Julie's Reviews > They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45

They Thought They Were Free by Milton Sanford Mayer
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Apr 05, 13

bookshelves: non-fiction, history, wwii, the-third-reich, wishlist, 2013
Read from March 23 to 28, 2013

“‘What is an Aryan?’ ‘An Aryan is a man who is tall like Hitler, blond like Goebbels, and lithe like Göring.’”
They Thought They Were Free pg.228

Sorry, this review ended up choppy and too short to address all of Mayer’s point’s.

Mayer, a Jewish American, spent a year getting to know ten “average” German men. These ten also had a Nazi background. He and his family move to a small town, Kronenberg, were he finds his diverse ten. )It sounds hard to be “diverse” when all ten come from a small town.) All ten were “little men” in the Nazi party. His question was simple: why?

These “little men” were of no consequence of the Party. Each had a reason to join, a few simply to get a job or promotion. Living the average life, these men focused on their surroundings. You could get information from local papers, neighbors, etc., but access to information like the State was null. Relevant propaganda was easy to spread. Most Germans at that time had little to no exposure to the outside world.

Germany creating war was not expected by the men. The earlier years, the Germans got what they wanted. Hitler was a “little man” who became great. But this image hid the growing gap between the people and the State. The change was slow, reaching a point when no one had time to even think. ”Thousands, yes, million would have been sufficiently shocked–if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33 (pg. 170).” Goebbels addressed the gassing as enemy propaganda.

The Jews leaving had a “we knew but not really” explanation. Simply, no one asked questions. Some took advantage at the possibility of a Jew emigrating that if you hold of paying them long enough, you wouldn’t have to. Or able to.
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