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The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather's Secret Past

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  553 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
What if you found out that your grandfather had been a Nazi SS officer?

This is the confession that Martin Davidson received from his mother upon the death of demanding, magnetic grandfather Bruno Langbehn. "The Perfect Nazi" is Davidson's exploration of his family's darkest secret.

As Davidson dove into his research, drawing on an astonishing cache of personal documents as
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Berkley Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Mark Smith
23 Aug 2010
An Edinburgh writer discovers his grandfather’s past in Hitler’s SS.

This is at the same time a brave and repulsive work. It also provides a thorough and morbidly fascinating insight into the circumstances that led ordinary people to descend into Hitlerian madness and become monsters. The bravery in this particular story is borne by that fact that the monster is one Bruno Langbehn, the author’s grandfather. The courage it surely took to confront and reveal his own family’s Nazi past is
Summary: Davidson describes the pivotal point in history when Nazism began to emerge as an ideological stance. From there, he follows Nazism's burgeoning status as full blown political and genocidal movement culminating in WWII. Loosely based on the life of his own Nazi grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, Davidson pieces together the motivations, hopes and dreams held by Nazism's most impassioned young followers.

My Thoughts: Although this is intriguing subject matter for a book, The Perfect Nazi was n
Jul 13, 2012 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This had to be a terribly stressful book to research and then to write, hence the five stars.

We are taught to respect, love, and revere our grandparents. But what if one learns that a grandparent had been party to one of the greatest atrocities in history? The reaction of many would be, I can only assume, to bury that knowledge and avoid it at all costs.

After Davidson's grandfather's death in 1992 did Davidson feel comfortable delving into what he had long suspected, that his larger-than-life gr
Eva Leger
I found this at Costco earlier this year and just reading the title I knew I had to read this. I was on a self-imposed book buying ban but it was put on hold and I took this home.
I've wanted to read a book like this for a long time. Mostly because of my own questions and curiosity surrounding my grandparents from Germany. Part of me wishes I had enough info to start a search like Davidson did. The other part doesn't really want to know.
The Oma and Opa I know couldn't have been like the others I'
Feb 11, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: done
This is an interesting social/political history told with a personal twist. Growing up, Davidson and his sister had always been aware that there were secrets in his mother's family. She was German and had married a Scot. Her children were raised in Britain but spend holidays visiting relatives in post-WWII Germany. Although various interactions with Bruno Langbehn led Davidson to conclude that his grandfather had sympathized Nazi beliefs Davidson did not pursue the matter, did not question any o ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Pearl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn't planned on reading any more books about Nazi Germany, but after Eric Larsen's "In the Garden of Beasts...," I was left unsatisfied. Larsen didn't seem to deal adequately with the horrors of that time at all. Perhaps that was because his subjects, the American Ambassador to Germany in 1933-34 and his gad-about daughter, hadn't.

Martin Davidson does a better job on this score. His account is more personal; yet, as with Larsen, there is so much recitation of facts that the reader gets lost
Ian Simpson
May 14, 2016 Ian Simpson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The painstaking and painful task of researching then writing this remarkable book was probably cathartic. The shock of discovering after his death that his ebullient, scary, German grandfather was a convinced Nazi from the 1920s comes through clearly. But the writing avoids hysteria and gains in effectiveness as a result. Davidson cites the evidence of what organizations Bruno was a member of then describes the mostly atrocious things these organizations did. Only at the end does the pain of ack ...more
Cory Snider

This is an interesting book and intriguing insight into his grandfather's Nazi life. However, I don't like the fact that the author fills the book with what "could" have happened. This circumstantial evidence takes away from the overall power of finding the truth in a man's dark past.
Mike Clinton
Nov 03, 2012 Mike Clinton rated it liked it
Davidson examines the rise and fall of the Third Reich using traces of his maternal grandfather Bruno Langbehn's role as a member of the SA then the SS to guide him. He has some records that help him to situate his grandfather as a participant in events important to understanding the ideology and activities of the Nazi movement from its post-WWI origins to its demise and afterlife. Aside from some limited and unsystematic exchanges with family members, most of whom only recall details with varyi ...more
Steven Howes
Jun 15, 2012 Steven Howes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting story about the rise of National Socialism in Germany following World War II and its impacts on one particular family. The author (a citizen of the UK) is a child of a Scottish father and German mother. His maternal grandfather was on the wrong side during the War and no one wanted to discuss in detail what his role was in the Third Reich. The author's curiosity led him through some detailed research in the US, UK, Germany, The Czech Republic, among other places where he was a ...more
Zohar -
May 03, 2011 Zohar - rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
“The Perfect Nazi:Uncovering My Grandfather's Secret Past” by Martin Davidson, a non-fiction book which follows the authors research about his grandfather, an SS officer. Mr. Davidson hit it on the nose when he wrote that this book “is a cautionary tale, a living example of the harm even little men can achieve in times of historical madness”.f

Growing up in Scotland, Martin Davidson knew his grandfather is a man who likes to tell jokes and stories. After his grandfather died Mr. Davidson discover
Mar 23, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems like everyone is digging into their family trees these days, hoping to uncover something fascinating, something strange or novel, or even someone famous. I can't imagine what it must feel like to go back and find out that a member of your family, not even an ancestor, but someone as close and as memorable as a grandfather, was a Nazi and participated in the most horrific genocide of our time. And not only that, but didn't seem to repent, didn't consider what he had participated in as wr ...more
Mar 31, 2016 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a family story about Martin Davidson, a British journalist, who was the son of a Scottish father and a German mother. Although he was born and raised in Scotland, Martin and his sister Vanessa had fairly close relations with his mother's family in Berlin. They often visited her parents and sisters in Germany. As Martin grew older, he began to ask his mother questions about her life in Germany before and during WW2, and, in particular, about her father, a dentist named Bruno Longbehn.

Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Martin Davidson was born and grew up in the UK, the son of a Scottish father and a German mother. Although he grew up knowing that his somewhat mysterious maternal grandfather (Bruno), a former dentist, had fought for Germany in the Second World War, it was never discussed and he had no sense of what his grandfather's role in the war had been. It was only after Bruno's death that he discovered that Bruno had in fact been a captain in the SS. This is the story of his investigation to find out mor ...more
Nov 01, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author had a german mother and grandparents and used to go to Berlin for holidays. He starts to research the part his grandfather , Bruno Langbehn played in the war. He finds out that that his grandfather was brought up in Prussia and started off by joining the freikorps before joining the brown shirts, he trained as a Zahn artz( dentist) He was involved in street battles in Berlin with communists then joined the SS and gained decoration, eventually working in the intelligence corps. He lear ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Pragya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This piece of work by Martin Davidson, first and foremost needs a big round of appreciation. It takes a lot of courage to unravel a family's dirty secret to the world, especially a family that was involved in (or witnessed) multiple instances of atrocities in one of the most despicable times in history. The book is not a biography but, more so, a documentary. A chilling account of why people became what they became, why they made choices so contrary to moral well-being; how did a nasty ideology ...more
This is very good, if read simply as a book about WWII. As a book about a single person, the authors' grandfather, it's only okay. Nearly everything biographical is either conjecture or simple facts, such as addresses and dates. This is a book where what is meant to be the background is more interesting than the main subject.
Aug 14, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of the rise and fall of National Socialism and a parallel story of how the author's grandfather joined the Nazi Party and was unrepentant until the end of his life.
I thought the writing was terrific. Martin Davidson seamlessly weaves together all of the facts from World War I to the end of World War II.
Gail Hedlund
Jun 12, 2014 Gail Hedlund rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know personally how I myself would react to finding out on of my family members was involved in one of the most despicable times in history. Yes, there are other nightmarish times, but when you look at WHY the Nazi's did what they did very little makes sense.
I'm trying to make sense of it through reading more & more books about the time. Honestly I just get more & more confused. To hate certain races of people & want to destroy them totally & completely. Or to want to wip
Jun 16, 2011 Suzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if you found out that your grandfather had been a Nazi SS officer? That is what happened to the author, and he tries to put together what his grandfather did during WWII. The grandfather is dead, so the facts are bare-boned, but this is very interesting.
K. Lang-Slattery
Called profound scholarship by one reviewer, this book explores the role of an SS officer during the Third Reich. It is written by his British-born grandson, a journalist, whose discovery of his German grandfather's Nazi past leads to the struggle to find documents to verify his mother's sketchy memories. The personal aspect of the grandson's journey of discovery is coupled with the story of how one young man and thousands like him fell under the thrall of the Nazi party and followed it slavishl ...more
Simon Dobson
Aug 31, 2014 Simon Dobson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What happens when someone discovers that his German grandfather had been an officer in the SS?

This is an important investigation, painting a very small-scale and personal portrait of National Socialism through the career of a man who had been one of its earliest converts. Bruno Langbehn never achieved any kind of status within the Third Reich, but still managed to be associated with some of its great events through his membership of the Berlin SA and later the SS security service, the Sicherheit
Marin Popa
Jul 06, 2016 Marin Popa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredible biographical and detective story - the author, a Scot, recounts his quest of finding out the story of his late maternal grandfather, a middle ranking Nazi who died unrepentant and a mystery for most of the family.

He was one of the many dedicated supporters, without whom of the Nazi regime wouldn't had been possible and his journey way up through the ranks of SA and later SS is presented in the context of the social life in Germany before and during the second world war.

The book is an
Cheri Bauer
Nov 28, 2015 Cheri Bauer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read for all. This is a very unique look into the people behind the regime which brought the world to its knees from the brutality, and the shocking (nazi) solution to the issues which plague many people (poverty, inequality, and unfulfilled lives). It's amazing how easily horrors (like this) can begin- and end. I think that this book is vital in showing everyone how these types of events can unfold.

May everyone learn from the past, without adding to the hatred. Thank you to the author f
Jul 31, 2011 Nora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and absorbing.
Sep 26, 2014 Michel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, bio, war
Imagine your grandfather (or great-grandfather if you are younger) was a Nazi.
Not one of those party members who joined when they had to, to keep their job, no: one of the first few thousand members, before Mein Kampf, before the impeccable propaganda machine of Dr. Göbbels, before there even seemed to be a chance for the Nsdap to lay their hands on the State.
And not one of those party members who attend meetings and registers voters and members, no: the whole hog, Frontbahn, SA, SS, SD (Reinhar
Sep 01, 2014 Xfi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
La reconstrucción de la personalidad y vida del abuelo del autor se convierte en un buen libro para entender el cómo y por qué llegaron los nazis al poder en la Alemania de los años 30.
Desde el punto de vista académico el libro es quizás un poco flojo, investigar, después de su muerte, la vida de un oscuro funcionario del partido Nazi, que no participó directamente en hechos reseñables y que no dejó ningún documento sobre su vida, salvo algunas fotos ajadas, es tarea casi imposible.
Aun así el au
Aug 06, 2014 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly chilling. Davidson's bravery in unflinchingly and doggedly pursuing the truth of his grandfather's role in Nazi Germany, no matter how personally painful, is to be lauded. The research presented was about as thorough as one can achieve in light of mass destruction of records towards the end of the war, and plenty of background was provided to give context. This was helpful to me because, although I enjoy learning about WWII, I'm no expert on it.

I felt uncomfortable with one aspect. David
After listening to the most excellent biography "In the Garden of Beasts," which was about the American Ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler, I was curious to know about how the common people fell under Hitler's spell. This book was a good introduction to the reasoning behind while everyday Germans fell for the persuasiveness of National Socialism (Nazism to the rest of the world). The book is about the author's grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, who joined the Nazis in the 1920s when membe ...more
Irving Koppel
Oct 26, 2013 Irving Koppel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Imagine you discovered that your grandfather had been a Nazi. Not only that,but he had joined the
group very early in the 1920's. Furthermore, he had been in a Brownshirt(SA), and before the Second
World War he had joined one of the highest echelons of Hitler's SS. You knew that your grandfather
was German since he was your German mother's father,and you knew that he had fought in the war. However, you had no idea what a thoroughly devoted follower of the Fuhrer he really was.

After his grandfath
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