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.
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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.
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