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Defying Hitler

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  3,221 ratings  ·  347 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Written in 1939 and unpublished until 2000, Sebastian Haffner's memoir of the rise of Nazism in Germany offers a unique portrait of the lives of ordinary German citizens between the wars.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 August 2000)
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Derbenutzer Yes, it is:

... translated from Geschichte eines Deutschen. Die Erinnerungen 1914–1933. (Written in approximately 1940, was published after he died)

Yes, it is:

... translated from Geschichte eines Deutschen. Die Erinnerungen 1914–1933. (Written in approximately 1940, was published after he died)

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Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Reposting this with tears in my eyes, realising the fascist plague has reached the German Bundestag as well. I thought what I witness in America was as bad as 2017 can get. I was wrong!

"Je länger dieser Sommer 1933 dauerte, umso unwirklicher wurde alles."

Translated into contemporary time, I would say: "Over the course of the 2017 winter, everything became more and more unreal."

Haffner, growing up and maturing in a Germany increasingly influenced, and then taken over by, Hitler and his thugs, w
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who does not wish to live in a totalitarian state

The above book is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK I read this year. It may even be the most important book I read in all my life.

Upfront: Defying Hitler is a historical/political memoir that was written in 1939, after the author had emigrated to England (in 1938). When WWII broke out (in September 1939), the author deserted this book project, as he no longer considered his private memories important, and turned to writing professional historical and political books and
The English translation of this book is called "Defying Hitler" which I am sure helped sell more copies but underplays the wider interest of this book which covers the years 1914 to 1933 in the life of a man from the German, specifically Prussian, middle class.

While at school during the Kapp Putsch, for instance, a particularly right-wing teacher (view spoiler) asks if they can feel the difference in the atmosphere now that
Lewis Weinstein
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Haffner provides a real sense of what it was like to experience the Hitler takeover of Germany. From the eyes of a child before Hitler was ever heard of through 1938 when Hitler had squashed all opposition, Haffner reports in often electric prose how he felt.

A few examples ...

... Göring ordered the police to intervene in any brawl on the side of the Nazis, without investigating the rights and wrongs of the matter, and to shoot at the other side without prior warning

... my reaction was icy horr
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant and clear examination of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis to power in 1930s Germany. It is chilling to see how quickly and thoroughly a group of thugs terrorised and subjugated a whole country.

Towards the end of the book, Haffner and his fellow law students were required to undergo some military training and of course indoctrination, before they could take their final exams, an efficient way of ensuring the judiciary was a part of the system.

They were in uniform and of course marchin
Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Judith Johnson
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book which I have recommended to many people, and to which I have referred when discussing the subject of right wing dictatorships systematic take overs of the judiciary...
Michal Mironov
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a book discovery of the year for me! Written through the eyes of an ordinary man, Defying Hitler describes in an extremely bright and comprehendible language the mechanism of Nazi evolution in Germany.

I have read dozens of expert studies on how the Nazis came to power. Although the facts and logics fit together, deep inside I simply refused to understand how this could have happened in a civilized and cultural country like Germany. And then I discovered Haffner. But not the well-known
L. McCoy
So this book was interesting and educational so it definitely gives me some of what I want from nonfiction. I also like how it’s not the typical war history, it’s more about how bad things were in Germany during WW2 which makes it a fascinating read.
I unfortunately didn’t care for the writing itself, it is often very dry, I found myself easily distracted. I also thought it went on a bit too much about certain things a few times as well as there being a few minor issues. In this
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was hard to get into the book at first- all the different German leaders and shifting politics was hard to keep up with. But it was interesting to read about Hitler's rise to power from the perspective of a German youth who did not believe in Hitler's ideals. The last half is where I started to get more interested, as that is when Hitler and the Nazis began to gain power. ...more
Thea | (unapologetic_bibliosmia)
Dnf at first dnf which is a real shame as I wanted to like this book so much...I just found it so bland and uncaptivating. Less a story and more a spilling of events.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, history, memoir
I really enjoyed this book, for its first-person witness account of what it was like in 1920s and 30s Germany. I read it about 4 years ago, so I hope my memory serves me in this review. The book describes a pretty average citizen's view of German society, as it wrestled first with political struggles between Marxist-socialists, communists, fascists, social-democrats---all taking advantage of the post World War I upheavals, to try and gain control and move society in countervailing directions. Th ...more
Jon Larson
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Ruth Wahtera
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable book that anyone who is interested in Nazism should read. Well, today it is also very much recommended for anyone who is interested in the processes happening in Russia right now, because it shows perfectly how a nation becomes an authoritarian monster and then just out-of-law and defying-civilization freak step by step, and although these two countries are very different, and both transformations were/are the products of their own time and circumstances, and therefore are n ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
An extraordinary account of the rise of Nazism by an ordinary German that goes a long way to answering the questions "Why did it happen?" and "Why wasn't it stopped?".

This account is completely relevant today is these times of surging populism, and shows how liberties are eroded one at at time, rather than all at once. Like a rising tide the individual is submerged in a sea of falsehood and the bombastic glorifications of nationalism and racism.

The message and the warning is very clear, the only
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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?" ...more
Victor Sonkin
The famous unfinished memoir of a guy who saw the Nazis for what they were in the 1930s Germany. Horrifyingly thrilling. Also, there are a lot of things which make that situation similar to what we observe here and now — but even more things that are completely unlike it (which is a consolation, albeit a small one).
Mike Rabasco
A good book to read. You have to wonder if most Germany people felt this way why would Hitler have ever been allowed to assume control of Germany? Just remember this was written prior to the start of World War 2.
Murat Sulukan
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely first half part of this book very excited and fluently. Maybe it cannot of finished, excluding all of these can be decreas its effect but I recommended of this book. It has different mindset and you help to have a ringside seat.
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read. Hard to put down. Different perspective than I have ever read regarding the rise of Hitler and Germany as a whole.
Charles Haywood
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Defying Hitler” is one of those relatively few books (available widely in English at least) that are contemporaneous memoirs of events relating to the Third Reich. Any book, memoir or not, written after the war necessarily suffers from hindsight perception, so contemporaneous material is particularly interesting. (The classic modern example is Victor Klemperer’s diaries, which cover the war and pre-war period.) “Defying Hitler” was written in 1939, covering events in 1933, and was only publishe ...more
Joe Vasicek
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I picked this one up from Glenn Beck's recommended reading list, and found it to be pretty good. The most disappointing part is that it was never finished, so what starts as a history of the Third Reich up to 1939 actually ends in 1933. It would be really fascinating to get Haffner's account of events like the Night of the Long Knives or Kristallnacht, but unfortunately we never will.

That said, what we do have is a truly remarkable account of the fall of the German Empire, the chaos and collapse
Lisa Brown
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book written about the period of time between 1907 and 1933 in Germany, and more specifically, what it was a life for a typical German during Hitler's rise to power, and how it was possible for an entire country to essentially sit by and let it happen. Sebastian Haffner, the author, tells his story, and explains the innermost workings of his mind, as well as the way the Nazi's were able to take control with almost no interference from the common man. Written in 1939, but not publis ...more
Ana-Maria Bujor
May 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fantastically well written and exactly the book I had been looking for. While there are many, many books out there outlining battles, decisions by high-ranking Nazis, political moves and treaties, there are very few that try to explain how ti got there. Some I can think of are The German war and Ordinary men. However, I was looking for more, as some works go so deep into theories of social psychology, trying their best to point out to the solution that the actual experience of the people gets lo ...more
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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

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“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.” 5 likes
“One cannot overstate the childishness of the ideas that feed and stir the masses. Real ideas must as a rule be simplified to the level of a child’s understanding if they are to arouse the masses to historic actions.” 5 likes
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