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Publisher's Summary

When the famous German author Sebastian Haffner died at the age of 91 in 1999, a manuscript was discovered among his unpublished papers. The book was begun in 1939, but with the advent of World War II, Haffner had set it aside. His family made the decision to publish it, and the book became a best seller in Germany in 2002. Spanning the period from 1907 to 1933, it offers a unique perspective on how the average educated German grappled with the rise of Hitler, the growing influence of Nazism, and a rapidly changing society. Haffner's astute and compelling eyewitness accounts provide a broad overview of a country in a constant state of flux. He examines the pervasive influence of groups such as the Free Corps and the Hitler Youth movement that swept the nation. His own family's financial struggles illustrate the disaster that befell many of Germany's citizens during the apocalyptic year of 1923 when inflation devastated the country. The later peaceful but dangerously uninspiring Stresemann years contributed still further to Hitler's rise to power. This is an invaluable chronicling of day-to-day changes in attitudes, beliefs, politics, and prejudices.
A major best seller in Germany now available for the first time in English, Defying Hitler is an illuminating portrait of a time, a place, and a people.
©2000 Sarah Haffner and Oliver Pretzel (P)2000 Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart/Munchen. Translation © 2002 Oliver Pretzel
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Critic Reviews

"his is a gem of a book, with as much intellectual force as, say, The Diary of Anne Frank has emotional force....Essential reading about that fearsome era." (Booklist)
"[A] masterpiece...A series of vignettes that vividly convey the texture of life under an emerging totalitarian regime." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A vivid examination of just how Hitler's ascension affected an ordinary German....This intimate self-portrait stands with Victor Klemperer's two-part memoir, I Will Bear Witness, as evidence that the personal can offer insight into the political tragedy of Nazism." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By GLENN on 08-27-04

A story of moral courage

Being interested in the history of World War II, I found the title intriguing, but felt uneasy about starting this book. I expected horrors. I was surprised at how reassuring this book was. The persistence of one person's moral center of gravity during a society's terrible moral collapse is profoundly moving. The chapter on "comradeship" is a brilliant essay on the way even a self-aware person can temporarily lose himself in group loyalty. The description of atrocities is chillingly understated. Haffner shows an astonishing ability to connect social, political, psychological and ethical themes. The prose is musical. I came away with a better understanding of how the world, at least the Western world, has changed since fascism, and with greater confidence in the future.

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21 of 21 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Douglas on 06-12-04

Great Read

Gripping and intelligent. What would my reaction have been were I a young man in Nazi Germany? I hope I would be even just a little like this man. I left this book feeling much deeper sense of the internal struggles with the myriad of external struggles. This is a captivating and must read both for its historical content but also, and most importantly, its ethical content.

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34 of 35 people found this review helpful

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