Read What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany by Eric A. Johnson Karl-Heinz Reuband Online


The horrors of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust still present some of the most disturbing questions in modern history: Why did Hitler's party appeal to millions of Germans, and how entrenched was anti-Semitism among the population? How could anyone claim, after the war, that the genocide of Europe's Jews was a secret? Did ordinary non-Jewish Germans live in fear of the NaThe horrors of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust still present some of the most disturbing questions in modern history: Why did Hitler's party appeal to millions of Germans, and how entrenched was anti-Semitism among the population? How could anyone claim, after the war, that the genocide of Europe's Jews was a secret? Did ordinary non-Jewish Germans live in fear of the Nazi state? In this unprecedented firsthand analysis of daily life as experienced in the Third Reich, What We Knew offers answers to these most important questions. Combining the expertise of Eric A. Johnson, an American historian, and Karl-Heinz Reuband, a German sociologist, What We Knew is the most startling oral history yet of everyday life in theThird Reich....

Title : What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany
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ISBN : 9780465085729
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
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What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany Reviews

  • Dennis
    2019-05-20 03:14

    Perhaps the most important lesson I took away from this book was that people who wanted to know what was happening to their Jewish friends and neighbors found out what was happening. Those who say they didn't know were largely uninterested or too cowed or docile to seek answers. To me, the question of who knew exactly what was going on in the camps misses the central point - when your friends and neighbors and coworkers are systematically excluded from the protection of the law, when their ability to work is removed, and their property is confiscated, when they are finally carted off en masse - how the hell can you pretend that what happened after all of that was a surprise? The Nuremberg Laws which essentially denaturalized Germany's Jews were created in 1935, years and years before the mass killings began. It was only the final steps, the murders themselves, which were conducted in any secrecy. Every step before that was conducted out in the open, with the appearance of legality and under the eyes of a country that first by custom and then in law had reduced the humanity of a large percentage of its citizens.

  • Dave Roffe
    2019-05-23 21:51

    What We Knew by Eric Johnson and Karl-Heinz RuebandThis fascinating non-fiction work is a collection of testimonies from those involved in the Holocaust, including Jewish deportees, Concentration Camp survivors, ordinary German citizens as well as those in military service during that chilling time. The book itself is an academic sociological account of individual experiences, the premise of which is to establish the extent of which the German population was aware, or otherwise, of the crimes against humanity committed in their names.Johnson and Reuband argue quite cogently that many assumptions about Nazi tyranny are plain wrong. What is very quickly made clear is that for the overwhelming majority of non Jewish, apolitical Germans, life under Hitler was, from around 1933 to 1943, not particularly harsh or brutal, especially in comparison to Stalin’s Russia, and later Mao’s China. To understand Hitler’s popularity several contributors relate accounts of how, during the early days of National Socialism, Hitler restored national pride and reduced both raging unemployment and escalating crime. Of course this was predicated on overtly racist policies of which scapegoats were an essential component. For the Nazis to regard Germans as racially superior, both intellectually and physically, it obviously followed that other races were inferior. The lives of ordinary Germans were not particularly unpleasant under Hitler and long wished for stability was restored. The evidence collated here leads to the conclusion that surprisingly few Germans were vehement blood red Nazis, but, the majority of the populace approved of many aspects of Nazi doctrine, including anti Semitism. Moreover, many individuals saw membership of the Nazi party as essential for career advancement. What we now consider abhorrent- National Socialism - was, at that time, regarded as radical and in many ways successful. In reading What We Knew it is essential that this is understood and accepted.In part What We Knew demonstrates is that the persecution and eventual genocide of the Jewish race was a cumulative process, arrived at by incremental goose steps, beginning with the erosion of Jewish civil liberties, such as the right to own a business or the use of public transport. Two pivotal events, described here, that had such tragic consequences for the Jewish people were the humiliating yellow stars that they were forced to wear, and Kristallnacht in 1937. Hitler and Goebbels gave tacit approval for vandalism, brutality and the burning of Synagogues. Of course this process would eventually culminate in the chimneys of Auschwitz.Many of the testimonies collected here are uncomfortable reading, especially as many of those interviewed provide evidence that it was distressingly easy for Hitler to draw from a well of Anti-Semitism that ran as deep and far as the Baltic Sea. German soldiers give statements that many Poles and Ukrainians were, in some cases, more than willing to do the Nazis’ murderous dirty work of the for them. Within the pages of this remarkable work are detailed and vivid accounts of everyday life within the chaos that National Socialism wrought throughout the whole of Europe: the day to day tortuous battle for survival of the fleeing and desperate European Jews; the death march of the ragged and starving barely alive prisoners after the liquidation of the death camps; the half frozen German soldiers on the Russian front; the German villagers who risked deportation themselves by hiding Jewish families from the Gestapo.The conclusions arrived at here, by primary sources rather than anecdotal evidence, is that the German populace were, for the most part, far more complicit in Nazi tyranny than was previously believed to be the case. This culpability is difficult to argue against when the sheer volume individuals involved in the administration (if such a euphemism may be used in this context) of the death camps is taken into account. The disappearance of millions could not conceivably have gone unnoticed by whole sections of the population. Furthermore, even in the midst of war across the whole of Europe and much of the world, the deliberate policy of mass extermination of a race by such foul methods must have spread from camp guard to extended family and beyond. Of course, some of the testimonies here are mildly contradictory; many Jewish people were unaware of the precise nature of the hell on earth that was Auschwitz; whilst others claim knew what was occurring as early as 1944. What is undeniable, however, is that the collective claim made by a generation of Germans in the aftermath of the war that, “we didn’t know what was going on”, can, with much justification, be regarded as disingenuous.What We Knew is a fascinating work that illuminates the depths to which humanity can sink as well as the compassion heights to which it can rise. The necessarily detached and clinical tone of the authors’ conclusions at the end of each section, ironically, are shafts of light which illuminate rather than smother the accounts of this dark period in history. Ultimately I would advice anyone with an interest in this history to read this; I would also recommend it to those who claim that that human rights are not important issues or that politics is boring. What We Knew by Eric Johnson and Karl-Heinz Rueband and countless contributors prove otherwise.

  • Paula
    2019-06-01 00:14

    It's hard to review a book so tragic. This is an oral history of Nazi Germany before and during World War II. Interviews are sorted into chapters focusing on Jews who left Germany before or after Kristallnacht, Jews who went into hiding, people who knew little about the mass murder of the Jews, people who heard about it, and people who witnessed or participated in it. What was interesting was reading about every day life from so many different perspectives. The interviews are extensive. Those interviewed are quizzed about their childhood, their involvement in political groups as teenagers, what their friends and family and neighbors were saying about the events of the day, what they heard, who they heard it from... essentially: how and what they knew. What was difficut was hearing what most of them had to say. The despair in the answers of those who heard things but were unable to help. The horror in those who witnessed atrocities and were forced to keep quiet. The remorse in those who knew little to nothing until it was all over. But most of all, the atrocities themselves, often related in great detail.One thing I will take away from this is seeing the relatively small steps taken in Germany very early on that made the changes appear so slight and the effects so gradual, that it shaped many Germans into not only accepting the anti-Semitic propaganda, but supporting it as well. It's a valuable lesson to anyone who is interested in studying historic, political trends so as to prevent dark chapters in history from repeating itself.I would obviously recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. But also anyone interested in learning more about eastern Europe's political climate in the 1930's.

  • Buck Jones
    2019-06-16 03:47

    This is a difficult book to read - for obvious reasons. I found out about this book after visiting the Gestapo Museum (there really is such a place) - in Cologne, Germany. It was the former Gestapo headquarters during the Nazi Era, and the exhibit there on life during Nazi Germany was fascinating. So I wanted to learn more. The book is based on an academic teams research of Germans who were in their late teens, early 20's during the Nazi period in Germany - both Jews and non-Jews. It was a mix of both interviews and questionnaires to try to determine what exactly was common knowledge in Germany about the concentration camps, the mass extermination of Jews, and the repression that existed from both informal (general anti-Semitism) and formal (State Security and Police) measures. Many of the stories are heartbreaking, and reveal a lot of both human nature (not wanting to believe in the evil that exists, the occasional oasis of compassion and courage in the desert of general human suffering). The final third of the book deals with the statistical details of the analysis, which I skipped over. The first two thirds of the book are generally short chapters highlighting specific interviewees as they recount their lives during the Nazi period. I've never read a more comprehensive history of day to day life in Nazi Germany, so I found that aspect of the book interesting. Overall, if you are interested in this subject, I can strongly recommend. But for casual students of history, it is a bit too academic (the last third, as mentioned).

  • Randy Mcdonald
    2019-06-15 01:54

    I've long been interested in the ways in which people interpret their societies, especially the lacunae, the things that--to paraphrase Renan--the nation chooses to forget. How does this happen? What sorts of things get forgotten? Does everyone in a given society necessarily know of this? What, in short, are the mechanics by which people imagine their societies' past and present?As if to satisfy this interest of mine, American Eric Johnson and German Karl-Heinz Reuband authored the 2005 tome What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany.The main thing that emerges from What We Know, with its interviews of German Jews and Christians alike, is that people operated highly selectively. Individuals had their own individual experiences: different relationships with others, different others to have relationships with, different local environments. Some German Jews experienced numerous kindnesses from their neighbours; others did not. Some German Christians were pleased with Nazi anti-Semitism; others accepted the Nazis on practical grounds, for their apparent solutions to the problems of the German economy and German power in Europe and the wider. And, most notably, some Germans did know about the Holocaust, thanks to the links of individuals with people serving on the Eastern Front or otherwise through rumours which managed to propagate through German society, but many of these people--including Jews--didn't believe that these things were happening. Fear was a major factor: some people seem authentically not to have known what was going on, because the fear of being caught transgressing through rumour-spreading by the Nazi regime was too great. Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, in other words, was a terribly fragmented society, where people in all kinds of different positions were simply unable to share experiences in common.What We Knew is an essential contribution to the sociology and psychology of societies under totalitarian rule. Fragmentation, as Johnson and Reuband make clear, is the rule more often than not. I would have liked consideration as to how these experiences were assembled after totalitarianism's end, but then, that's a different subject indeed.

  • Lauren Hopkins
    2019-05-22 05:08

    Johnson sums up years of interviews and research in his attempt to determine exactly what ordinary German citizens knew about what was going on in the concentration camps during World War II. The first two-thirds of the book are transcribed interviews with individuals representative of all towns, classes, education backgrounds, and religions of mid-20th century Germany; the first half of the interviews are with German Jewish survivors (both concentration camp survivors as well as those who went into hiding or otherwise were able to escape) and the second half are with non-Jewish Germans. All speak of everyday life in Hitler's Germany before and during the war, what they knew about the atrocities being committed, and how they found out. The interviews are all interesting first-hand accounts rather than a historian's retelling of events; what's interesting in the German accounts is that most claim to be blind to the antisemitism while most Jews claimed to have been victims in some sense. The third part of the book combines the statistical data from the interviews along with the author's analysis, presenting an easy-to-understand report supporting the author's hypothesis that the AVERAGE person in Germany had some inkling of what was going on, though perhaps not to the extent of what was actually happening. At times the book seems like it's almost apologetic to the German people, making excuses for them for not coming to the aid of the Jews, but in a sense you see that many Germans were victims as well, and that they'd meet the same fate if they spoke out against or otherwise didn't support the Nazi party. "Protect yourself" unfortunately was the rule and came before helping strangers, but it was such a different world and it would be unfair to judge these people by today's standards. It was definitely a great read, and as a compilation of so many primary sources and numbers, pretty reliable when it comes to the facts of this time in history.

  • Kelsey Hanson
    2019-06-09 23:09

    There are a few reasons why I continue to emotionally torture myself by reading books about the Holocaust. The main reason is because the stories of the survivors showcase strength, compassion and courage in a time of darkness. The other big reason is probably because it's still so hard to believe that the Holocaust was allowed to happen without someone stopping it sooner. The question of how much the German people actually knew about the Holocaust has been debated pretty much since the end of WW II. This book examines that question in depth. This isn't a "book" in a traditional sense of the word. It's a documented study and a collection of interviews. That being said, you kind of have to keep the source material in mind as you read. All interviews are based on what the person believes to be true, so you have to take it as it is. People's memories fail, emotions can interfere, and the conditions of the interview might lead the interviewee to alter their answers (Example: a former member of the Nazi party might be ashamed to admit that in this day and age). Still, this book gives a lot insight into what the German people might have known.Generally, this study reveals that many German people were at least vaguely aware of what was going on in concentration camps. It also shows that people didn't fight back against these atrocities not so much because they were afraid of the Gestapo and getting arrested, but because their lives were relatively stable and safe and they didn't want to threaten that. This book was definitely informative, but it can be a bit dry at times. There are large chunks of straight data that can be a bit tedious (as evidenced by how long it took me to finish it). Still the interviews were informative and it gives a powerful lesson on the dangers of apathy.

  • David
    2019-06-02 01:58

    This book was okay. I question the validity of some of the interviews because a LOT of the interviewees sounded the same... Anyway, it does gives personal accounts of the different groups of people living under the Third Reich. Some people say no one really knew that mass extermination was happening, then others say everyone knew about it. Of course, one can't speak for everybody and say that because one just doesn't know. When asked how they knew about Mass Murder in the east, they don't answer the question. More than a couple people were asked how they knew and they do not give a satisfactory answer. Only saying "It was known" or "One just knew". This leads to my questioning of the validity of what they are saying. It can get boring at times though. Another thing is when the book gave accounts from "ordinary Germans". Quite a few of them had communist sympathy or were involved with communist resistance. That doesn't really count as an ordinary German to me, at least...Anyway, I would recommend this book if you are interested in what it was like to live during the Third Reich in the case of the Jews: Jews in hiding, Jews who couldn't get away and Jews who did. Ordinary Germans, Germans in the Wehrmacht, etc.

  • Alina Stefanescu
    2019-06-13 01:58

    This book is a sturdy resource for those studying the way in which individuals and social groups deal with cognitive dissonance in cases of demicide and mass murder. In historical studies of the Shoah, scholars have a hard time accounting for the "lack of knowledge" on the part of both Germans and Jews about the mass extermination of Jews under Hitler's regime. For example, many of the German soldiers on the Eastern front who could not have avoided being involved in the implementation of the Final Solution still claim in interviews that they were not aware of the mass extermination of Jews as a specific goal of the Nazi leadership. Many Germans watched Jews being carted away yet still refused to believe that their government could do something so horrible-- so they stuck to the "labor camp" explanations. Or the Nazi government's claims that stories of Jewish mass killing were just "atrocity propaganda" generated by the enemy Allies. More...

  • Rae
    2019-06-11 01:01

    The author interviewed German Jews and German non-Jews regarding the political atmosphere in their country during WW2. He asked them specifically how much they knew about the death camps and at what point they found out about them. His conclusions are that many German citizens knew about the camps and a)felt helpless to do anything or b)were too frightened for their own lives or c)thought it couldn't be as bad as people said or d)left it in governmental hands. This book was darkly informative...and important since more and more eyewitnesses are dying of old age. Soon no one will be left to witness other than by camera and text. An important oral history work.

  • Sydney
    2019-06-12 04:14

    The authors of this book sought to answer the question of what Germans, both Jews and non-Jews, knew about the mass murder of Jews during World War II. They based their findings on a questionnaire they distributed to Holocaust survivors and Germans who live in Germany from the early 1930s - 1945. I didn't think this book was all that enlightening. I studied a lot about the Holocaust in college so maybe my expectations were high, but I had already heard about most of their findings. Also, the number of people who filled out the questionnaire was relatively small - about 100 individuals or so, so I didn't really trust their conclusions anyhow.

  • Virginia Messina
    2019-06-13 23:08

    This series of interviews with people who came of age during the Holocaust in Germany seeks to reveal what people really knew about the treatment of Jews, concentration camps and mass murder. Interviewees are Jewish and non-Jewish Germans. Other than a description of study design, there is no text other than the interviews. It's densely packed with memories of a great variety of experiences from that time and some fascinating perspectives.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-29 03:50

    The horrors of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust still present some of the most disturbing questions in modern history: Why did Hitler's party appeal to millions of Germans, and how entrenched was anti-Semitism among the population? How could anyone claim, after the war, that the genocide of Europe's Jews was a secret? Did ordinary non-Jewish Germans live in fear of the Nazi state? "What We Knew" gives first hand accounts to try to answer these questions.

  • Christine
    2019-06-15 23:03

    This book affected me so profoundly, I could hardly come up for air. It revealed the darkest sides of human nature and society. This is a compilation of some of the most harrowing interviews conducted 40-50 years after WW2, when those who experienced it firsthand (whether as an ordinary German or Jew) have fewer reservations about sharing their memories. It will change your perspective and challenge your preconceptions about civilization, tolerance, and intolerance.

  • Laura Cushing
    2019-05-25 03:17

    Interviews with ordinary German citizens about their experiences in WWII, in particular as relates to the holocaust. I've been reading this book a few stories at a time for over a year now. Powerful, powerful first hand accounts. Something I can only get through a few of at a sitting- there's so much information, and so much emotional impact to most of them.

  • Emily
    2019-06-18 01:56

    An amazingly well-researched and carefully articulated study of what ordinary Germans, Jewish and non-Jewish, knew about the Holocaust, as well as when and how they found out. Based on very careful surveys, it includes lengthy quotes from the surveys and interviews. Fascinating, detailed and thoughtful.

  • Kathleen
    2019-05-18 22:59

    Typical fare. The horrors perpatrated so not compare with the Cambodian Pol Pot genocides or Congo atocites. Why do we continue to think the jews have had it the worst in History? Confusing. I read history and cannot understand why we only count Hitler as a nonster when we have had so many in the 20th century that were worse and killed more??

  • John Ghekiere
    2019-06-06 04:07

    Here's my haunting take away. Humans aren't different in 2014 than they were in the 1940's. Everything that enabled the turning of heads in light of such atrocities is still with us. The everyday German wasn't a monster. But monstrous things happened in their midst and for the most part they didn't rise up to stop it. We do this still today, look the other way.

  • Meg
    2019-05-19 02:48

    Really interesting, in-depth interviews with both "ordinary Germans" and Jewish survivors. Chilling, but also deeply human. I really appreciated the thoughtful, nuanced discussion/ interpretation - including the authors disagreeing with each other at a couple of points, and explaining why they had different opinions about the data.

  • Vicki
    2019-05-22 23:01

    Attempts to answer the question of how much did German citizens and Jews know about what was occurring during the stages of the Holocaust. It is based off of fairly recent oral interviews so memory may have a part to play in the validity of the evidence, but it is still a powerful book!

  • Richard
    2019-05-23 03:16

    Very interesting collection of interviews but I don't necessarily agree with their conclusions. Fortunately, their questionable methodology and conclusions don't really matter because the main attraction here are all the interviews, which are amazing.

  • Erik
    2019-06-01 00:07

    Haunting. The dry academic tone, especially in the last third, somehow makes it even more chilling.

  • Jacob
    2019-06-16 03:17

    This is a sobering book. What do normal people do when the world goes insane? Here is an account from people on all sides of the equation. Not an easy read.

  • Joseph
    2019-05-21 21:01

    This Guy was one of my professors at CMU. So it is a given that I read some of his books. I learned a lot from Prof Johnson good teacher, good book

  • Margot
    2019-06-10 03:55

    Fascinating book for history buffs like me...I couldnt put it down.

  • Ronan Conroy
    2019-06-08 04:00

    “Since the war and the Nazi regime came to an end in 1945,” write Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband, “it has been an article of faith among the German population that very few people in Germany knew about the Holocaust as it was happening.” Johnson and Reuband spent several years interviewing Germans and Jews who had lived through the war years, in order to explore this article of faith. The findings of their surveys and face-to-face interviews are arresting and important, and the verbal testimony of eyewitnesses forms a valuable addition to Holocaust studies.For example, they found that “Around 59 percent of those surveyed admitted that they had once believed in National Socialism, 51 percent said they had supported National Socialism’s ideals, and 41 percent indicated that they had admired Hitler.”“Hitler was admired, very much admired,” confirms Hubert Lutz. “We all really loved him. We felt he could do no wrong. Whenever something went wrong or was obviously wrong, people tended to blame it on the underlings. I’d only seen him twice, and the length of time was for ten seconds each time. […] He was idolized to the point that when I was eight years old I asked myself, ‘What happens if he dies? He does everything?’”“One time, I did see Hitler very close up,” recounts Ruth Hildebrand. “It must have been in 1938 or it could have been in 1939. […] I was taking a walk with my daughter and kept hearing ‘Heil! Heil!’ And I thought, ‘Huh?’ As I drew nearer, I saw a couple of people standing in front of a driveway and I said, ‘What’s going on here?’ ‘The fuhrer is in there,’ [was their answer]. I got curious and remained standing there for a while, and then I saw him driving out in an open car. He had beautiful blue eyes and a suntan.” The authors report that “During the interview, [Hildebrand] fell into rapture.”Lutz maintains he knew little about the mass murder that was taking place, hearing only rumors and second-hand reports, such as the report of a neighbor whose son had returned from the eastern front in a state of nervous collapse “because they are killing people, women and children, in Poland and in Russia.” “He told me a story where somebody shot a woman, took her baby, hit the baby, and grabbed the baby by the legs and bashed its head against a wall.”In fact, though, a significant portion of the German population knew about or suspected the mass murder:“Between 27 and 29 percent in each of the four cities [surveyed] had received information about the mass murder before the end of the war and many others had ‘suspected’ that it had been taking place. […] Between 10 percent and 13 percent of those surveyed said they had suspected that the mass murder of Jews was taking place. This percentage boosts the figure for those who had either suspected or clearly received information about the mass murder of Jews to over 40 percent.”Interviewee Hiltrud Kuhnel would agree: “Extermination camps. That’s what I imagined concentration camps to be. […] You knew that was what they were. Hence, if someone says today that the had never known that, it is absolutely not true.”“I got this letter [from a friend who was in Treblinka],” recounts Ernst Levin, a Jewish man who was deported from Germany during the war. “I never knew who sent it or how they got it out,” he continues:“He told me in this letter that he was near Treblinka and ‘hier ist ein Lager, wo die Menschen chemisch behandelt werden.’ [Here is a camp where the people are being treated with chemicals.] It is amazing that even at that time he wouldn’t say that they were gassed. He certainly didn’t survive. Therefore I would have known four weeks before I was arrested that something was going wrong.”German Ernst Walters remembers riding back from a visit in another town, and stopping off along the way: “I don’t know what town it was, as I didn’t take notice of it. But, anyway, we made a stop there and the place was stinking: ‘What is that smell?’ ‘Over there is a concentration camp, that’s where the corpses are bing burned, where soap is being made from the Jews.’”The most arresting testimony comes from those soldiers who witnessed the mass murder in progress.Adam Grolsch, stationed as an engineer in the Ukraine, saw “with my own eyes how the people there were slaughtered; in two days, 25,000.” Grolsch remembers key details such as “how they had to undress in front of the tank traps” and “how this man took a screaming baby and beat it headfirst against a wall until it was dead.” Albert Emmerich, also stationed in the Ukraine, recounts how “a younger fellow, around twenty-six to twenty-seven” led him to a gravel pit where “three mass graves” contained “three hundred Jews lying in each grave.” The younger man reported to Grolsch that “We had to shoot the people” and that “They were forced to undress, no matter whether they were old or young, or whether they were babies or women with babies in their arms.”“Although our evidence shows that a large and growing number of [Germans] did treat the Jews badly,” write Johnson and Reuband, “it also shows that there had been a substantial minority of Germans who had offered aid and support for their Jewish friends and neighbors.”Margaret Lieb, a Jewish woman who left Germany before Kristallnacht, agrees – “There were in fact individuals who were decent. You can’t lump everybody together.”“We did not feel, especially in Stuttgart, the anti-Semitism,” says Joseph Weinberg.Not every Jewish interviewee agrees with Margaret, however. “I teach my children, you never forgive you never forget,” says William Benson. “The mere word, German, it’s killing, it’s murdering. That’s all it is. And don’t think the children today are any better than their parents were. The hate for the Jews is still in them – it’s just covered. Their anti-Semitism is still there. If, God forbid, there were another Hitler, it would come right out again.“Herman Gottfried, a Jewish man who left Germany after Kristallnacht, is equally distrustful: “Yes [I continue to hate Germans]. I make no distinction among Germans from my generation. Anybody born before 1945 is detested and hated by me. There were a few exceptions, but I’ve never met them. My blood pressure rises anytime I see any German of my age because I imagine him wearing Nazi uniform.”“I have a big problem with [Germany today],” says Jewish woman Rebecca Weisner, who also left Germany after Kristallnacht. “I blocked the German language completely. Until recently, I practically didn’t remember a word. I just didn’t want to hear about Germany.”The authors go on to conclude their finding on the point of aid, abuse, and passive indifference: “In the end, however, the majority of the German population complied with the governmental policies that made Jewish life in Germany ever more precarious and offered no protest against them.”While some interviewees protested they were not swept up in the movement of the masses (such as Stefan Reuter, who asserts that he was “never in the party” and “never in the Hitler Youth,” or Adam Grolsch who contends “we ended up getting into fights with the Hitler Youth leaders. We beat the daylights out of them”), others struggle with questions like Hubert Lutz’s “Could we have done anything different?” and “Where did the responsibility lie?” Lutz concludes that the “responsibility lies in the fact that people didn’t do anything about it. They just stood by and closed their eyes and ears.”As Rolf Heberer recalls, “the people also believed that it was right to mark them [with the star of David], that they were bad people or bad human beings who were harmful to National Socialism, and that we had to eradicate them, and so on. That was the propaganda that was spread, and most, at least 75 percent, believed it.”

  • Diego Saldarriaga
    2019-06-01 02:09

    Great and thorough collection of interviews regarding life before and during nazi Germany. You hear often the "we didn't know" excuse from germans and germans descendants about the holocaust. Guess what? It isn't black or white. Lots of people knew. If anybody wanted to know, they could.

  • Jeff C.
    2019-05-31 03:58

    The first two-thirds of the book was compelling. The interviews with 'ordinary people' presented life under the Third Reich from a personal and eerily commonplace perspective.The final third of the book, (though sometimes enlightening) was a rather dry analysis of survey results and became somewhat tedious at times.Overall, it was definitely worth the read.

  • Rosenkavalier
    2019-05-27 23:06

    Il libro prende le mosse dalla controversia nata dopo la pubblicazione del famoso "I volonterosi carnefici di Hitler" di Daniel J. Goldhagen, che sosteneva una tesi provocatoria e contestata. L'antisemitismo, elemento costitutivo della cultura popolare (e non solo) tedesca, sarebbe stato il principale motore e motivo dell'adesione - spontanea - di molti tedeschi comuni alle operazioni di sterminio.La tesi di Goldhagen, nonchè soprattutto l'impianto teorico di base e l'uso delle fonti, sono state duramente criticate (basta provare una ricerca su Google sulla "Goldhagen Finkelstein controversy" e anche un commento di Raul Hilberg sulla questione).Il libro di Reuband e Johnson si pone un obiettivo in parte diverso, ossia vagliare l'effettiva conoscenza della Soluzione Finale da parte dei tedeschi ebrei e non ebrei, utilizzando un metodo di analisi tipico delle scienze sociali, ossia l'indagine diretta presso un campione di persone vissute all'epoca dei fatti.Premesso che non ho titoli per disquisire sul metodo (che comunque non pare aver ricevuto critiche specifiche), il libro offre una interessantissima panoramica di opinioni, debitamente commentate, la cui lettura offre molti spunti di riflessione non solo propriamente storica ma anche umana.La seconda parte del libro contiene l'analisi delle risposte ottenute dagli autori ed è ovviamente meno scorrevole ma altrettanto interessante e, fatto non trascurabile per un testo divulgativo, sintetica ed efficace.Le conclusioni, come sottolineano gli autori, "attenuano ma non contraddicono le tesi di Goldhagen" quanto alla diffusione dell'antisemitismo in Germania. Tuttavia, emerge dallo studio che l'odio antiebraico fu significativamente influenzato dal progressivo affermarsi del nazismo nella società tedesca. Il che conduce a considerare che, almeno inizialmente, il successo del movimento hitleriano sia da ascrivere alla lotta alla disoccupazione e al ristabilimento dell'ordine pubblico.Per quanto attiene alla domanda principale posta dagli autori, dalle risposte degli intervistati si desume che una percentuale significativa di tedeschi, ebrei e non, riuscì ad ottenere informazioni sufficientemente circostanziate dello sterminio ben prima della fine della guerra, il che non generò tuttavia alcun significativo movimento di opposizione alla dittatura.La lettura di questo libro è stata per me molto interessante, anche per la sua struttura innovativa. Il limite di questa, come di altre analisi "tradizionali" del fenomeno nazista, sta nell'assenza di una spiegazione credibile di come sia stato possibile convincere un numero non piccolo di persone comuni a partecipare ad azioni del tutto fuori dall'ordinario, anche in un contesto bellico.Gli atti in questione erano estremamente violenti e sanguinari, oltre che palesemente privi di giustificazioni pratiche, dal momento che le vittime non potevano in alcun modo costituire (o apparire come) una minaccia.Se la spiegazione data da Goldhagen non pare soddisfare gli altri storici del periodo, a mio parere questo resta comunque un interrogativo a cui dare una risposta.

  • Mary Beth
    2019-06-07 23:10

    This book is the result of far-ranging surveys in which more than 3,000 people who lived in Germany at any point between 1933 (Hitler becomes Chancellor) to 1945 (WWII in Europe ends with Germany's defeat). Roughly half those surveyed were German Jews, with the other half being German non-Jews. While the scope of the surveys covered many matters, the essential data points revolved around: Were you at any point terrorized by the Nazis for any reason? When and how did you first become aware of Germany's persecution of German Jews? And did you become aware of the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis prior to the end of the war? In addition to the survey data analysis, the authors interviewed a couple hundred respondents (both Jewish and non-Jewish) in much greater depth, and those "oral histories) comprise the first major portion of the book. The answers and survey analysis are fascinating, although the survey stats are very dry. One of the questions that persists most prominently about the Holocaust pertains to what non-Jewish Germans knew and when. While it seems quite clear that most Germans were aware of mass murders, the data gleaned from the survey offers some plausible reasons that most Germans - while aware of at least some incident(s) of mass murder by 1942-45) - perhaps did not grasp the scope or systemic nature of the killings. That said, it's also entirely possible that the parents of those surveys did more fully know and understand the scope. Due to the passage of time, the median age of the respondents was slightly over 22 years old. The oral histories are fascinating - the authors did well by including stories of individuals whose experiences during those years was quite diverse.