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Defying Hitler: A Memoir Paperback – August 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
What Haffner--and his son, who is the assured and elegant translator--have given us is one of the most compelling and insightful descriptions of the period that has been written. It can only be compared to the diary of Otto Klemperer as a revelatory description of how a nation of people, not so different from other nations at the time or indeed of any nation today, could descend into barbarism and criminality on the vast scale of the Third Reich.
From the opening sentence the 1920s and 30s in Germany is evoked: "This is the story of a duel." Specialists will be aware of the importance of actual duelling in middle and upper class German society as late at WWI, and its endurance as a symbol thereafter, and with this characterisation of his personal struggle against the Nazi State, Haffner seductively invites his reader into the authentic atmosphere of the period.Read more ›
The author describes what it was like for thoughtful, liberal Germans to see their country taken over by monsters, and explains how so many "ordinary" Germans could have failed to resist, and even participated. (I'd be curious to know whether the title is his; Haffner is very hard on his fellow Germans and himself, and it would not have surprised me, now that I've read the book, if he would have settled for something closer to "Succumbing to Hitler" or "Marching In Step." There's precious little defying of Hitler in this account, as Haffner would be the first to admit.)
It starts slow by analyzing German politics and society after the First World War -- few readers aside from German history nuts will recognize names like Rathenau, Stresemann, and Bruening -- and I expected to have to give it three stars, despite the thoughtfulness and intelligence of the writing.
But try not to let that discourage you. When Haffner gets to the personal narrative about his Jewish friends and girlfriend, the changes in his Berlin society and neighborhood, and the grotesque "training camp" which he and other aspiring lawyers were forced to attend before being allowed to take their qualifying exam, the book becomes gripping. (And he takes a few pages to apologize and justify this very aspect!Read more ›
Key to understanding Nazism (and, as Haffner points out repeatedly, Communism) is, in my opinion, Haffner's account of the future judges' and attorneys' mandatory stay at a paramilitary training camp. He and other attendees critical of the Third Reich expected brain-washing lectures and seminars to get them and the Nazis on the same page. They are surprised to find that none of this happens. Their daily mind-numbing and de-individualizing camp routines (marching, singing nationalistic marching songs, cleaning the camp, shooting, cracking dehumanizing jokes with their "comrades") do the brain-washing in a much more subtle and effective way than lectures. The latter could have been countered by these future jurists with intellectual arguments, the former could not. As has been noted by other reviewers, the Nazis militarized the German people as a whole and exposed it thus to the entoxicating fumes of comradery that dissolved thinking individuals in a brainless mass.
Haffner's perspective often led me to ask myself: What would I have done? It was the little daily compromises he writes about that made me think this. E.g.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've often wondered how the German people could have been so taken in by Adolph Hitler. It's an easy explanation to say it was because of the dire economic straits German was in... Read morePublished 1 month ago by John Bean
For anyone who wants to understand what life was like for an intelligent German citizen from WWl to before WWll, as it slowly over a couple of decades slipped under fascist rule. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Leisha Jack
Original writing from before outbreak of WWII. A uniquely insightful observation against political correctness and for individuality. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ries Vriend
This is a memoir written in 1939 by a young German man, who was a child during WW I and grows to be a man during the post war period. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Karen S.
The BEST book I've ever read. I've listened to it twice on Audible and wanted it in print for reference. You easily see and feel what Mr. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Dena
As for the deep cultural, social, and political issues that germinated and resulted in the catastrophe of Nazi Germany, this is an excellent resource book.Published 6 months ago by charles
“Defying Hitler” is one of those relatively few books (available widely in English at least) that are contemporaneous memoirs of events relating to the Third Reich. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adam Wayne