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254 of 265 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "M" in my name stands for "Mayer."
It is wonderful to see so many thoughtful and incisive reviews of my father's book. A few details that might interest you: 1) None of the "unimportant Nazis" he interviewed knew he was a Jew, which he was. 2) The book wasn't published in German for years after its original publication (we spent 1951 in the small town which Milton Mayer calls "Kronenberg," where he wrote...
Published on March 31, 2008 by Julie Vognar

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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It is a good book, but not great...
I guess I came upon this book looking for a good explanation of how a people can be conned by their government into doing (or perhaps lazily accepting)their bidding. I thought that was a fair expectation based on the title.

Well, this book has a few nuggets of wisdom, probably the most profound I thought were a handful of pages where a gentleman (not one of the...
Published on February 18, 2012 by Mike


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254 of 265 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "M" in my name stands for "Mayer.", March 31, 2008
By 
Julie Vognar "Julie" (Berkeley, California United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
It is wonderful to see so many thoughtful and incisive reviews of my father's book. A few details that might interest you: 1) None of the "unimportant Nazis" he interviewed knew he was a Jew, which he was. 2) The book wasn't published in German for years after its original publication (we spent 1951 in the small town which Milton Mayer calls "Kronenberg," where he wrote the book, which was published shortly afterwards). 3) His German was awful! And, he said, this was a great aid in the interviews he conducted: having to repeat, in simpler words, or more slowly, what they had to say, made the Germans he was interviewing feel relaxed, equal to, superior to the interviewer, and this made them speak more freely. "Sehen Sie, Herr Professor Mayer, SO war die Sache," very patiently. ("You see, THIS is how it was...").

He made one small, but dreadful mistake: There is a very common name in German, to which Milton Mayer added a suffix--because, with the suffix, it was the name of a great family friend (in fact, my boyfriend four years later) and used it fictitiously for one of the interviewees.. However: with the suffix, it's a very RARE German name, and, having given the general location and size of the town together with the rare German name, he really identified the interviewee as-our family friend-- who was quite upset. (He never told my father this, though.)

My father was always a superlative interviewer; he said as little as possible, aside from encouraging the interviewee to go on talking. If someone seemed to be avoiding a subject he was really interested in, he would repeat the name of the subject the interviewee had abandoned, and look terribly keen and respectful.

When my father was about 14, a wind blew in one of his ears while he was camping out, paralyzing one nerve in his face. For the rest of his life, he could only open, while speaking, one side of his mouth (and he had a very diabolical grin), and could never raise both eyebrows--always, he was raising one eyebrow! This gave him a very wise look, somewhat ironic at the same time, and made him appear even smarter than he was.

My sister and I occasionally exchange "Misms." Things he used to say from time to time, some inherited from his father, and others from God knows where. Here are a couple (try them; they are very effective in many convrersations):

"I left it in my other suit."
"Been to the city and seen the gaslights."

I don't think I have anything to add substantively to what has already been said in the excellent reviews, aside from these few personal details. Milton Mayer died in 1986, and is survived by several real and step children, real and step grandchildren, and two great grandchildren (at least), all of whom, like him, are pacifists.
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259 of 274 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleeping Societies rarely awake before its too late, June 7, 2007
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This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
Mayer, a Jew on Sabbatical in post-WW-II Kronenberg, sets his goal as that of better understanding the life-story of the ordinary German under National Socialism.

As he tells the story, Nazism was not just a political system or just an ideology it was a worldview peculiarly suited for and congruent with the German Post WW-I temperament and mentality. In the aftermath of the much-hated Versailles Treaty, Nazism arrived on the scene just in time to not just conquer the minds of both little and big Germans but to overwhelm them. Mayer's phrase has described it nicely: German enthusiasm for Nazism was clearly a case of "little men-gone wild."

The true value of this book and hence Mayer's most valuable contribution has been to draw a graphic conceptual picture of how the system of Nazism worked as seen at ground level by ten ordinary Germans and from the interior of German society: To a man, they all agreed that it brought them untold economic success, bound them patriotically and politically into a coherent cultural unit, restored the nation's pride and gave all Germans renewed reasons for hope in the future.

Given this rosy and very much interior and insulated backdrop, it is no wonder there was no basis for ordinary Germans to see (or even to be able to perceive) Nazi excesses, or to see Nazism itself, as an inherently evil system until it was too late.

This was true in part because all Germans already had community permission to hate Jews. The excesses, reserved mostly for Jews, thus seemed normal and in any case were always introduced in carefully orchestrated, slowly escalating, but easily digestible bites. This was done specifically to stay below the radar of the everyday German conscience -- so as to never assault German sensibilities too abruptly. Even the most alert of Germans and the least anti-Semitic Germans were lulled to sleep by this strategy.

But more importantly, because all Germans were wedded to the Nazi worldview through its benefits, both tangible and intangible, there were few incentives for them to "rock the boat" by pointing to Nazi excesses. Dissension was left for victims and outsiders. However, being identified as an outsider or as a dissenter at a minimum, could ensure social exclusion and a slow social death; and if one were very unlucky, it could mean disappearance into a concentration camp, or even a swift bullet to the temple.

Ordinary Germans thus were willing contributors to their own self-imposed trap: They needed the community's approval on its own terms. Sometimes this meant turning a blind eye to community sanctioned criminal activity such as was the case in the event that set off a cascading sequence of pogroms against Jews, Crystal-nacht. Ordinary Germans did not want to approve of the criminal behavior involved, but was it not the community to which they were bound that decided what was criminal and who should be rewarded and punished for community-defined criminal behavior? It is easy enough for outsiders to exaggerate the actual relationship between man and state under tyranny, but from the inside, it is always made to seem justified, normal and seamless.

Like a thief in the night, tyranny always descends upon sleeping societies in a cloak of super patriotic conformity. It attacks when one is unguarded psychologically and least wary of an assault. By the time the citizen is prepared to raise a dissenting voice, in the name of state security, his throat (and presumably his vocal cords) have already been cut and he has been rendered mute. Once the national conscience has been drugged, sedated, or put to sleep through racist demagoguery, it is difficult to reawaken it.

Since there are no political systems that are entirely insulated against criminal activity, corruption or evil, only healthy, timely, vigorous and authentic dissent can act as an antidote to the evil inherent in tyrannical political systems like Fascism and Nazism.

Without drawing too fine a distinction, it is difficult to miss the many parallels between contemporary American society and 1933-1939 German society.
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157 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books of our time, March 23, 2005
By 
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
Among the impossibly vast literature about how the Nazis took and held power, this book is one of a kind. It is an honest look into the minds of "typical" Germans, not as we see them, but as they saw themselves. The author admits his biases and overcomes them to let his subjects speak for themselves. We hear them, in their own words, make their excuses and justifications and evasions, but the same question will not stop coming up in our minds: "What would I have done?" This book is a journey of questions without final answers, and it deserves to be ranked as one of the essential books of our time. The fact that it is so little known, and particularly that it is not required reading in college courses, is a disgrace.
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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most unsettling book I've ever read about the Nazis, October 22, 2010
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
In 1935, a Jewish reporter from Chicago went to Germany in the hopes of interviewing Adolph Hitler. That didn't happen, so he traveled around the country. What he saw surprised him: Nazism wasn't "the tyranny of a diabolical few over helpless millions" --- it was a mass movement.

In 1951, the Jewish reporter from Chicago returned to Germany. This time Milton Mayer had a different goal: to interview ten Nazis so thoroughly he felt he really knew them. Only then, he believed, might he understand how it came to be that the Germans exterminated millions of their fellow citizens.

He found ten Germans. And interviewed them at such length they became his friends. Reading his daughter's memories of her father, I can understand how that happened, "His German was awful!" wrote Julie Mayer Vogner. "And, he said, this was a great aid in the interviews he conducted: having to repeat, in simpler words, or more slowly, what they had to say made the Germans he was interviewing feel relaxed, equal to, superior to the interviewer, and this made them speak more freely."

In 1955, Mayer published this book. It was disturbing then. It still is. For one thing, Mayer had only the warmest feelings for the men he interviewed:

I liked them. I couldn't help it. Again and again, as I sat or walked with one or another of my ten [Nazi] friends, I was overcome by the same sensation that had got in the way of my newspaper reporting in Chicago years before [in the 1930s]. I liked Al Capone. I liked the way he treated his mother. He treated her better than I treated mine.

The ten interviewees were quite the diverse crew: a janitor, soldier, cabinetmaker, Party headquarters office manager, baker, bill collector, high school teacher, high school student, policeman, Labor front inspector.

"These ten men were not men of distinction," Mayer notes. "They were not opinion makers.... In a nation of seventy million, they were the sixty-nine million plus. They were the Nazis, the little men..."

What didn't they know, and when didn't they know it?

They did not know before 1933 that Nazism was evil. They did not know between 1933 and 1945 that it was evil. And they do not know it now [in 1951]. None of them ever knew, or now knows, Nazism as we knew it, and know it; and they lived under it, served it, and, indeed, made it.

And none ever thought Hitler would lead them into war.

Why not?

-- They had never traveled abroad.
-- They didn't talk to foreigners or read the foreign press.
-- Before Hitler, most had no jobs. Now they did.
-- The targets of their hatred had been stigmatized well in advance of any action against them.
-- They really weren't asked to "do" anything --- just not to interfere.
-- The men who burned synagogues did not live in the cities of the synagogues.
-- Hitler was a father figure, right to the end. (He was "betrayed" by his subordinates.)

The more you read, the more your jaw drops. How many people did it require to take over a country? "A few hundred at the top, to plan and direct.... a few thousand to supervise and control.... a few score thousand specialists, eager to serve...a million to do the dirty work...."

There's more, much more. Some of it is quite specific to the German character (yes, there apparently are national characteristics). And some of it might stand as universal metaphor. If you're not a history buff, that's the reason to read this book --- it's a revealing study of "little" people, people who seem insignificant, good citizens who do as they're told.

Who knew nobodies could be so important --- or so dangerous?
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating Perspective, Excellent Analysis, January 18, 2010
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This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
I've always been interested in German history, particularly the most eventful, tumultuous, and tragic period between 1918 and 1945. In the western world, the question so often is, "how could it happen," with the implied clauses of "in modern world," "in the civilized west," and so on. I must admit that though I've read some good analyses of the Weimar period, I've never found a satisfactory answer to this important question. Mayer provides one, and his answer is incredible in its simplicity and common sense.

The brilliance of this book can best be summed up with the familiar platitude, "don't tell me, show me." Mayer doesn't describe the mood of the Germans, the feel of the time or the period, or what have you. Like any good interviewer, he gets out of the way and lets the Germans tell their own story. By him doing so, the reader gets to see history through the eyes of the Germans, the way saw it (or the way they remember it), though poignant (even ironically humorous) anecdotes.

As for the answer to the question above, the answer is best summed up by one of Mayer's chapter titles, "What Would You Have Done?" So often we are blinded by the horror and enormity of the Holocaust that we forget the Germans too were ordinary men living ordinary lives. The tendency of the historian is to focus on the events of history that seem most important in hindsight, but lost is the consideration of how important these events were in the lives of the actors at the time.

As one example of many, Mayer discusses the night after Kristalnact, the burning of hundreds of German synagogues on November 9, 1938. How did the ten Nazis in his sample feel about this event? Were they glad? A few were (one actually led it in his town). Were they disgusted? Many were. Could they do anything about it? None could, so nothing was done. The next morning, all following orders of direct superiors, the police in the town gathered up all of the Jewish men, who were then sent away "for their own protection," presumably because they were in danger after the synagogue burnings. Only a couple of the ten sample Nazis knew a Jew. What were they to do?

And I may tangentially add that this should be familiar to us in America. We hear about bombing of civilians, or unlawful detainment, or abuse of prisoners, or violation of civil rights. What do we think? "Outrageous! Attrocious! Egregious!" What do we say? "It can't be helped," or "It's a necessary evil," or "I can't stop it." What do we do? Nothing, because of course we're right about the last statement. The lives of the Germans should be eminently relatable to the average American, if he'll admit it to himself.

Back to the book, aside from the interviews with the Nazis, the second part, which consists of analytical essays of the German character, and how it was shaped in modern history. The analysis is good and insightful, and answers a lot of questions, not about the Germans having a culture of obedience, for indeed any course second-rate historian can make such a statement, as many have, but WHY the Germans have a culture of obedience, and how it developed over time and under what conditions.

All in all, the book is excellent, full of excellent analysis and original points, and it answers many crucial questions that are not answered to satisfaction elsewhere. I highly recommend this.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably more relevant now than it was when it was published..., April 25, 2009
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
From the outside looking in, the vast majority of world opinion on Hitler's regime identifies it as evil. But what about the people who lived within the system? Did they realize the path they were going down? Did they have choices? And after the fact, have they changed? Milton Mayer examined those (and many more) questions in his 1955 book They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45. I found it a fascinating read, not necessarily as an indictment on German behavior, but as a warning that we are susceptible to the same trap. And I wouldn't immediately disagree with the assertion that we're already well down that path.

Mayer found ten typical Germans in the town of Kronenberg in the early 50's, spanning a range of occupations and status. He became friends with them over the time he was there, and had many talks about their thoughts and views of what had happened in Germany with Hitler and the National Socialist party (more commonly known as the Nazis). Someone outside of Germany, looking at this after the passage of years, would think that the people would be contrite and ashamed over all that had happened. I would think that there would be an acknowledgement that the Jewish people were treated wrongly, and that one man's hatred of the Jewish race led to six million deaths.

And of course, that would be my national, ethnic, and cultural bias projecting onto others, and it would be incorrect.

It's impossible to make a blanket statement about *all* Germans (just as it's impossible to accurately stereotype any group), but there was a common feeling that Hitler was one of the "little people", and that he properly represented the goals and aspirations of the common population. Coming out of the depression, he and his party fed the people and boosted employment. Those who were not actively political looked at their lives as benefiting from the ruling party, and as such tended to downplay the incremental decisions and actions that ultimately led to the occupation and division of the country after World War 2. Even more disturbing was the attitude of "those people" (the Jews) being responsible for many of the problems of society, and the ready acceptance that relocating them to other areas would be to their own benefit. Yes, there was probably something going on with camps and genocide, but it was best not to ask or talk about it, for fear that you yourself could get caught up in the issue. Best just to mind your own business and let everyone else take care of themselves.

In no way do I think I have any insight or wisdom into the German psyche, either from the 50's or now. Others can debate as to how much has changed. But what this book *does* do is point out how easy it is for a nation to be led down a path of decreasing freedoms and increasing abuse of power. Far too many citizens want to be fed and entertained, and beyond that they don't really care much. They will buy into the prevailing attitudes told to them from on high, never questioning where it all may lead. They Thought They Were Free is an excellent study to apply to our own nation, making the correlations between the past and the present. If read thoughtfully, it should deeply trouble you as to where we're headed...
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This WAS required reading for my college history class!, August 17, 2008
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
I was required to read this book in 1973 for a history class at University of Wisconsin - Marathon campus. And I kept it all these years, even though I majored in science not history, because it was such an amazing book. I recently went to the Holocaust Museum in DC and rented the German movie "The Ninth Day" about a Nazi camp, which is excellent. So on a whim I searched Amazon to see if this book was still in print and was surprised to see the Cleere review of March '05 wondering why it wasn't required reading in colleges. Maybe it was required reading in Wisconsin because of the large German population.

Colleges might be using the Stanford Prison Project to teach the some of the same ideas in 2008. There is some crossover between the two studies on the scary, seldom acknowledged truths about humanity.

Many of the Germans who were not deluded, and who helped the Jews, were religious people. With the decline in the strength of organized religion in western culture this situation could occur more easily today. Everyone
is so distracted and overwhelmed with modern life that many people really are not paying attention.

This book describes a subtle, creeping, contagious blindness that we should all be mindful of in everyday life. In Mayer's foreword to the 1966 edition he says that the Germans basically got what they "wanted -or under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want". What happened in 1930's Germany applies to the US today, and to South America and Africa. Whenever I glance at this book on my shelf I am reminded to try to think and see clearly and, to be careful what I wish for.
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115 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling parallels with today's society, June 6, 1999
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
Shortly after World War II, Milton Sanford Mayer traveled to Germany to find out the mind set of ordinary Germans who were "little men" in the Nazi Party. They did not know that he was an American Jew, although he did not lie to them. To a man, they declared that their days under Hitler were the best in their lives. I found the parallels with current day America to be much to close for comfort, if you substitute white rural culture for Jews in Germany. This book will open your eyes as to how totalitarianism is welcomed by the mass of people if the media support it, and the economy is good.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the German Mindset During World War II, November 26, 2009
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This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
The Enlightenment myth is dying a painfully slow death, painful because it is taking so long for people to figure out that it is a sham. The idea that humans are progressing in a continually upward ladder of freedom and power marches on in the 21st century, much like it did at the beginning of the 20th.

Two world wars and the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians have still not eradicated the Enlightenment myth. We continue to believe that now, at the dawn of the 21st century, civilized people are incapable of the atrocities committed during World War II.

But we are wrong. We deceive ourselves.

A book that exposes the vacuity of the "upward climb" perspective regarding human society is They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer. Published more than forty years ago, Mayer's book offers a unique window into the hearts and minds of everday Germans during the rise of Hitler and his fascist movement.

Mayer interviews a number of "ordinary Germans," recounting their conversations and then adding in his own thoughts and conclusions. The result is a chilling picture of ordinary people willingly being carried along by empty rhetoric as a way of ensuring the satisfaction of personal needs.

Instead of writing a typical review of this book, I would like to offer some of the more striking statements and excerpts, in order to (hopefully) lead you to consider buying this book for yourself.

They Thought They Were Free documents the slow progression of anti-Semitism and its role in blinding the populace from the atrocities of the government:

"Ordinary people - and ordinary Germans - cannot be expected to tolerate activities which outrage the ordinary sense of ordinary decency unless the victims are, in advance, successfully stigmatized as enemies of the people, of the nation, the race, the religion." (55)

The massive self-deception of the German people should give us pause, especially when we consider how often we may indeed be blind to our own evil:

"The juridical effort at Nuremberg to punish the evildoers without injuring the losers - when punishment and injury came to the same thing and the losers were identical with the evildoers - was unlikely enough to succeed. The effort to convince my ten friends that they were evildoers was even unlikelier.

"In retrospect, there was one extremely remote possibility of its having been done more successfully in Germany than it had ever been done anywhere else: It might have been possible to exploit the Germans' attachment to `the German spirit' and to have convinced them that this spirit, instead of being good, is evil. How to have gone about doing this I do not know." (151)

Mayer shows how distractions dulled the senses of German citizens, keeping them from truly considering the evil around them:

"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. One had no time to think. There was so much going on."

"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your `little men,' your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had." (167)

And so, Mayer documents a frightening, steady progression toward evils perpetrated on a massive scale:

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens of hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked - if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in '43 had come immediately after the `German Firm' stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in '33.

"But of course, this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D." (170)

Mayer is not a dispassionate observer. As he writes, he confesses that he has a thirst for justice. He also expresses his uneasy conclusion that all humans are complicit in evil at some level. His thirst for justice points back to his own heart, which frightens him as well:

"What we don't like, what I don't like, is the hypocrisy of these people. I want to hear them confess. That they, or some of their countrymen and their country's government, violated the precepts of Christian, civilized, lawful life was bad enough; that they won't see it, or say it, is what really rowels. I want them to plead no extenuation. I want them to say, `I knew and I know that it was all un-Christian, uncivilized, unlawful, and in my love of evil I pretended it wasn't. I plead every German guilty of a life of hypocrisy, above all, myself. I am rotten...'

"I want my friends not just to feel bad and confess it, but to have been bad and to be bad now and confess it. I want them to constitute themselves an inferior race, self-abased, so that I, in the magnanimity becoming to the superior, having sat in calumnious judgment on them, may choose to let them live on in public shame and in private torment. I want to be God, not alone in power but in righteousness and in mercy; and Nazism crushed is my chance.

"But I am not God. I myself am a national, myself guilty of many national hypocrisies whose only justification is that the Germans' were so much worse. My being less bestial, in my laws and practices, than they were does not make me more Godly than they, for difference in degree is not difference in kind. My own country's racist legislation and practices, against both foreigners and citizens, is a whole web of hypocrisies. And, if I plead that racism has been wonderfully reduced in America in the past century, that the forces of good have been growing ever more powerful, how shall I answer my friends Hildebrandt and Kessler, who believed, or affected to believe, that the infiltration of National Socialism by decent men like themselves would, in time, reduce and even eliminate the evils?" (184-5)

There are glimmers of hope in this book. Mayer does not ignore the Confessing Church and the brave resistance of certain Christians to the evil regime that had risen in their land:

"Being a German may make whining easier, but not inevitable. In October, 1945, the Confessional church of Germany, the `church within the Church' which had defied Hitler's `German Christians,' issued the `Stuttgart Confession': `We know ourselves to be with our people in a great company of suffering, but also in a great solidarity of guilt. With great pain do we say that through us has endless suffering been brought to many peoples and countries. That to which we have often borne witness before our congregations, we declare in the name of the whole church. True, we have struggled for many years in the name of Jesus Christ against a spirit which has found its terrible expression in the National Socialist regime of violence, but we accuse ourselves for not witnessing more courageously...' Those, too, were German words." (150-1)
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Branddenotes.blogspot.com, October 15, 2008
This review is from: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Paperback)
(Note to publisher: thanks for choosing a bright red cover with prominent swastika! I'm sure it helped you sell books, but it got me a bunch of nasty looks on the subway... dick.)

Fascinating account of an Unitedstatesian Jewish journalist who lives in Germany, making friends with ten former Nazis, and telling their stories: about how they allowed themselves, or actively chose to, become a part of the Nazi machinery. It does an excellent job of allowing readers to put themselves in German shoes, letting them imagine Nazis as an in-group rather than a demonic enemy out-group. And the scary thing is how natural this book makes the transition seem...

Perhaps the truly scary thing is how Unitedstatesians consider themselves to exist on a much higher moral plane - that it is anathema for us to consider how we too could sink to the same moral depths we know so well our enemies inhabit.

"Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, appalled by the absence of public protest in America [at the great fire raid on Tokyo which according to the Air Force produced more civilian causalities 'than any other military action in the history of the world'], thought 'there was something wrong with a country where no one questioned' such acts committed in its name." Indeed there is something wrong with such a country. And it is information, and access to it.

Within Nazi society, there were horrors, "but these were advertised nowhere, reached 'nobody.' Once in a while (and only once in a while) a single crusading or sensation-mongering newspaper in America exposes the inhuman conditions of the local county jail; but none of my friends had ever read such a newspaper when there were such in Germany (far fewer there than here), and now there were none. None of the horrors impinged upon the day-to-day lives of my ten friends or was ever called to their attention. There was 'some sort of trouble' on the streets of Kronenberg as one or another of my friends was passing by on a couple of occasions, bu the police dispersed the crowd and there was nothing in the local paper. You and I leave 'some sort of trouble on the streets' to the police; so did my friends in Kronenberg. ... Man doesn't meet the State very often."

...

"None of my ten Nazi friends, with the exception of the cryptodemocrat Hildebrandt, knew any mistrust, suspicion, or dread in his own life or among those with whom he lived and worked; none was defamed or destroyed. Their world was the world of National Socialism; inside it, inside the Nazi community, they knew only good-fellowship and the ordinary concerns of ordinary life. ... That Nazism in Germany meant mistrust, suspicion, dread, defamation, and destruction we learned from those who brought us word of it - from its victims and opponents whose world was outside the Nazi community and from journalists and intellectuals, themselves non-Nazi or anti-Nazi, whose sympathies naturally lay with the victims and opponents. These people saw life in Germany in non-Nazi terms. There were two truths, and they were not contradictory: the truth that Nazis were happy and the truth that anti-Nazis were unhappy. And in the America of the 1950's - I do not mean to suggest that the two situations are parallel or even more than very tenuously comparable - those who did not dissent or associate with dissenters saw no mistrust or suspicion beyond the great community's mistrust and suspicion of dissenters, while those who dissented or believed in the right to dissent saw nothing but mistrust and suspicion and felt its devastation. ... just as there is when one man dreads the policeman on the beat and another waves 'Hello' to him, there are two countries in every country."

...

"The 'democratic,' that is argumentative, bill-collector, Herr Simon, was greatly interested in the mass deportation of Americans of Japanese ancestry from our West Coast in 1942. He had not heard of it before, and when I told him of the West Coast Army Commander's statement that 'a Jap is a Jap,' he hit the table with his fist and said, 'Right you are. A Jap is a Jap, a Jew is a Jew.' ... He asked me whether I had known anybody connected with the West Coast deportation. When I said 'No,' he asked me what I had done about it. When I said 'Nothing,' he said, triumphantly, 'There. You learned about all these things openly, through your government and your press. We did not learn through ours. As in your case, nothing was required of us - in our case not even knowledge. You knew about things you thought were wrong - you did think it was wrong, didn't you, Herr Professor?' 'Yes.' 'So. You did nothing. We heard or guessed, and we did nothing. So it is everywhere.' When I protested that the Japanese-descended Americans had not been treated like the Jews, he said, 'And if they had been - what then? Do you not see that the idea of doing something or doing nothing is in either case the same?'"
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They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Sanford Mayer (Paperback - May 19, 1966)
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