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Defying Hitler

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  939 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Written in 1939 and unpublished until 2000, Sebastian Haffner’s memoir of the rise of Nazism in Germany offers a unique portrait of the lives of ordinary German citizens between the wars. Covering 1907 to 1933, his eyewitness account provides a portrait of a country in constant flux: from the rise of the First Corps, the right-wing voluntary military force set up in 1918 t ...more
Paperback, 309 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Picador (first published 2000)
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Aug 30, 2007 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: biography
This is the story of Sebastian Haffner, a man who lived in Germany during Hitler's rise to power. I loved hearing the story from the perspective of the average German. I can't imagine living in such tumultuous times, but reading this book gives me a glimpse. The best part about it is the fact that it tries to answer two very important questions: how on earth a regime like the Nazis could rise to power, and how almost the entire nation where corrupted by them. It's a wonderful story that I would ...more
Brian Leach
If you are like me and you've always wondered just how an insane madman like Adolf Hitler came to power in a modern country like Germany then read Defying Hitler. The author, who describes his personal experiences of the time, pulls no punches and makes no excuses for the shift to radical nationalism in Germany in the 1930s.

The book is presented much like a diary recounting the author's life at specific times in Germany between WWI when he was a small child and 1933 when the Nazi regime began to
As I have read and studied about World War II through the years, I, too, have had the same questions Haffner's son mentions near the end of this book--How were the Nazis possible? and Why weren't they stopped by the German people? This book does an awesome job of providing some answers. It made it clear to me that Germany and its people were the first victims of Hitler and the Nazis. They were conquered first and then Hitler/Nazis moved on to other countries around them.

I think that Haffner did
Wow. Where has this book been? I can't believe it's taken me this long to find it. It is a brilliantly written first hand account of life for a pretty average boy growing up in Berlin in the early 1900s. It was originally written in 1939 (so before the outbreak of WWII) when the author had just emigrated to the UK from his home in Germany. What I really appreciated about the book was that it was written before the war (so no 20/20 hindsight view) and that it recounts both how strange the times w ...more
The English translation is called "Defying Hitler" which I am sure helped sell more copies but underplays the interest of this book which covers the years 1914 to 1933 in the life of a man from the middle class.

While at school during the Kapp Putsch for instance a particularly right-wing teacher asks if they can feel the difference in the atmosphere now that they are ruled by a firm hand again. They don't, things were exactly the same as before. The putsch was over in a couple of days anyway.

Fascinating true story about Germany during the rise of Hitler. He explains in detail and with background how the Nazi regime came about and the psychology of the German citizens at that time. Completely absorbing and answers the question, "How did the German people let that happen and why didn't they stop it?"
Ruth Wahtera
Jan 31, 2008 Ruth Wahtera rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: audible-download
This memoir of growing up in Germany as Hitler was coming into power offers a remarkable first-person story. It should be required reading for us all.
I found Defying Hitler absolutely fascinating. It was so clearly written and easy to read that I felt I learned more about Germany between WWI and WWII than I could have gleaned from a dozen dry textbooks. This was essentially the story of an ordinary middle-class German who was ideologically anti-Nazi but who felt powerless to stop the rise of Hitler and his party, a story that must have been common to millions of Germans across the country. Ordinary Germans were struggling so hard just to surv ...more
A remarkable book. Haffner wrote the book in 1938 and abandoned it once the war started; his son published upon his death. One of the things that makes it so interesting is that he didn't know what form the war would take or who would win, and the perspective is unlike anything else I've read for that reason. In addition, the book attempts to explain the phenomenon of Hitler from ground level, not explaining what made Hitler, but what made the Germans susceptible to his charisma and logic. I've ...more
It was an interesting book, a different perspective and perception of that dark era when all what we associate with the Third Reich began. And Haffner uses an intelligent and good-to-read style of writing.
Still, I have cerain reservations. PArtially because he describes with an underlying arrogance how he overlooked everything right from the beginning and was so much more intelligent than the average German citizen.

Yet he chose to work for the German jurisdiction even after Hitler had taken ove
Haffner has`provided a lucid account of how German bourgeois society of the twenties and thirties allowed itself to passively accomodate itself to the tyranous insanity which powered the Nazi political machine. As such, three quarters of the way into the book he begs the reader to deliberate the core issue which determines the value of this memoir: why are the experiences of an ordinary young man with no influence on events of interest to anyone ? Haffner provides the answer in detailing his own ...more
Laura Buechler
How fascinating to have the opportunity to view WWII through the eyes of a German man, as it was actually happening. This book was written during WWII and the Nazi regime, but was hidden for many years until it was discovered and published after the author's death. I am finding this to be an interesting and valuable perspective.

Haffner's book details his experience of living through the First World War as a young boy, and sets the actions that led to WWII firmly in that context. "A childish illu
A través de su historia, la de un ciudadano normal y corriente, el autor explica cómo el pueblo alemán pudo aceptar y adoptar una ideología como el nazismo y cómo los nazis llegaron al poder.

No es una historia sobre el holocausto, ni sobre la Alemania nazi, es una historia sobre el nacimiento y propagación de una ideología.

Un libro muy muy interesante, de obligada lectura para todo aquel al que le guste esta etapa de la historia y quiera comprender cómo algo como el nazismo pudo existir.
Jon Larson
This book was very surprising. It was a memoir that read like a fiction account. It was very fascinating to read the account of the what it may have been like for the German populace during the years between WWI and WWII. How could have they succumb to the Nazi regime? Why didn't anyone do anything about it? I was surprised to hear about how Germany was first systematically taken over, almost like they were the first country to fall to the Nazi's. It sure makes you think that we are not all immu ...more
Elizabeth Simpson
Nov 05, 2007 Elizabeth Simpson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History and Political enthusiasts
Yes, there are many books out there about Hitler and the History Channel almost seems exclusively dedicated to that era, but this book, Defying Hitler, has a different perspective. This book was published by the author's son posthumously and was arranged as a diary, not a novel. The result is an inside perspective of a young German of upper-middle class roots with no particular political leaning recording the rise of Hitler. It is interesting to note that many thought of Hitler as insignificant, ...more
I read this book for a history class, and it was one of the better explanations of the Nazi rise to power I have read. You get a good sense of how many Germans must have felt that what the Nazis were doing was wrong, but at the same time felt unable or were unwilling to do anything about it. Haffner's description of marching down a street, 'intimidating' other Germans was classic. He WAS the person who wanted to duck into an alley to avoid saluting the parade, while at the same time marching in ...more
Христо Блажев
Възходът на нацизма през погледа на обикновения човек:
С ужасни заплахи тази държава изисква от него да предаде приятелите си, да изостави приятелките си, да се откаже от убежденията си, като му натрапва свои, да поздравява не както е свикнал, да яде и пие не каквото обича, да използва свободното си време за занимания, които ненавижда, да предостави личността си за авантюри, които не одобрява, да се откаже от миналото си и от своето Аз и най-вече – като по
This book is an account of what went on in Germany from the end of WWI to right before the start of WWII. It is told from an everyday German person's point of view. This is an era that is largely ignored by history books and the story of a regular persons life as his home country changes before his eyes is very compelling. People often ask "How could the German people let this happen?" (meaning the Nazi takeover). This book is rather frightening in that it shows how easily it happened without or ...more
Libraries and scientists -- the first two pieces of society attacked and destroyed by Hitler. Sebastian Haffner was young boy during the Great War, a teen in the period intervening the two world wars, and a young man at the time of the Second World War. He offers surprising insights as to why Hitler was able to take power and behave he did. Haffner offers these insights from the perspective of someone who lived them and the reasons he gives for Hitler's ascent to power are not the usual ones we ...more
This book was a revelation to me and helped me understand a time that was a major turning point in the world's history - it helped me to look at how people behave when they are under pressure and choices are taken away from them. It's very well written and draws you into a world that is fascinating and frustrating. It's a brilliantly observed memoir of growing up in Berlin between 1914 and 1933. Reading this book left me wondering how I would have reacted if I was living in Berlin at that time, ...more
Andrea Camacho
I would have given 3.5 stars. The book is good and it shows the reality of how germans were living before and at the begining of Hitler's years.
However, I did not give 4 or 5 stars because I did not like how the writer writes, some parts were extremely long and over explained, it made me loss what I read and had to read some pages again.
With that being said, I would recommend this book to everyone who likes WW2 books as it is very different to the novels that are usually written about it. I did
N. Jr.
In this book, actually a diary, the author presents the idea that history is driven by ordinary people, and that analyses of the particular time period in question are best understood by the lives of common individuals rather than leading political figures. Here is an attempt to explain the political/historical developments in Germany from the beginning of the first World War to the beginning of the Second through the eyes of one person. Although Haffner makes some effort in restraining his subj ...more
What a phenomenal book. It is basically a collection of the thoughts of an average German citizen between the two World Wars. There is a lot of information on the Nazis' rise to power during that time. However, what struck me was how similarly he looked at certain things that went enduring that period, to what is happening now in the US. Being disappointed with the direction that the leadership of both the Republican and Democrat parties have guided this country, the addiction of easy money and ...more
If you ever wondered about how a highly educated, highly civilized country like Germany could fall under the power of a barbarian regime such as that of the Nazis, this is a very interesting book to read. It is the memoir of a man who lived through World War I as a child and then through the transition from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich as a young lawyer and aspiring judge. He

He draws connections between his childhood experiences during World War I and how they instilled a peculiar out
This is one of my favourite books about Nazi Germany. It gives an excellent insight into the life of the ordinary, non-Nazi German intellectual who found himself marching along with the Nazis and shouting heil hitler - for many reasons, including fear and confusion. Really sheds light on how and why the Nazis became so widely followed and obeyed, what psychological terror they used on the Germans themselves....I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
I love this book. I've been a fan of what my school described as 'Modern World History for as long as I can remember. This book - written in 1939 whilst the author was in exile in England - satisfies my lust for the historical facts and the personal views on how Germany came under the thrall of the National Socialist Party. It is brilliantly written. He is critical of his fellow Germans in a way that only a native can be. I would have loved to have met him.
Written in 1939 but not published until 2000 [after the authors death] this is a fascinating autobiographical political memoir of an ordinary middle-class non-Jewish German citizen, a boy during the Great War, and an immigrant to England on the eve of the Second World War. Helps explain how the Nazi's rose to power when initially a solid majority of Germans voted for parties other than the National Socialists. Highly recommended.
Gabriel Schoenfeld
If Sebastian Haffner provides rich food for thought about basic historical issues surrounding Nazi Germany, he does much more besides, inviting readers to enter his own poignant inner life as he fought a losing battle against the encroachments of a state that left no crevice of the private realm untouched, and that called upon individuals not simply "to surrender but to renege." This book is a minor unfinished masterpiece.
An unfinished autobiography of the historian's life leading into WWII. An amazing contemporary account of the climate (political, social and intellectual)which allowed Hitler to become what he became. Not the most compelling of such books I've read, but perhaps the most intellectually honest and well-written. Haffner was clearly a brilliant man who saw what was happening around him and was able to write about it at the time.
Lorie Mcmillin
This book was one of the most profound reads I've had on WWII, and finally answered, at least in part for me, how the German people let this happen. This book tells the story of how Hitler takes over his own country and its people. It's a terrifying viewpoint, written from the papers gathered from the author's father, based on his experiences in the war. Highly recommend this book.
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Haffner and Germany before WWII 1 5 Oct 25, 2013 12:07PM  
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Sebastian Haffner (the pseudonym for Raimund Pretzel) was a German journalist and author whose focus was the history of the German Reich (1871-1945). His books dealt with the origins and course of the First World War, the failure of the Weimar Republic and the subsequent rise and fall of Nazi Germany under Hitler.

In 1938 he emigrated from Nazi Germany with his Jewish fiancée to London, hardly able
More about Sebastian Haffner...
The Meaning of Hitler Churchill (Life & Times) Germany: Jekyll & Hyde: An Eyewitness Analysis of Nazi Germany Ailing Empire Geschichte eines Deutschen

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