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Defying Hitler: A Memoir


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About the Author

Sebastian Haffner was born in Berlin in 1907, and died in 1999. In 1938, he was forced to flee to Britain, where he worked as a journalist. In 1954, he returned to Germany and became a distinguished historian and commentator. Oliver Pretzel, Sebastian Haffner's son, is the translator of this work.


A sample historical headline: "1890: Wilhelm II dismisses Bismarck." No one's life was disrupted, writes Haffner. "No family was torn apart, no friendship broken up, no one fled their country." Compare that with "1933: Hindenburg sends for Hitler." In this case, "[a]n earthquake shatters 66 million lives." Thus begins a vivid examination of just how Hitler's ascension affected an ordinary German, a young lawyer with no strong political views, whose career and life were disrupted by the Nazis. Written in 1939, this memoir was not published until 2000, when Pretzel, Haffner's son, brought it out in Germany, where it was a bestseller. Haffner alternates political analysis with accounts of how the rise of the Nazis in the 1920s and early '30s affected his attempts to build a career, keep friendships alive and kindle romantic liaisons. His analysis of the failure of post-WWI German society to create stability is familiar, but Haffner writes with a close familiarity that makes the old new again. And his description of the way the Nazis invaded people's daily lives shines. It becomes clear how many "good Germans" struggled against impossible odds to keep their personal lives politics-free. Unfortunately, Haffner's manuscript ends with 1933 (Pretzel covers the rest of Haffner's life, beginning with immigration to England, in a brief afterword). This intimate self-portrait stands with Victor Klemperer's two-part memoir, I Will Bear Witness, as evidence that the personal can offer insight into the political tragedy of Nazism. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"An astonishing memoir...vividly convey[s] the texture of life under an emerging totalitarian regime... [a] masterpiece." --The New York Times Book Review "A masterpiece...has more to say about the enduring enigma of Hitler's Reich than almost anything else in the voluminous modern literature on the subject." --Commentary "Haffner is like the guide of Dante's Inferno, tracing the slow descent into Nazism in intimate detail...Compelling... Fresh, immediate, and wonderfully personal...An absorbing book." --Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "The prophetic insights of a fairly young man...help us understand the plight, as Haffner refers to it, of the non-Nazi German." --The Denver Post

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