The Good Germans
Resisting the Nazis, 1933-1945
By Catrine Clay
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Dist. by Hachette Australia
RRP $32.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781474607889
Catrine Clay’s description of Hitler seizing power in Germany in 1933 has unsettling parallels with what we have seen from Trump-inspired mobs in the U.S. recently: hysterical crowds and adoring followers endorsing the claims of a leader bent on supressing democracy.
Yet two-thirds of Germans were never members of the Nazi Party.
So how did Germans who were opposed to the Nazi Party protect themselves and their families?
Through the stories of six ordinary Germans, Clay sets out to shed light on the lives of people who lived in daily fear of being denounced. They feared losing their jobs or their homes. Worse still, they feared for their lives if they denounced Hitler and the Nazi Party or even engaged in mild criticism. Sometimes mere suspicion was enough.
In their daily lives, those who refused to embrace the Nazi ideals endured bullying and intimidation at every turn from those who had fully embraced the Hitler propaganda. It’s chilling to read how a society turns on itself when evil prevails.
The six characters on which Clay focuses were very different:
- Irma, the young daughter of Ernst Thalmann, leader of the German Communists;
- Fritzi von der Schulenburg, a Prussian aristocrat;
- Rudolf Ditzen, the already famous author Hans Fallada, best known for his novel Alone in Berlin;
- Bernt Engelmann, a schoolboy living in the suburbs of Dusseldorf;
- Julius Leber, a charismatic leader of the Social Democrats in the Reichstag; and
- Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a law student in Berlin.
The six are not seen in isolation but as part of their families: a brother and sister; a wife; a father with three children; an only son; the parents of a Communist pioneer daughter.
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