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Backing Hitler


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1: Turning away from Weimar 2: Police Justice 3: Concentration Camps and Media Reports 4: Shadows of War 5: Social Outsiders 6: Injustice and the Jews 7: Special 'Justice' for Foreign Workers 8: Enemies in the Ranks 9: Concentration Camps in Public Spaces 10: Dictatorship and People at the End of the Third Reich Conclusion

About the Author

Robert Gellately is Professor in Holocaust History at Clark University, Massacuhsetts, USA.


Gellately (Strassler Professor in Holocaust History, Clark Univ.) analyzes the role of "ordinary" Germans in the Nazi persecution of those deemed social and political outsiders. Under the guise of "law and order," the Nazis suspended regular jurisprudence and substituted arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Far from carrying out their activities in secret, the Nazis publicized them as steps to the social, political, and racial regeneration of Germany. Many ordinary Germans actively participated in this process, denouncing neighbors as "asocial" elements for associating with Jews or for "suspicious" activities. Denunciations derived from a variety of motivations personal grudges, economic self-interest, or ideological commitment with the full knowledge of what would happen to the victims. By effectively overturning the belief that Hitler and the Nazi party imposed their ideology upon the German people and maintained control through massed police terror, Gellately's book forces us to consider the role of the ordinary citizen in the maintenance of the Nazi dictatorship. His arguments are more sophisticated and ultimately more convincing than Daniel Goldhagen's in Hitler's Willing Executioners (LJ 3/15/96), which saw the German people's adherence as mono-causal (i.e., anti-Semitism). Recommended for all libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

`This book will not be the last word on the subject but it will encourage the debate and increase our desire to understand fully the horrible things that happened to and in a civilised nation.' Contempoary Review, Vol.278, No.1625, June 2001 `Review from previous edition In 1933 Germans ... hankered for a return to traditional values of order, family, discipline, work. Noone could forsee how such ordinary aspirations would eventuate in that most extreme act, genocide. But this is one lesson the Nazis teach us and, thanks to Robert Gellately's fine book, it is available for all to learn.' David Cesarani, The Independent `powerful and challenging book' Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph `Just how much the ordinary German knew about the apparatus of terror and discrimination in the Hitler years is the subject of Robert Gellately's fascinating and disturbing account of the bonds that drew regime and people together after 1933.' Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph `original and outstanding, genuinely important.' Michael Burdesh `Backing Hitler is based on the first systematic analysis by a historian of surviving German newspaper and magazine archives since 1933, the year Hitler became chancellor.' John Ezard, The Guardian

Using newspapers and radio broadcasts of the day as evidence, Gellately (The Gestapo and German Society), Strassler Professor in Holocaust History at Clark University, effectively demonstrates how "ordinary Germans" evolved into a powerful base of support for the Nazi regime. Although Hitler and the National Socialists had never garnered an outright majority in elections before 1933, the author convincingly shows that "the great majority of the German people soon became devoted to Hitler and they supported him to the bitter end in 1945." The Nazis achieved this political miracle by "consensus." The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci argued that political regimes could hardly expect to use unlimited terror against their subjects a technique combining the threat of terror and coercion would be more effective. Using Gramscian theory is hardly new in an analysis of Nazi Germany, but Gellately does make a provocative claim: that the Nazi use of terror against certain categories of "undesirables" (first Communists, Socialists and trade unionists, then Catholic and Protestant opponents, then the mentally and/or physically impaired, then the Jews and Gypsies) was purposively public and that most Germans agreed with such policies. Decrees, legislation, police actions and the concentration camps were not meant to be hidden from the German people, but in fact were extensively publicized. Some of the same arguments have been made in Adam Lebor and Roger Boyes's Seduced by Hitler (Forecasts, Mar. 26), but readers will notice that Gellately offers a far more sophisticated argument and more abundant evidence than Daniel Goldhagen's cause c‚lŠbre, Hitler's Willing Executioners. In truth, Gellately's work is what Goldhagen's book could have been, but wasn't; that is, a closely reasoned and tightly constructed analysis. 42 illus. not seen by PW. (May 17) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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