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The Book Smugglers
Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis
David E. Fishman
University Press of New England, 2018
The Book Smugglers is the nearly unbelievable story of ghetto residents who rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts—first from the Nazis and then from the Soviets—by hiding them on their bodies, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. It is a tale of heroism and resistance, of friendship and romance, and of unwavering devotion—including the readiness to risk one’s life—to literature and art. And it is entirely true. Based on Jewish, German, and Soviet documents, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and the author’s interviews with several of the story’s participants, The Book Smugglers chronicles the daring activities of a group of poets turned partisans and scholars turned smugglers in Vilna, “The Jerusalem of Lithuania.” The rescuers were pitted against Johannes Pohl, a Nazi “expert” on the Jews, who had been dispatched to Vilna by the Nazi looting agency, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, to organize the seizure of the city’s great collections of Jewish books. Pohl and his Einsatzstab staff planned to ship the most valuable materials to Germany and incinerate the rest. The Germans used forty ghetto inmates as slave-laborers to sort, select, pack, and transport the materials, either to Germany or to nearby paper mills. This group, nicknamed “the Paper Brigade,” and informally led by poet Shmerke Kaczerginski, a garrulous, street-smart adventurer and master of deception, smuggled thousands of books and manuscripts past German guards. If caught, the men would have faced death by firing squad at Ponar, the mass-murder site outside of Vilna. To store the rescued manuscripts, poet Abraham Sutzkever helped build an underground book-bunker sixty feet beneath the Vilna ghetto. Kaczerginski smuggled weapons as well, using the group’s worksite, the former building of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, to purchase arms for the ghetto’s secret partisan organization. All the while, both men wrote poetry that was recited and sung by the fast-dwindling population of ghetto inhabitants. With the Soviet “liberation” of Vilna (now known as Vilnius), the Paper Brigade thought themselves and their precious cultural treasures saved—only to learn that their new masters were no more welcoming toward Jewish culture than the old, and the books must now be smuggled out of the USSR. Thoroughly researched by the foremost scholar of the Vilna Ghetto—a writer of exceptional daring, style, and reach—The Book Smugglers is an epic story of human heroism, a little-known tale from the blackest days of the war.
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Democracy, Dialogue, and Community Action
Truth and Reconciliation in Greensboro
Spoma Jovanovic
University of Arkansas Press, 2012
On November 3, 1979, five protest marchers in Greensboro, North Carolina, were shot and killed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. There were no police present, but television crews captured the shootings on video. Despite two criminal trials, none of the killers ever served time for their crimes, exposing what many believed to be the inadequacy of judicial, political, and economic systems in the United States. Twenty-five years later, in 2004, Greensboro residents, inspired by post-apartheid South Africa, initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to take public testimony and examine the causes, sequence of events, and consequences of the massacre. The TRC was to be a process and a tool by which citizens could feel confident about the truth of the city's history in order to reconcile divergent understandings of past and current city values, and it became the foundation for the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States. Spoma Jovanovic, who worked alongside other community members to document the grassroots effort to convene the first TRC in the United States, provides a resource and case study of how citizens in one community used their TRC as a way to understand the past and conceive the future. This book preserves the historical significance of a people's effort to seek truth and work for reconciliation, shows a variety of discourse models for other communities to use in seeking to redress past harms, and demonstrates the power of community action to promote participatory democracy.
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Folklore Fights the Nazis
Humor in Occupied Norway, 1940–1945
Kathleen Stokker
University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
    Armed with jokes, puns, and cartoons, Norwegians tried to keep their spirits high and foster the Resistance by poking fun at the occupying Germans during World War II. Despite a 1942 ordinance mandating death for the ridicule of Nazi soldiers, Norwegians attacked the occupying Nazis and their Norwegian collaborators by means of anecdotes, quips, insinuating personal ads, children’s stories, Christmas cards, mock postage stamps, and symbolic clothing.
    In relating this dramatic story, Kathleen Stokker draws upon her many interviews with survivors of the Occupation and upon the archives of the Norwegian Resistance Museum and the University of Oslo. Central to the book are four “joke notebooks” kept by women ranging in age from eleven to thirty, who found sufficient meaning in this humor to risk recording and preserving it. Stokker also cites details from wartime diaries of three other women from East, West, and North Norway. Placing the joking in historical, cultural, and psychological context, Stokker demonstrates how this seemingly frivolous humor in fact contributed to the development of a resistance mentality among an initially confused, paralyzed, and dispirited population, stunned by the German invasion of their neutral country.
    For this paperback edition, Stokker has added a new preface offering a comparative view of resistance through humor in neighboring Denmark.
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Genocide as Social Practice
Reorganizing Society under the Nazis and Argentina's Military Juntas
by Daniel Feierstein, Translated by Douglas Andrew Town
Rutgers University Press, 2014
Genocide not only annihilates people but also destroys and reorganizes social relations, using terror as a method. In Genocide as Social Practice, social scientist Daniel Feierstein looks at the policies of state-sponsored repression pursued by the Argentine military dictatorship against political opponents between 1976 and 1983 and those pursued by the Third Reich between 1933 and 1945. He finds similarities, not in the extent of the horror but in terms of the goals of the perpetrators.

The Nazis resorted to ruthless methods in part to stifle dissent but even more importantly to reorganize German society into a Volksgemeinschaft, or people’s community, in which racial solidarity would supposedly replace class struggle. The situation in Argentina echoes this. After seizing power in 1976, the Argentine military described its own program of forced disappearances, torture, and murder as a “process of national reorganization” aimed at remodeling society on “Western and Christian” lines.

For Feierstein, genocide can be considered a technology of power—a form of social engineering—that creates, destroys, or reorganizes relationships within a given society. It influences the ways in which different social groups construct their identity and the identity of others, thus shaping the way that groups interrelate. Feierstein establishes continuity between the “reorganizing genocide” first practiced by the Nazis in concentration camps and the more complex version—complex in terms of the symbolic and material closure of social relationships —later applied in Argentina. In conclusion, he speculates on how to construct a political culture capable of confronting and resisting these trends.

First published in Argentina, in Spanish, Genocide as Social Practice has since been translated into many languages, now including this English edition. The book provides a distinctive and valuable look at genocide through the lens of Latin America as well as Europe.

Download open access ebook here.
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How Green Were the Nazis?
Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich
Franz-Josef Brüggemeier
Ohio University Press, 2005

The Nazis created nature preserves, championed sustainable forestry, curbed air pollution, and designed the autobahn highway network as a way of bringing Germans closer to nature. How Green Were the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich is the first book to examine the Third Reich's environmental policies and to offer an in-depth exploration of the intersections between brown ideologies and green practices.

Environmentalists and conservationists in Germany welcomed the rise of the Nazi regime with open arms and hoped that it would bring about legal and institutional changes. However, environmentalists soon realized that the rhetorical attention they received from the regime did not always translate into action. By the late 1930s, nature and the environment had become less pressing concerns as Nazi Germany prepared for and executed a global conflagration.

Based on prodigious archival research, and written by some of the most important scholars in the field of twentieth-century German history, How Green Were the Nazis? examines the overlap between Nazi ideology and conservationist agendas. This landmark book underscores the fact that the “green” policies of the Nazis were more than a mere episode or aberration in environmental history.

Contributors: Franz-Josef Brüggemeier, Mark Cioc, Thomas Zeller, Charles Closmann, Michael Imort, Thomas Lekan, Frank Uekötter, Gesine Gerhard, Thomas Rohkrämer, Mark Bassin, and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn.

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J. D. Salinger and the Nazis
Eberhard Alsen
University of Wisconsin Press, 2018
Before J.D. Salinger became famous for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye and infamous as a literary recluse, he was a soldier in World War II. While serving in the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in Europe, Salinger wrote more than twenty short stories and returned home with a German war bride. Eberhard Alsen, through meticulous archival research and careful analysis of the literary record, corrects mistaken assumptions about the young writer's war years and their repercussions. Though recent biographies and films claim that Salinger regularly participated in combat, Alsen cites military documents showing that his counterintelligence work was well behind the front lines.

Alsen, a longtime Salinger scholar who witnessed the Nazi regime firsthand as a child in Germany, tracks Salinger's prewar experiences in the army, his work for the CIC during significant military campaigns, and his reactions to three military disasters that killed more than a thousand fellow soldiers in his Fourth Infantry Division. Alsen also identifies the Nazi death camp where Salinger saw mounds of recently burned bodies. Revealing details shed light on Salinger's outspoken disgust for American military leaders, the personality changes that others saw in him after the war, and his avoidance of topics related to the Holocaust.
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Jewish Resistance Against the Nazis
Patrick Henry
Catholic University of America Press, 2014
This volume puts to rest the myth that the Jews went passively to the slaughter like sheep. Indeed Jews resisted in every Nazi-occupied country - in the forests, the ghettos, and the concentration camps.The essays presented here consider Jewish resistance to be resistance by Jewish persons in specifically Jewish groups, or by Jewish persons working within non-Jewish organizations. Resistance could be armed revolt; flight; the rescue of targeted individuals by concealment in non-Jewish homes, farms, and institutions; or by the smuggling of Jews into countries where Jews were not objects of Nazi persecution. Other forms of resistance include every act that Jewish people carried out to fight against the dehumanizing agenda of the Nazis - acts such as smuggling food, clothing, and medicine into the ghettos, putting on plays, reading poetry, organizing orchestras and art exhibits, forming schools, leaving diaries, and praying. These attempts to remain physically, intellectually, culturally, morally, and theologically alive constituted resistance to Nazi oppression, which was designed to demolish individuals, destroy their soul, and obliterate their desire to live.
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Justifying Genocide
Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler
Stefan Ihrig
Harvard University Press, 2016

The Armenian Genocide and the Nazi Holocaust are often thought to be separated by a large distance in time and space. But Stefan Ihrig shows that they were much more connected than previously thought. Bismarck and then Wilhelm II staked their foreign policy on close relations with a stable Ottoman Empire. To the extent that the Armenians were restless under Ottoman rule, they were a problem for Germany too. From the 1890s onward Germany became accustomed to excusing violence against Armenians, even accepting it as a foreign policy necessity. For many Germans, the Armenians represented an explicitly racial problem and despite the Armenians’ Christianity, Germans portrayed them as the “Jews of the Orient.”

As Stefan Ihrig reveals in this first comprehensive study of the subject, many Germans before World War I sympathized with the Ottomans’ longstanding repression of the Armenians and would go on to defend vigorously the Turks’ wartime program of extermination. After the war, in what Ihrig terms the “great genocide debate,” German nationalists first denied and then justified genocide in sweeping terms. The Nazis too came to see genocide as justifiable: in their version of history, the Armenian Genocide had made possible the astonishing rise of the New Turkey.

Ihrig is careful to note that this connection does not imply the Armenian Genocide somehow caused the Holocaust, nor does it make Germans any less culpable. But no history of the twentieth century should ignore the deep, direct, and disturbing connections between these two crimes.

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My War against the Nazis
A Jewish Soldier with the Red Army
Adam Broner, with a foreword by Antony Polonsky
University of Alabama Press, 2007

A poignant account of the perils and fortunes of an indomitable survivor of violence in Eastern Europe during World War II.

In 1939, to escape Nazi occupation, 14-year-old Adam Broner and his older brother Sam left their home and family in Lodz, Poland, and made their way to the Soviet Union. Adam enlisted in the Red Army to join the fight against the Nazis but was sent to work in a Siberian coal mine instead when his nationality was discovered. After a bold and daring escape from Siberia, Broner reached the Soviet Polish Kosciuszko Army, joined the struggle against the Nazis, participated in the liberation of Poland, and rode victorious into Berlin in 1945. He later learned that his parents, siblings (except Sam), and all other close relatives had perished during the war. 


 Broner rebuilt his life, established a family, returned to Moscow for a degree in economics, and then went back to Poland, where he accepted a job in the Polish central planning agency. Eventually fed up with the growing anti-Semitism of the Communist government there, the author emigrated to the United States in 1969. He earned a doctorate from Princeton University and served as an economic adviser to New Jersey governors and the state legislature. In retirement, Broner learned portrait painting and reproduced the likenesses of his parents and siblings from memory, which are presented along with their biographies in this book.

In recounting his struggle for survival during some of the most dramatic upheavals of the 20th century— the Great Depression, Nazism, World War II, and the spread of Communism in Central Europe— Broner reveals a life dedicated to the ultimate goal of freedom, which he achieved through a combination of arduous effort and fortunate circumstance.

 

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The Nazis in the Balkans
A Case Study of Totalitarian Politics
Dietrich Orlow
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1968
The Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft (Southeast Europe Society or SOEG) was founded in 1940 to formulate wartime policy in Southeast Europe; its organizational life began and ended with the Third Reich.

In his analysis of the creation, growth, and death of the SOEG, Dietrich Orlow focuses on the institutional behavior and power struggles of this microcosm of the Nazi system. Its story is illustrative of the nature of politics in all totalitarian societies and reveals the aims and the failure of Germany's wartime exploitation of the Balkan resources and the long-term economic designs for the Balkans after the Third Reich's expected victory.
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Nazis of Copley Square
The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front
Charles R. Gallagher
Harvard University Press, 2021

Winner of a Catholic Media Association Book Award

The forgotten history of American terrorists who, in the name of God, conspired to overthrow the government and formed an alliance with Hitler.

On January 13, 1940, FBI agents burst into the homes and offices of seventeen members of the Christian Front, seizing guns, ammunition, and homemade bombs. J. Edgar Hoover’s charges were incendiary: the group, he alleged, was planning to incite a revolution and install a “temporary dictatorship” in order to stamp out Jewish and Communist influence in the United States. Interviewed in his jail cell, the front’s ringleader was unbowed: “All I can say is—long live Christ the King! Down with Communism!”

In Nazis of Copley Square, Charles Gallagher provides a crucial missing chapter in the history of the American far right. The men of the Christian Front imagined themselves as crusaders fighting for the spiritual purification of the nation, under assault from godless Communism, and they were hardly alone in their beliefs. The front traced its origins to vibrant global Catholic theological movements of the early twentieth century, such as the Mystical Body of Christ and Catholic Action. The front’s anti-Semitism was inspired by Sunday sermons and by lay leaders openly espousing fascist and Nazi beliefs.

Gallagher chronicles the evolution of the front, the transatlantic cloak-and-dagger intelligence operations that subverted it, and the mainstream political and religious leaders who shielded the front’s activities from scrutiny. Nazis of Copley Square is a grim tale of faith perverted to violent ends, and a warning for those who hope to curb the spread of far-right ideologies today.

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Nazis of Copley Square
The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front
Charles R. Gallagher
Harvard University Press

Winner of a Catholic Media Association Book Award

“A great, but deeply unsettling, revelation…This book is more than an account of Boston in wartime. It is a warning.”—Boston Globe

“The rare book by a scholar that is such a page-turner it is hard to put down…A potent brew of spy story, detective story, and frank, fearless account of how a significant wing of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States spawned a movement aimed at defending Hitler and sabotaging America’s war effort.”—David I. Kertzer, author of The Pope and Mussolini

“[A] well told, expertly researched, and much-needed history of the Christian Front, an organization that presages today’s far-right activity…Riveting.”—Commonweal

On January 13, 1940, FBI agents burst into the homes of seventeen members of the Christian Front, seizing guns, ammunition, and homemade bombs. J. Edgar Hoover’s charges were incendiary: the group, he alleged, was planning to incite a revolution and install a “temporary dictatorship” to stamp out Jewish and Communist influence in the United States. Interviewed in his jail cell, the front’s ringleader was unbowed: “All I can say is—long live Christ the King! Down with Communism!”

In this brilliant work of historical reconstruction, Charles Gallagher provides a crucial missing chapter in the history of the American far right. The men of the Christian Front imagined themselves to be crusaders fighting for the spiritual purification of the nation, and they were hardly alone in their beliefs.

Nazis of Copley Square chronicles the evolution of the front, the transatlantic cloak-and-dagger intelligence operations that subverted it, and the political and religious leaders who shielded it from scrutiny. A riveting tale of faith perverted to violent ends, it offers a potent warning to those who hope to curb the spread of far-right ideologies today.

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Quakers and Nazis
Inner Light in Outer Darkness
Hans A. Schmitt
University of Missouri Press, 1997

Why the title Quakers and Nazis, not Quakers against Nazis? Was not hostility part of the interaction between the two groups? On the contrary, Hans A. Schmitt's compelling story describes American, British, and German Quakers' attempts to mitigate the suffering among not only victims of Nazism but Nazi sympathizers in Austria and Lithuania as well.

With numerous poignant illustrations of the pressure and social cost involved in being a Quaker from 1933 to 1945, Quakers and Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness reveals a facet of Nazi Germany that is entirely unknown to most people. The book focuses on the heroic acts foreign and German Quakers performed under the Nazi regime, offering fully documented and original information regarding the Quakers' commitment to nonviolence and the relief of the victims.

Schmitt's narrative reveals the stress and tension of the situation. How should a Quaker behave in a meeting for worship with a policeman present? Spies did not stop Friends in worship services from openly criticizing Hitler and Göring, but Nazis did inflict torment on Friends. Yet Friends did not, could not, respond in like manner. Olga Halle was one Friend who worked to get people, mostly Jews, out of Germany until America entered the war. When emigration was outlawed, twenty-eight were stranded. Years later her distress was still so deep that even on her deathbed she recited their names.

Schmitt reminds us that virtually all the Berlin Quakers secreted Jews throughout the war. He shows how these brave Quakers opposed the Nazis even after they lost their jobs and had been harassed by the Gestapo. Risking their lives, the Friends persisted in their efforts to alleviate suffering.

At a time when the scholarly world is divided as to whether all Germans knew and approved of the Final Solution, this book makes a valuable contribution to the discussion. Quakers—despite their small numbers—played, and continue to play, an important role in twentieth-century humanitarian relief. Quakers and Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness, a study of how Friends performed under the extreme pressure of a totalitarian regime, will add significantly to our general understanding of Quaker and German history.

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Racial Hygiene
Medicine under the Nazis
Robert N. Proctor
Harvard University Press

Scholars exploring the history of science under the Nazis have generally concentrated on the Nazi destruction of science or the corruption of intellectual and liberal values. Racial Hygiene focuses on how scientists themselves participated in the construction of Nazi racial policy. Robert Proctor demonstrates that the common picture of a passive scientific community coerced into cooperation with the Nazis fails to grasp the reality of what actually happened—namely, that many of the political initiatives of the Nazis arose from within the scientific community, and that medical scientists actively designed and administered key elements of National Socialist policy.

The book presents the most comprehensive account to date of German medical involvement in the sterilization and castration laws, the laws banning marriage between Jews and non-Jews, and the massive program to destroy “lives not worth living.” The study traces attempts on the part of doctors to conceive of the “Jewish problem” as a “medical problem,” and how medical journals openly discussed the need to find a “final solution” to Germany’s Jewish and gypsy “problems.”

Proctor makes us aware that such thinking was not unique to Germany. The social Darwinism of the late nineteenth century in America and Europe gave rise to theories of racial hygiene that were embraced by enthusiasts of various nationalities in the hope of breeding a better, healthier, stronger race of people. Proctor also presents an account of the “organic” health movement that flourished under the Nazis, including campaigns to reduce smoking and drinking, and efforts to require bakeries to produce whole-grain bread. A separate chapter is devoted to the emergence of a resistance movement among doctors in the Association of Socialist Physicians. The book is based on a close analysis of contemporary documents, including German state archives and more than two hundred medical journals published during the period.

Proctor has set out not merely to tell a story but also to urge reflection on what might be called the “political philosophy of science”—how movements that shape the policies of nations can also shape the structure and priorities of science. The broad implications of this book make it of consequence not only to historians, physicians, and people concerned with the history and philosophy of science, but also to those interested in science policy and medical ethics.

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Requiem for a German Past
A Boyhood among the Nazis
Jurgen Herbst
University of Wisconsin Press, 2002

Jurgen Herbst’s account of growing up in Nazi Germany from 1928 to 1948 is a boy’s experience of anti-Semitism and militarism from the inside. Herbst was a middle-class boy in a Lutheran family that saw value in Prussian military ideals and a mythic German past. His memoir is a compelling, understated tale of moral awakening.

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Serbia under the Swastika
A World War II Occupation
Alexander Prusin
University of Illinois Press, 2017
The 1941 Axis invasion of Yugoslavia initially left the German occupiers with a pacified Serbian heartland willing to cooperate in return for relatively mild treatment. Soon, however, the outbreak of resistance shattered Serbia's seeming tranquility, turning the country into a battlefield and an area of bitter civil war.

Deftly merging political and social history, Serbia under the Swastika looks at the interactions between Germany’s occupation policies, the various forces of resistance and collaboration, and the civilian population. Alexander Prusin reveals a German occupying force at war with itself. Pragmatists intent on maintaining a sedate Serbia increasingly gave way to Nazified agencies obsessed with implementing the expansionist racial vision of the Third Reich. As Prusin shows, the increasing reliance on terror catalyzed conflict between the nationalist Chetniks, communist Partisans, and the collaborationist government. Prusin unwraps the winding system of expediency that at times led the factions to support one-another against the Germans--even as they fought a ferocious internecine civil war to determine the future of Yugoslavia.

Comprehensive and judicious, Serbia under the Swastika is a rare English-language foray into the still-fraught history of Serbia in World War II.

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An Uncompromising Generation
The Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office
Michael Wildt
University of Wisconsin Press, 2009
In An Uncompromising Generation, Michael Wildt follows the journey of a strikingly homogenous group of young academics—who came from the educated, bourgeois stratum of society—as they started to identify with the Nazi concept of Volksgemeinschaft, which labeled Jews as enemies of the people and justified their murder.

Wildt’s study traces the intellectual evolution of key members of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) from their days as students until the end of World War II. Established in 1939, this office fused together the Gestapo, the Criminal Police, and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) of the SS. Far from being small cogs in a big bureaucratic machine, Wildt finds that the people who made up the RSHA constructed the concepts and operated the apparatus that carried out the Holocaust.

At the center of both theory and practice of persecution and genocide in Nazi-occupied Europe, these young men of the RSHA—none of whom envisioned the systematic annihilation of the European Jews—became radicalized. How this occurred is the central question of Wildt’s book. Wildt also discusses the postwar careers of the members of the RSHA. Strikingly, he shows how the leaders of the RSHA evaded the consequences of their actions under the Nazi regime and went on to have important careers in the rebuilt West Germany.

An alternate selection of the History Book Club and Military Book Club

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Why Hitler Came into Power
Theodore Abel
Harvard University Press, 1986

In 1934 Theodore Abel went to Germany and offered a prize, under the auspices of Columbia University, for autobiographies of members of the National Socialist movement. The six hundred essays he received constitute the single best source on grassroots opinion within the Nazi Party, and they form the empirical foundation for Abel’s fascinating yet curiously neglected 1938 book. Although a number of scholars have drawn on these reports, Abel’s own treatment has never been surpassed. Of particular value is his presentation of the life histories of a worker, a soldier, an anti-Semite, a middle-class youth, a farmer, and a bank clerk, all of whom explain in their own words why they joined the NSDAP. In the vast literature on National Socialism, no more useful or revealing testimony exists.

In a new Foreword, Thomas Childers discusses how the past half-century of research and writing on Nazi Germany has upheld Abel’s original insights into the broad appeal of the National Socialist movement, thereby reaffirming this work’s enduring value for students of the topic.

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