cover image Hitler’s Germany: The Birth of Extremism

Hitler’s Germany: The Birth of Extremism

Tim Heath. Pen & Sword History, $39.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-526732-97-2

Historian Heath (In Hitler’s Shadow: Post-War Germany and the Girls of the BDM) provides an accessible survey of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany through accounts of ordinary Germans’ experiences. Heath’s entry point is the story of Werner Kohlman and Hilde Schramm, who grew up together in Hamburg before marrying; Werner, who was seriously wounded during WWI, became one of the thousands of German veterans who were devastated by the country’s economic collapse and who felt betrayed by their political leaders, feelings that paved the way for the Nazi ascension. Using previously unpublished diaries (as from Werner’s angry fellow soldiers Otto Rische and Gunther Priestl), personal letters (as from secretary Ingrid Altmann, an early Hitler enthusiast, and Jewish Melitta Jorg, whose family relocated to the U.S. after the war), and reminiscences (as of Dorothea Hirsch, whose parents were brutally beaten during Kristallnacht), Heath stitches together a social history of Nazi Germany. Heath’s writing is sometimes clichéd (“When the bear awakes, and angrily shows its teeth, only the foolhardy will not turn and run”), and readers may find his description of the ending stages of WWII as a “reciprocal genocide of Germans” outlandish. But for those new to the subject, this is a solid, concise introduction to German experience under Hitler. (June)