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on November 1, 2014
This is one of the most important books I have read to gain insight into the processes at work in the German community which enabled a gang of thugs to take control of the nation, first by murder and intimidation and then by more subtle methods to capture the loyalty of most of the population for a war that could only end in disaster. It is also a beautiful piece of writing, in stark contrast to the events that the author observed and described with relentless detail.
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on February 27, 2016
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. As an adult, his views "of the day" during Hitler's move into power are unique and elucidating.

It was published by his son after the author's death. The point of view is unique and eye-opening as it was written prior to many of the major battles of WW II. He draws fascinating parallels between the individual German's daily decisions during HItler's rise to power within Germany to the European nations' decision of similar nature - but on a much grander scale.

It is a timeless story and a MUST READ for any election time.
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on December 26, 2014
This is a book for for any body who is interested in the German society and forces that allowed the raise of Adolf Hitler. Sebastian is a man with extraordinary curiosity, independent views, passion to tell truth, observational and writing skills . He lived through the turbulent years before and after Hitler's raise to tell the first hand account of it. This is one of best books (without propaganda) available on the market. If you want more truth, look for Douglas Reed's mind-blowing book 'Controversy of Zion'.
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on December 22, 2012
This Christmas marks the 70th anniversary of the German medical officer and pastor Kurt Reuber's drawing of what is now known as the Madonna of Stalingrad. It's a simple, beautiful, charcoal drawing, done in the artist-doctor's bunker, on the back of an ordinance map, as a means of bringing hope and comfort to Reuber's men on Christmas Eve, not as soldiers of Hitler's insanity but as human beings destined to die there in the snows. I carry a tiny reproduction of it with me always to remind me of the essential humanity and suffering of us all, an essential humanity that extends to our most ferocious enemies.

Until I read "Defying Hitler: A Memoir" I had been incapable of understanding how a man such as pastor Kurt Reuber could have ended up in the Nazi army at Stalingrad. Or how other essentially good, normal men, basically good people, sentient, intelligent, caring human beings, could have in their millions participated actively in the destruction of my people, of Germany, and of Europe. Participated actively in the atrocities or simply watched, unprotesting. What had happened to their souls? Their consciences? Their moral fiber?

Haffner's 1939 memoir is not an easy book to read. His analysis of himself, his friends and his society is as precise as his prescience is frighteningly accurate.
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on April 5, 2013
I once read this memoir back in 2008, using a friend's copy, and over the years, I have been meaning to read it again because of its remarkable observations and enduring insights, so recently, I purchased it as my very own copy. Growing up, I often learned about the Second World War and a very evil man who goes by the name of Hitler and his ruthless gang of Nazis, but I had never really learned why or how Nazis came into being. Why did they do the things that they did and why weren't they stopped or resisted by the common German people? There was no sense of psychological understandings or insights into such people until I read this memoir by Sebastian Haffner. Not only is it an autobiographical but also a political analysis of Germany before the Second World War.

This book was written in 1939 in order to make a living in England after leaving Germany, but Haffner abandoned it to write a new book on the subject of the Nazi Germany during the outbreak of war. That new book was titled Germany: Jekyll and Hyde: An Eyewitness Analysis of Nazi Germany. It wasn't until after Haffner's death in 1999 that this 1939 book was discovered by his son, Oliver Pretzel, who eventually translated and published this book (forty chapters; around 300 pages). I am very glad that he did.

Haffner began his memoir with the year 1914 up to 1933 to which his eyewitness account gives us a very real picture of Germany in periods of changes: the Great War, Revolution of 1918-19, the Weimar Republic, the inflation, the rise of the Nazis and the Hitler Youth movement, the Reichstag fire, the increasing hatred of Jews, and Hitler's rise to power. It is a story of a duel, as the author wrote in his prologue - a story of struggles between an individual and the state during these years. Even though he was classified as an "Aryan" by the Nazis, he despised the Nazi regime. The name of the title may be referred to the idea of keeping his mind free of Nazi ideology, refusing participation in the senseless crimes, and helping those being victimized by the regime - all of which considered to be defying Hitler himself.

Several descriptions of social changes and extremely rapid and violent breakdown of personal freedoms and laws are profoundly disturbing to read because when thugs are in charge, a resistance becomes a non-existence. It's also very difficult to avoid seeing the obvious comparative similarities with certain countries of today.

The writing style is fairly easy to read (even though it can be wordy at times) with such clarity. This memoir sheds a remarkable light on the most horrendous and insidious period in German history. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone whose interests are in German history or in the Second World War as well to understand what happens when one is living under a totalitarian state. It's truly a rare read.

This memoir can be read along with Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology and two films: The Nazis: A Warning From History and V for Vendetta.
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on May 21, 2016
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. Hitler did not suddenly appear, the far right paved the way (some unwittingly), removing the peoples rights over time, supposedly to protect them from the communists. Instead of the communists, they coped the extreme right in the form of Hitler and his Nazis.

The author was not a Jew, nor a communist, nor union member, he was a bright young German man studying law. Yet he had to flee his own country, as life had become unbearable and frightening in Berlin under the brutality of Hitler. He found refuge in England, getting out just in time before war broke out. He worked a journalist and returned to Berlin in 1956, he died in his 90's.

In Australia, over the past few years alone, our right wing Government has removed hundreds of our rights and freedoms, supposedly to protect us from Muslim terrorists. As we don't have a Bill of Rights, Australians are more vulnerable to the likes of Hitler than the US is. We are sitting ducks now. This book is a must read.
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on February 12, 2017
I liked this story due to the way it portrayed life in Germany before the war... many people find it hard to believe that the German people let the Nazis gain power but this story gives insight to the possible reasons
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on July 3, 2017
This excellent book is about the people of Germany between the world wars and as such goes far in explaining what happened among them, which lead to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Furthermore, it is an excellent cautionary tale about how decent people can unwittingly allow themselves to be led astray by popular and political circumstances.
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on February 15, 2017
What an amazing big picture account of the political and social climate in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. Writing from first hand experiences, Sebastian Haffner, provides insight into the incredibly tough questions many German citizens faced during the rise of the Third Reich.
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on August 1, 2017
Excellent analysis of how a cultured, intelligent nation fell under Hitler's spell. The author did not, and his analysis gives excellent insight into the minds of the German people who did. The author was a youth during WWI and came of age in the despair of the Weimar Republic. Destined to be a lawyer in the German civil service, he instead fled to Great Britain in 1939 and helped the world resist Hitler through his poignant writing and masterful observation skills.
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