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The German War: A Nation Under Arms

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,512 ratings  ·  212 reviews
As early as 1941, Allied victory in World War II seemed all but assured. How and why, then, did the Germans prolong the barbaric conflict for three and a half more years?

In The German War, acclaimed historian Nicholas Stargardt draws on an extraordinary range of primary source materials—personal diaries, court records, and military correspondence—to answer this question. H
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Basic Books (first published September 21st 2013)
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Alexa Not America, but "Wartime: Britain 1939-1945" by Juliet Gardiner is about the affects of the war on the UK. It's very thorough, and brilliant.…moreNot America, but "Wartime: Britain 1939-1945" by Juliet Gardiner is about the affects of the war on the UK. It's very thorough, and brilliant.(less)

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Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Germany suffered a lot during World War II. As many as 5 million soldiers died. As many as 700,000 civilians were killed. Thousands more civilians died or were relocated during territorial dislocations at war’s end. Hundreds of cities were bombed; millions of homes were lost. These are all hard facts. Also a fact: the Germans started it. This bears repeating: The Germans started it.

On the surface, this statement has all the ethical weight of a playground argument between five year-olds. But I t
It may be good to have power based on arms, but it is better and more joyful to win and to keep the hearts of the people.
-Joseph Goebbels, speaking in Triumph of the Will

World War 2 began with German invasion of Poland - but in 1939 most Germans had a different view; they perceived the war as a defensive war, forced upon them by Polish aggression and Allied transpiration against Germany. Why did ordinary Germans see the war this way, and what made them keep fighting even when it became appar
Jill Hutchinson
Although this book gives some interesting and in-depth information about the major battles of WWII, the main purpose of the author is to explain why the German volk continued to fight to the doors of the German Chancellery as Berlin was being destroyed around them. The war was lost and yet 60 year old men and 14 year old boys took up arms and sacrificed themselves for the "homeland" while the Nazi leadership huddled in the bunker below them. As one of my GR friends said in his review, "What were ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The second world war from a German perspective in the form of letters and diary entries from ordinary people. The overriding impression is how eagerly an entire civilised nation become so stupid, self-righteous and brainwashed. Even the individuals who weren't Nazis bought the idea that Germany was fighting a defensive war, forced on them by "international Jewry" or colonial ambition on the part of the British. What was more depressing that even towards the end of the war these people were still ...more
A very accessible and interesting account of German life and lives at war. It covers a number of topic areas that influenced or touched daily life including religion, air-raids, propaganda and news, theatre, rationing, industry, foreign/slave workers as well as hopes and dreams of people for the war and after. It is by nature of scale and people's involvement Eastern Front focussed alongside the home front but does cover war in the west. The extermination of Jews, Poles, Russians and others is c ...more
One of those oft - asked but never answered questions... Just what the hell were the Germans thinking?

Quite often, it would appear, the answer would appear to be "why us?". Nicholas Stargardt attempts to puncture the myth of a nation of "Good Germans" victimised as bystanders in a war they neither wanted not supported through the examination of the experiences of German civilians and members of the military, often using the experiences of families both at home and on the front line.

The book is e
Mikey B.
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very thorough examination of 1939-45 through German eyes. It takes us from the exultation of the conquering of France to the abyss of 1944-45.

The author makes no excuses for this genocidal and racist regime. The German people supported the war, more so after their traditional enemy France was subdued in June of 1940.

Several issues stand-out in this book:

From the letters written from Poland and then from the Soviet Union there could be little doubt that the vast majority of the German p
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read many books about the Second World War, including many about the Home Front. However, this really is something different – a look at how the German people experienced the war and how those, from many viewpoints, witnessed unfolding events. This book takes us from 1939 and the outbreak of war to the total destruction of 1945. The author takes many different witnesses and uses letters, and diaries, from the time, to help give us a clear picture of how people responded to events. There a ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I chose this book hoping to get a better understanding of why the German people went to war and fought so desperately hard, right to the end, for what many of them thought at the time was a bad cause, or at least a cause unlikely to succeed. I learned a bit of the answer, but certainly not as much as I was hoping to. I lived in Germany for three years in the 1980's, and a very close friend's wife is German; I have dealt with Germans on an ongoing basis for work for the last 25 years, so I think ...more
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The German War – What the Germans Really Knew

Since 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 re
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii, history
One thing always bothers any Western scholar is to understand how a modern nation could so completely buy into a genocidal war. How could a nation with brilliant writers, composers and intellectuals buy into, in a wholesale way, the conspiracy theory that the Jews, this small subgroup, actually ruled the entire world, had absolute power over every nation...the very concept defies logic. That almost an entire nation could believe that Slavs were so sub-human that their extermination whether throu ...more
Kevin Cole
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I hope one day to write a more detailed review of this important book. For now, I'll only say it's fantastic: easy to read and enlightening. I appreciate histories that don't focus on the major players but draw instead from the rich source material provided by everyday Germans through the form of letters, diaries, etc. One soldier, in particular, made an impression on me. He wrote his girlfriend constantly, and the letters sound like they could've been written by Joker from Full Metal Jacket.

Lee Osborne
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a fascinating account of World War 2 as it was experienced by a wide range of different people - civilians, soldiers, Nazis and their victims. The author uses letters and diaries to follow and examine the opinions and motivations of Germans as the war first went in their favour before later going very badly wrong, causing the country to collapse in almost apocalyptic destruction.

Moving, detailed and very engrossing, although extremely sobering - the ruination and death resulting fr
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Unlike 1918 Hohenzollern Germany, Nazi Germany did not collapse either militarily or socially; it ended when most of Germany’s cities were destroyed, most of its armed forces were lost by combat attrition, and most of its territory was occupied. This books provides some explanation for Nazi Germany’s extraordinary cohesion down to the bitter end, via the documented war experiences of a cross-section of mostly ordinary German soldiers and civilians.
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. What an ineresting way to look at history - through the lens of letters and correspondence between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, colleagues, managers and subordinates. Add in some futher more ' official' historical documentation and marry that with general history timelines and what you get is a fascinating look at what real Germans were thinking and doing in the lead up to, during, and just after WW2. Really really compelling stuff. ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating account of life for the people "on the other side" in WWII. Although Nicholas Stargardt is an Oxonian academic, he certainly does not write like one. Through historical research, diaries, and letters, this author brings a realistic and highly readable depiction of daily life and the moods the German population went through from the outbreak of the war to its devastating conclusion with the Allied occupation.

Although I was concerned that it would be difficult to track all o
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
After I read earlier this year The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littel I became interested in the Second World War written from a German perspective. Nicholas Stargardt is exactly doing that.

From 1939 to 1945 we follow ordinary Germans. At the front and at home. Stargardt uses their letters and diary entries and we learn what goes on in their minds and hearts. And how they experience the various phases of the war. Throughout the book you also get a better understanding of the importance of Nazi prop
Rick Slane
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I have been looking for books like this. The focus here is not on the leaders but more on common men and women. I always wondered how the masses could follow the Nazis through to the end of the war. The answers are complicated by many factors many going back to World War I. The support of the Nazis does not necessarily make sense to me but I understand it better after reading this history. One of the chilling lines from the author was that at the beginning of 1942 most of the Jews in Europe were ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
this book really delivers what it promises . You get the point view of the war from the people that were not necessarily active members of it, you get to see how normal lives were affected by a war that touched every aspect of the German nation. It doesn't give you a really deep look inside the war but there are plenty of books out there about that, no this book deals with the changes that civilians had to put up with at the beginning of the war and it also deals sparsely with the why the german ...more
Cynthia Coletti
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
This has to be one of the most psychologically moving & disturbing books I have ever read. The sheer enormity of the atrocities and the duration of the war make this an intense read. The audiobook was excellent.
These people accepted deceptive propaganda until it changed their minds and their society. From the decimation of Poland onward most of the Germans in the book thought they were fighting in a defensive nationalistic War against Jewry.
The details of the wars shows a level of barbarism that
Peter Goodman
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing

“The German War: a nation under arms, 1939-1945,” by Nicholas Stargardt (Basic Books, 2015). This is simultaneously a work of tremendous scholarship and research; a mesmerizing, even page-turning account of World War II as seen, thought, felt and lived by Germans; a terrifying, disturbing portrait of thoroughly cruel, ruthless, and inhuman humans can be; and an infuriating recounting of how quickly the perpetrators of unfortunately too-imaginable atrocities can deflect, deny, and forget what the
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting history of the German population during the war years from 1939-1945. Did they want the war, how did they behave when it came, what were their fears, their feelings about Adolf Hitler, how much did they know about the destruction of the Jews and when did they know it? All of this and much more is discussed in The German War. This is a homefront history, so to speak. Based on recently discovered archival letters and diaries from a wide variety of people, soldiers, ordinary G ...more
Katherine Addison
This is an excellent and thought-provoking book about how the German people understood their part in World War II and the Holocaust. Obviously, there are going to be exceptions to everything Stargardt says, but he's quite good at tracking those down and presenting a spectrum of opinions, from Victor Klemperer to Joseph Goebbels. The most surprising thing about what he finds (for me) is that the Germans believed Hitler's lie about Poland attacking first. It's such an obvious. clumsy, amateurish l ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
The book excels when it tells the personnel story of the 10 or so characters focused on within the narrative while summarizing their letters, diaries and life. Unfortunately, most of the book seems to dwell mostly on a story that's been better told in other WW II books such as The Second World War.

Overall, the author does tell the story of how a nation justifies its mass insanity and how a society can completely lose its moral compass, but he does that while making the war itself the principal c
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah, cheshire
straightforward 4/5, not dazzling, but competent, well put-together. a work for WW2 buffs. the prose flows.
T. Fowler
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This is an impressive, thoroughly researched book that follows German civilians and soldiers from the invasion of Poland to the fall of Berlin, using a multitude of primary sources. He reveals, through thse sources, how the average German civilian was fearful at the start of the war that was instigated by Hitler and the Nazis, but how the citizens rejoiced and became proud of the early victories. Stargart fully describes the atrocities, first in Poland, then in Russia, that were carried out with ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This lengthy text attempts to portray the evolution of attitudes and opinions of ordinary Germans, civilian and military, during the second world war and its immediate aftermath. Several persons, male and female, are focused on throughout as are a number of others both through their own testimonies and through the eyes of the German government itself. Most interesting is the evidence as regards what was commonly known about the genocidal policies of the Nazi regime. Here one learns that most Ger ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An outstanding work, well-written and thoroughly researched. Through letters between German soldiers and their families, it provides a clear understanding of how ordinary German people dealt with the Nazis and the need to support their country. It also shows how the people were duped by the Goebbels propaganda machine - to the end, they saw the enemy as the Bolsheviks and 'World Jewry'. The book is loaded with accurate statistics about the numbers of prisoners, murders, and other unfortunate dat ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
You're either interested in this subject or you aren't. Obvious, I know. What I'm trying to say is that if this sort of thing interests you, you'll really like this as it's one of the more readable histories of the period that I've read. Conversely, if you are not interested then you'll struggle with this as it is incredibly detailed. ...more
Lloyd Fassett
Oct 31, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: history
10/31/15 Wall St Journal had a good review.
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“If the German armies had disintegrated like Napoleon’s Grande Armée in the winter of 1941, and the Third Reich had sued for peace, most of the soldiers and civilians who were to die in the Second World War would have lived.” 3 likes
“There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the behaviour of the troops towards the Bolshevist system . . . The main aim of the campaign against the Jewish-Bolshevist system is the complete destruction of its forces and the extermination of the Asiatic influence in the sphere of European culture. As a result, the troops have to take on tasks which go beyond the conventional purely military ones. In the eastern sphere the soldier is not simply a fighter according to the rules of war, but the supporter of a ruthless racial [völkisch] ideology and the avenger of all the bestialities which have been inflicted on the German nation and those ethnic groups related to it.” 0 likes
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