Review: Defying Hitler (Sebastian Haffner)

Defying HitlerDefying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the few accounts of Nazi Germany written by someone not persecuted by the regime, this memoir documents the loss of nationhood of the German people. It helps to explain one of the great puzzles of the age: why the German people allowed Hitler to achieve total control.

“The first country to be occupied by the Nazis was not Austria or Czechoslovakia. It was Germany. It was just one of their now so familiar tricks that they occupied and trampled on the nation in the name of ‘Germany’ itself – that was part of the mechanism of destruction.”

As an Aryan, Haffner was for much of the time immune from the horrors afflicting so many people in that country, and he writes with great clarity of the decline of reason and humanity. Written in 1938-39, before the outbreak of the war, it describes the feeling of desolation of an exile – in Haffner’s case, an exile yet living in his own country. What I found remarkable is that he viewed Hitler as completely depraved, bestial and abhorrent – and personally responsible for driving anti-Semitism – all before the terror of the regime was finally unleashed during the holocaust. This is compelling reading for anyone who is concerned about political oppression, corruption and tyranny: in other words, every human being.

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