Sebastian Haffner


Born
in Berlin, Germany
December 27, 1907

Died
January 02, 1999

Genre


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 to speak English but becoming rapidly proficient in the language. He adopted the pseudonym Sebastian Haffner so that his family back in Germany would not be endangered by his writing.

Haffner wrote for the London Sunday newspaper, The Observer, and then became its editor-in-chief. In 1954, he became its German correspondent in Berlin, a position
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Die sieben Todsünden des De...

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Der Teufelspakt

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Das Leben der Fußgänger. Fe...

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More books by Sebastian Haffner…
“From 1914 to 1918 a generation of German schoolboys daily experienced war as a great, thrilling, enthralling game between nations, which provided far more excitement and emotional satisfaction than anything peace could offer; and that has now become the underlying vision of Nazism. That is where it draws its allure from: its simplicity, its appeal to the imagination, and its zest for action; but also its intolerance and its cruelty towards internal opponents. Anyone who does not join in the game is regarded not as an adversary but as a spoilsport. Ultimately that is also the source of Nazism's belligerent attitude towards neighboring states. Other countries are not regarded as neighbors but must be opponents, whether they like it or not. Otherwise the match must be called off!”
Sebastian Haffner

“Can such a man, you ask, be a leader of the masses? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The masses — by which I mean not the proletariat, but the anonymous collective body into which all of us, high and low, amalgamate at certain moments — react most strongly to someone who least resembles them. Normality coupled with talent may make a politician popular. But to provoke extremes of love and hate, to be worshipped like a god or loathed like the devil, is given only to a truly exceptional person who is poles apart from the masses, be it far above or far below them. If my experience of Germany has taught me anything, it is this: Rathenau and Hitler are the two men who excited the imagination of the German masses to the utmost; the one by his ineffable culture, the other by his ineffable vileness. Both, and this is decisive, came from inaccessible regions, from some sort of “beyond.” The one from a sphere of sublime spirituality where the cultures of three millennia and two continents hold a symposium; the other from a jungle far below the depths plumbed by the basest penny dreadfuls, from an underworld where demons rise from a brewed-up stench of petty-bourgeois back rooms, doss-houses, barrack latrines, and the hangman’s yard. From their different “beyonds” they both drew”
Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: A Memoir

“It may seem a paradox, but it is none the less the simple truth, to say that on the contrary, the decisive historical events take place among us, the anonymous masses. The most powerful dictators, ministers and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”
Haffner, Sebastian (1907-1999), Geschichte eines Deutschen

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