments before the explosion, the confusion following it, and the terrifying roundup and executions that followed. Fest points out that there was not one unified group or movement of resistance against Hitler; rather there were numerous groups that acted separately and often held differing views. Fest focuses on the three groups who were the only ones able to develop a strategy that posed a genuine threat to the regime. He follows them in his usual thorough manner. But this does not keep him from characterizing the very human natures involved, their determination and their indecisiveness, their fears and their courage, their plan and their failure. "Plotting Hitler's Death" brings an important clarity to one dimension of a tormented and confused era.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on April 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
The author of this book, Joachim Fest, is one of the better know of the German World War 2 historians so I was expecting a well researched and factual book. What I found was just that. Fest first takes us through a history of a number of the failed plots and people responsible before sending the second half of the book on the plot that actually got the closest with a bomb blast injuring Hitler. Fest describes the set up of the plot, what was to take place after the assassination in regards to taking control of the German government and the assumptions of what would happen with the war. We also get a chapter on what happened to the members of the plot once it failed.
Overall this is an interesting and well-constructed book. The information is laid out in an organized and easy to understand method. The writing is better then you expect from a historian, it flows through the story. The book is a good one volume accounting of the attempts on Hitler's life and, unless you are a true historian of the issues, is about all one needs to understand and appreciate it. If you are interested in World War 2 this is a good pick up.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luis G. del Valle on April 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Joachim Fest's book should be required reading of all military and political leaders. All leaders must realize that the danger of losing one's morality often happens imperceptibly slow. "Plotting Hitler's Death" is a gripping account of how the German elite attempted on numerous occasions to topple Hitler. The irony of the assasination attempts is that the German Army,never trustful of Hitler, is the institution that comes closest to killing Hitler. At the same time, Mr. Fest protrays in exacting detail the internal conflict that these men experienced: loyalty due to the oath they swore but the realization that Hitler's regime was criminal.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is very well-written with a lot of interesting information about major and minor members of the German resistance. In addition to good story-telling, Fest provides interesting analyses of the reasons for their failures. It is a sad story, but the moral courage of many of those in the German resistance is inspiring.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eva on July 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have to concede that at first I was highly skeptical that Fest, not just any German, but a German from the Nazi generation, would write an honest account of the German Resistance (I admit to harboring prejudices against Germans; my parents are survivors of the Nazi death camps). I expected Fest to exaggerate the motives of the Resistance, asserting that they were purely on humanitarian and moral grounds. After I read the book, however, I realized that I allowed my prejudices towards Germans get in the way. Fest makes no pretenses about their motives. They were wide-ranging, a few on humanitarian grounds, some because they saw they were losing the war, and for some it was the combination of several factors. It was an interesting and informative read. One criticism I do have is that there is a serious omission. Fest fails to tell us that many in the Resistance, even such notables as von Stauffenberg, Carl Goerdeler and Martin Niemoller sympathized with the Nazi view that there was a "Jewish problem" -- a problem that required a "solution." True, they were horrified when they learned that the Nazi "solution" to the "Jewish problem" was extermination; nonetheless they did harbor a fair amount of anti-semitism. As the brother of Claus von Stauffenberg testified: "In the sphere of internal politics, we had welcomed the basic tenets of National Socialism for the most part. . .The concept of race seemed sound and very promising. . ."; their objection was merely that its "implementation was exaggerated and carried too far." [the quote is taken from Goldhagen's book "Hitler's Willing Executioners."]
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