"It may seem a paradox, but it is nonetheless the simple truth, to say that on the contrary, the decisive historical events take place among us, the anonymous masses. The most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large. It is characteristic of these decisions that they do not manifest themselves as mass movements or demonstrations. Mass assemblies are quite incapable of independent action. Decisions that influence the course of history arise out of the individual experiences of thousands or millions of individuals."
I finished Defying Hitler over the weekend - a book I have been looking forward to reading for months. It was much different than I expected it to be, but still one of the more worthwhile memoirs I have read because of the powerful content.
If you are expecting a thrilling memoir involving violence, or open defiance against Hitler among Germans, this is not the book for you. If however, you have ever wondered, "How did Hitler rise to power?" and, "Why didn't anyone stop him?" this book will answer all of those questions with a concise and methodical delivery.
I thought the book was terrifying from start to finish - it demonstrated how the young generation of Nazi's were often bored, since they grew up with WWI and were used to turmoil. It also discusses the helplessness most Germans felt during Hitler's rise - terror for their country and what it was becoming, but with such extreme patriotism embodied in them, they felt they could not abandon it. They could not give up on their idea of what Germany stood for. I have never read such a clear account of German history. You hear stories of Nazi's and Jews and Concentration Camps, but what is so often overlooked in literature/history were the everyday German citizens who were not Nazi's, and did not sympathize with the Nazi's.
Also discussed were the tools that the Nazi's used to coerce German citizens into joining. Comradeship, Haffner claims, was the downfall, a very interesting and actually believable claim that he demonstrates through personal experience.
I found the book interesting and enlightening - but not an easy read. My mom asked if she should take it with her on her vacation to Hawaii this week and I said no. It's not a pool side read, and it takes concentration because of the philosophical, political thought. However, I have never considered Hitler's rise with this angle, and learned more about Nazi Germany than any history class, other novel, movie, etc. combined. For those interested in history, WWII, and political thought, I highly recommend it. For those who prefer fiction, it might be a little boring.
Have you read Defying Hitler? What did you think?