The Nazis: A Warning from History

Laurence Rees, Author, Ian Kershaw, Foreword by New Press $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-56584-445-2
Rees, head of the BBC's history programming division, has drawn on newly available archival material and about 50 interviews he conducted with ""eyewitnesses"" to present a chilling crash course on the Nazis' chaotic rule. According to the author, despite the Germans' much-vaunted reputation for efficiency, Hitler's regime was largely an improvisation, with his underlings ever striving to do the Fuhrer's bidding. Rees traces how measures affecting countless lives, e.g., establishing ghettos for Jews, were often decided haphazardly, with Hitler instructing subordinates, who were frequently bitter rivals, to ""sit down together and when you've made up [your minds about a policy], come and see me."" Though most Gestapo files were destroyed before war's end, one revealing discovery from intact archives in the town of Wurzburg indicates that the secret police--far from randomly unleashing terror--spent much of its time responding to denunciations by ordinary citizens against their neighbors. An interesting focus of this book is on perpetrators of Nazi crimes. Fritz Arlt, a ranking German official in occupied Poland, when asked whether he knew what went on in the concentration camps to which his orders consigned thousands of Poles, conceded only, ""They were places where people were concentrated."" The inhuman face of the Nazi enterprise is exposed here as a significantly grass-roots construction. Throughout, graphic photos highlight Nazi crimes. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/30/1998
Release date: 04/01/1998
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-56584-551-0
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4481-4054-1
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