Germans into Nazis / Edition 1

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Overview

Why did ordinary Germans vote for Hitler? In this dramatically plotted book, organized around crucial turning points in 1914, 1918, and 1933, Peter Fritzsche explains why the Nazis were so popular and what was behind the political choice made by the German people.

Rejecting the view that Germans voted for the Nazis simply because they hated the Jews, or had been humiliated in World War I, or had been ruined by the Great Depression, Fritzsche makes the controversial argument that Nazism was part of a larger process of democratization and political invigoration that began with the outbreak of World War I.

The twenty-year period beginning in 1914 was characterized by the steady advance of a broad populist revolution that was animated by war, drew strength from the Revolution of 1918, menaced the Weimar Republic, and finally culminated in the rise of the Nazis. Better than anyone else, the Nazis twisted together ideas from the political Left and Right, crossing nationalism with social reform, anti-Semitism with democracy, fear of the future with hope for a new beginning. This radical rebelliousness destroyed old authoritarian structures as much as it attacked liberal principles.

The outcome of this dramatic social revolution was a surprisingly popular regime that drew on public support to realize its horrible racial goals. Within a generation, Germans had grown increasingly self-reliant and sovereign, while intensely nationalistic and chauvinistic. They had recast the nation, but put it on the road to war and genocide.

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Editorial Reviews

Jerusalem Post

Historians examining nations over periods of time have somehow to find a balance between what is inherent in a people and what is not, in order to attempt explanations of national attitudes and conduct. This balance is not often found in the study of Germany during the fateful pre-Hitler period. The question is clear enough: Why did a civilized Central European power suddenly and swiftly descend into moral depths?...[A unified explanation] is unlikely to be found. But Peter Fritzsche has come up with new light on an old question. Instead of starting from 1918, he goes further back, and...looks at Germany as a nation undergoing redefinition, an animal changing out of all recognition...Fritzsche writes attractive, polished prose, and non-specialists should have no trouble in following his line of thought.
— Ralph Amelan

Dallas Morning News

The question still haunts: Why did Germans embrace Hitler? Dr. Fritzsche rejects the standard view that Germany welcomed Nazism because of the harsh strictures of the Treaty of Versailles, the economics hardships of the Depression or a long-standing hatred of Jews, and argues instead that Hitler's 'program' articulated the aims and desires of the lower and middle classes. Perhaps the most unsettling view in this thoughtful book is that the German people saw Hitler and his plan as embodying their hopes for their future. And what would that triumph have produced?
— Lee Milazzo

English Historical Review

Peter Fritzsche's Germans into Nazis is an interpretive study of the rise of Nazism which uses the key events of four crisis periods—August 1914, November 1918, January 1933 and May 1933—to explain the success of the Nazis in their drive to gain and solidify their power by winning over the German people...This book is gracefully written, provides provocative challenges for more extensive reinterpretations, and is worthy reading for all students of Nazi Germany.
— Paul Bookbinder

Christian Century

Drawing on a wealth of documentation, including newspaper reports, historical analyses and studies of everyday life, Fritsche gives a fascinating look at the rise of Nazism, the dynamics of populism and the power of ideology.
— Victoria Barnett

The Open University - Richard Bessel
Fritzsche convincingly explains the rise of the Nazis as the success of populist nationalism--'the culmination of a process of popular mobilization going back to 1914 and beyond'...This is a fascinating issue--what consciousness of being 'German' was and how it was shaped. A well-crafted, well-informed, well-written and convincing account. It should be accessible to its intended audience of general public and university students.
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Neal Ascherson
Peter Fritzsche, in his Germans into Nazis, makes a...crucial point about public opinion in the 1930s and 1940s. He recalls--and this is something that foreigners living in Germany have always understood more readily than academics--that the popular appeal of Hitler's movement lay much more in the hope and optimism it generated than in its various invitations to hate and to fear.
Theodore S. Hamerow
The book's strength lies in the vigor and colorfulness with which Fritzsche presents his ideas. He has style and class in his writing, and that should attract general readers as well as specialists. Fritzsche has a sharp eye, moreover, for vivid or illuminating details, and he uses them very effectively to weave his narrative...The book provides a combination of scholarly research and literary skill, a combination too rare in academic works.
Jerusalem Post - Ralph Amelan
Historians examining nations over periods of time have somehow to find a balance between what is inherent in a people and what is not, in order to attempt explanations of national attitudes and conduct. This balance is not often found in the study of Germany during the fateful pre-Hitler period. The question is clear enough: Why did a civilized Central European power suddenly and swiftly descend into moral depths?...[A unified explanation] is unlikely to be found. But Peter Fritzsche has come up with new light on an old question. Instead of starting from 1918, he goes further back, and...looks at Germany as a nation undergoing redefinition, an animal changing out of all recognition...Fritzsche writes attractive, polished prose, and non-specialists should have no trouble in following his line of thought.
Dallas Morning News - Lee Milazzo
The question still haunts: Why did Germans embrace Hitler? Dr. Fritzsche rejects the standard view that Germany welcomed Nazism because of the harsh strictures of the Treaty of Versailles, the economics hardships of the Depression or a long-standing hatred of Jews, and argues instead that Hitler's 'program' articulated the aims and desires of the lower and middle classes. Perhaps the most unsettling view in this thoughtful book is that the German people saw Hitler and his plan as embodying their hopes for their future. And what would that triumph have produced?
English Historical Review - Paul Bookbinder
Peter Fritzsche's Germans into Nazis is an interpretive study of the rise of Nazism which uses the key events of four crisis periods--August 1914, November 1918, January 1933 and May 1933--to explain the success of the Nazis in their drive to gain and solidify their power by winning over the German people...This book is gracefully written, provides provocative challenges for more extensive reinterpretations, and is worthy reading for all students of Nazi Germany.
Christian Century - Victoria Barnett
Drawing on a wealth of documentation, including newspaper reports, historical analyses and studies of everyday life, Fritsche gives a fascinating look at the rise of Nazism, the dynamics of populism and the power of ideology.
The Open University

Fritzsche convincingly explains the rise of the Nazis as the success of populist nationalism—'the culmination of a process of popular mobilization going back to 1914 and beyond'...This is a fascinating issue—what consciousness of being 'German' was and how it was shaped. A well-crafted, well-informed, well-written and convincing account. It should be accessible to its intended audience of general public and university students.
— Richard Bessel

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Peter Fritzsche, in his Germans into Nazis, makes a...crucial point about public opinion in the 1930s and 1940s. He recalls—and this is something that foreigners living in Germany have always understood more readily than academics—that the popular appeal of Hitler's movement lay much more in the hope and optimism it generated than in its various invitations to hate and to fear.
— Neal Ascherson

Contemporary Review
In this book Mr. Fritzsche gives us an original, new and extremely helpful way to understand how Nazi Germany came into being. This is one of the best books on Nazi Germany published in many a month.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Everyone knows that the Germans turned to the Nazis when dismay over the Treaty of Versailles mixed with the depredations of the Great Depression. Fritzsche Reading Berlin, however, quickly points out flaws in the scenario. To start, every party in Germany excoriated Versailles, and the people hardest hit by the recession were not the ones most likely to vote National Socialist. It is as a broader social revolution that Fritzsche attempts to make sense of Nazism. As Kaiser Wilhelm hoped, WWI unified Germany; but after withstanding four years of privations with little help from the monarchy, ordinary Germans emerged with a new sense of their worth within the society and with the German volk, a vitally different entity from the Hohenzollern Empire. By 1933, Germans were law-and-order chauvinists, and Nazis seemed to offer order and a national vision that embraced all the volk. Well researched and succinct, this history offers a nuanced view of a complicated history. As for Germany's uniquely murderous anti-Semitism, Fritzsche notes without mentioning Daniel Goldhagen by name that the complicity of so many ordinary Germans in the murder of Jews "was not so much the function of genocidal anti-Semitism which they shared in uncomplicated fashion with Nazi leaders; rather over the course of the twelve-year Reich, more and more Germans came to play active and generally congenial parts in the Nazi revolution and then subsequently came to accept the uncompromising terms of Nazi racism." Mar.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674350922
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 358,102
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Fritzsche is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign..
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Table of Contents

Introduction

July 1914

November 1918

January 1933

May 1933

Notes

Index

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