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An outstanding work of scholarship, written and read beautifully. The book examines the German people's complicit and implicit support for Hitler and the Nazi's. Stargardt's research exposes the guilt of the entire nation. Through letters and diaries he shows the Germans of the period to be cruel, willfully blind and loving. This is ugly history but the book examines what must be examined.
I'm an avid reader of ww2 history but after reading this book, I've said to myself, enough, I'm tired. Through this book I I felt I was a first hand observer of the German people, 1939-1945. I'm tired and a little sad.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Having read scores of recent works about WWII, I was dubious that I needed to read another. But Stargardt's book is a terrific addition to the literature and should not be missed. As others have said, it's not primarily a battlefield account, instead dealing with the attitudes and beliefs of a wide range of contemporary Germans living, voluntarily blinkered, during the war. The book is especially strong in dealing with the institutions that were responsible for molding the German worldview. Even before the war, Germans had been an "organizing" society, with citizens, especially those in the larger cities, tending to join multiple cultural, civic, and religious communities. This tendency was exploited by the Nazis, who understood how voluntary organizations could be manipulated to serve their purposes of ideological inculcation.
The Hitler Youth, the League of German Maidens, the various welfare and homeland defense organizations, and especially the churches, are examined in this light. Stargardt doesn't let any of these organizations--again, especially the churches--off the hook. Churches saw themselves, with very few exceptions, as a bulwark of the state. At their best, the churches simply ignored the mass extermination of the Jews. At their worst, they actively approved Hitler's "final solution." German citizens who were aware of the ongoing Holocaust--and Stargardt shows that the majority clearly were aware--chose not to consider the extermination of the Jews to be anywhere near the top of their most pressing concerns. The churches' willful abandonment of morality, the indoctrination of children in Nazi youth movements, and the power of the Nazi leaders' propaganda machine, encouraged otherwise rational people, heirs to a monumental cultural heritage, to reach this point.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful