The German War : A Nation Under Arms, 1939-45 Hardback
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2016 PEN HESSELL-TILTMAN PRIZE.
The Second World War was a German war like no other.
The Nazi regime, having started the conflict, turned it into the most horrific war in European history, resorting to genocidal methods well before building the first gas chambers.
Over its course, the Third Reich expended and exhausted all its moral and physical reserves, leading to total defeat in 1945.
Yet 70 years on - despite whole libraries of books about the war's origins, course and atrocities - we still do not know what Germans thought they were fighting for and how they experienced and sustained the war until the bitter end.
When war broke out in September 1939, it was deeply unpopular in Germany.
Yet without the active participation and commitment of the German people, it could not have continued for almost six years.
What, then, was the war Germans thought they were fighting?
How did the changing course of the conflict - the victories of the Blitzkrieg, the first defeats in the east, the bombing of Germany's cities - change their views and expectations? And when did Germans first realise that they were fighting a genocidal war?Drawing on a wealth of first-hand testimony, The German War is the first foray for many decades into how the German people experienced the Second World War.
Told from the perspective of those who lived through it - soldiers, schoolteachers and housewives; Nazis, Christians and Jews - its masterful historical narrative sheds fresh and disturbing light on the beliefs, hopes and fears of a people who embarked on, continued and fought to the end a brutal war of conquest and genocide.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 736 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 03/09/2015
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9781847920997
Showing 1 - 1 of 1 reviews.
Review by atticusfinch1048
The German War – What the Germans Really KnewSince 1945 many books have been written about Germany and the action of its people’s during the Second World War, what we have not had in that time is what the German people actually thought. Nicholas Stargardt attempts to change that with The German War, using testimony from those who lived through the period, as well as letters home from the front. One thing I do need to state for a book that is an academic study is that this book is an enjoyable read whether you agree with the conclusion that is a different matter.One of the important things about this book is that Stargardt brings together so many different sources, from a wide range of people. This book takes its testimony from all sections of German society of the time as all views are important in this book, so we receive the views of soldier, housewives, teachers as well as active Nazis, Christians and the persecuted Jews. So what we, the reader, learn of the political concerns, but also of their hopes and fears. One of the biggest themes throughout the book is that the war is viewed as an ‘intrusion’ in their daily lives.Also in The German War, Stargardt challenges the idea that the ordinary citizen did not know anything about the round up and murder of Jews. Especially as soldiers returning home on leave or injured tell about the round ups and the systematic murder of Jews in all territories they occupy.1943 is seen as an important year for the Germans when they had suffered on the battlefield with loss after loss and territory given up. But when there is an attempt on Hitler’s life, the population were relieved that Hilter had survived. Stargardt also shows the losses that were felt on the home front due to the allied bombing campaign in which 420,000 lost their lives many after August 1944 when the German’s were losing on all fronts. The author also suggests that on every day in 1945 until the surrender cost 10,000 German soldiers lives, a heavy toll indeed. Even with these losses the German people still felt that the war was legitimate, which may seem odd to those of us not from Germany at the time.As any student of German History is aware that throughout the 1920s and 30s, most German’s felt the humiliation of the Great War betrayal at Versailles, which helped to motivate the people. This also helped the Nazi’s messages of humiliation by German Jews at Versailles in surrendering so much to the victors.What The German War does do is challenge the perceptions about what the German’s knew about what was going on in their name throughout the war. That this was not a war of honour, but a very cruel and callous war that led ultimately to the use of genocide. The book is brilliant at bringing a personal context to the theme of the war and what happened after the invasion of Poland. An important history of Germany that has been needed for a long time and also certainly challenges a lot of what we thought we knew and uses excellent source material to prove his arguments. An excellent and very readable book that has the opportunity to open one’s eyes to what German’s actually knew.