Defying Hitler: A Memoir

Defying Hitler: A Memoir

Paperback

By (author) Sebastian Haffner

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  • Publisher: Orion mass market paperback
  • Format: Paperback | 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 22mm | 281g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1842126601
  • ISBN 13: 9781842126608
  • Illustrations note: 15
  • Sales rank: 74,325

Product description

Sebastian Haffner was a non-Jewish German who emigrated to England in 1938. This memoir (written in 1939 but only published now for the first time) begins in 1914 when the family summer holiday is cut short by the outbreak of war, and ends with Hitler's assumption of power in 1933. It is a portrait of himself and his own generation in Germany, those born between 1900 and 1910, and brilliantly explains through his own experiences and those of his friends how that generation came to be seduced by Hitler and Nazism. The Germans lacked an outlet for self-expression: where the French had amour, food and wine, and the British their gardens and their pets, the Germans had nothing, leading to a tendency towards mass psychosis. The upheaval of post-WWI revolution, factionalism and inflation left the Germans addicted to excitement and action: Hitler provided this, and more.

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Author information

Sebastian Haffner (orig. Raimund Pretzel) was born in 1907 in Berlin. He emigrated to England in 1938, and changed his name to protect his relatives in Germany from persecution. He wrote for the OBSERVER for many years, and became a British citizen in 1948. He returned to Germany in 1954, where he was a prominent journalist and historian, writing for DIE WELT and STERN. He died in 1999.

Review quote

Congratulations all round as this has just won the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for Non-Fiction 2003. Oliver Pretzel, Sebastian Haffner's son,is enjoying a well-earned holiday in Mexico before he retires from his position in the Maths department at Imperial College so his son, Sebastian Haffner's grandson, was on hand to accept the award and pose for pictures with lovely Zadie Smith who also won the Fiction Award. Needless to say, we made sure that Zadie went home with a copy under her arm. Obviously this is great timingfor the paperback, and we are working with Colman Getty who handle the PR for the prize to maximise this. Already we've seen an article in the INDEPENDENT, and a feature on FRON ROW. There has also been a piece in the DAILY MAIL and THE JEWISH CHRONICLE. Finished copies are now in - and don't forget this comes with 6 new chapters, a revised afterword and the full version of chapter25 (April 1. 1933) which was discovered at the same time as these chapters. These were discovered in March 2002 by a young historian working on SebastianHaffner's papers in the German state archives. As Oliver Pretzel says: 'The manuscript now really is, I believe, in its final form, as my father abandoned it in 1939. Although still incomplete, the book also has a more satisfactory ending. Instead of the earlier final note of unreal bliss, it now concludeswith a powerful close-up of Nazi methods in action.' Pick of the Week in theSunday Times: "Haffner has written a painfully honest and effective account of how the best in German culture was so swiftly destroyed." "Tells exactly how Hitler and the Nazis managed to subject an entire nation to their evil will." Daily Express "Graphically describes how a generation of German youth wasseduced by Hitler and the Nazis." Sunday Telegraph "With the belated but highly welcome publication of this book Haffner has had the last word in his struggle to be a German in Nazi Germany." FINANCIAL TIMES

Editorial reviews

This fine torso of a book, written during the Second World War, was put away in a drawer by its author, who never got round to finishing it, and found after his death in 1999. It has sold well in Germany, and has now been admirably translated into English by Oliver Pretzel, the author's son. Raimund Pretzel escaped from Nazi Germany to England in 1938 with his Jewish wife and took the pen name of Sebastian Haffner, by which he became famous: both as a journalist on The Observer and as the author of incisive books about German history, including the superb The Meaning of Hitler. This is his memoir of his childhood and young manhood, in the context of the rise of Nazism. He is modest in his claims - he never played a part of any importance, yet could take in only too clearly what was going on round him. He explains how the German people's confidence was sapped twice over, by two wholly unexpected catastrophes: military defeat in 1918, and the collapse of the currency five years later. Haffner's father was a senior Prussian civil servant, retired by the time the Nazis came to power; he was himself in training to become a judge. Though purely Aryan himself, many of his friends were Jews. They all lost their jobs when the Nazis came to power - even the Jewish judge on the supreme court; even those who had been several times wounded fighting for Imperial Germany in the Kaiser's war. Haffner sets out with skill and clarity the fixes that honest men were in, once the thugs had taken charge. If you refused to give a Nazi salute when a swastika flag was carried past you in the street, you were at once beaten up; that was only the start. He could see that much worse might be coming, and how right he was. This is a weighty piece of historical evidence, about how honest men can try to behave in the face of evil: how much, and how little, they can do. (Kirkus UK)