Honorable Defeat: The German Resistance to Hitler, 1933-1945

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The numbers are small. Scattered across the landscape that was Nazi Germany, the Resistance looks puny: too little, too late. And yet, in the context of a police state, it assumes larger proportions. For those who have never known life under such a regime, it is hard to grasp the daily terror that makes an act of political graffiti a capital offense, that labels resistance "treason." Now, drawing on archival materials and on interviews with those few resisters and their families who survived, Anton Gill brings ...
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Overview

The numbers are small. Scattered across the landscape that was Nazi Germany, the Resistance looks puny: too little, too late. And yet, in the context of a police state, it assumes larger proportions. For those who have never known life under such a regime, it is hard to grasp the daily terror that makes an act of political graffiti a capital offense, that labels resistance "treason." Now, drawing on archival materials and on interviews with those few resisters and their families who survived, Anton Gill brings their story to light. Here are union leaders and businessmen, priests and Communists, students and factory workers; above all, here are the only people who had any plausible chance at more than symbolic resistance: those in the Army, the Foreign Office, the Abwehr. For these, obeying the dictates of conscience meant betraying the demands of government, and every day brought the risk of denunciation and death. Not many survived. Seen in terms of numbers, this is a story of defeat. But in the larger moral universe, it must be acknowledged as an honourable defeat: against awful odds and in appalling circumstances, these men and women kept the faith - a tribute to the power of human conscience.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite the threat of summary trial and execution, a tiny minority of Germans opposed Nazism by distributing dissident literature, meeting secretly to discuss politics and sheltering Jews and political outlaws. Gill documents such acts of courage along with the organized German resistance to Hitler, which, as he shows, had networks in the army, the church, the Abwehr (military intelligence and counterespionage agency), the Foreign Office and the conservative opposition. He profiles many unsung resisters along with such better-known heroes as outspoken Evangelical pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hanged in a concentration camp; Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, shot for his key role in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler; and Hans and Sophie Scholl, the brother and sister who led the White Rose student anti-Nazi group, both beheaded in 1943. British historian Gill's illuminating study cogently argues that Hitler was not an irresistible force and that he succeeded only because he was allowed to. Photos. BOMC selection. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Gill (The Journey Back from Hell, Avon, 1990) provides here an overview of the best-known individuals and groups who participated in the opposition to National Socialism in Germany, including those in the church and the Foreign Office, members of the Abwehr and of Hitler's general staff, Communists, Social Democrats, aristocrats, and students. Focused as it is on the personal, this book makes little attempt to place the opposition in its larger context or to wrestle with the great question of why these individuals resisted, some at the cost of their lives, while so many others did not. This is a good introduction for the lay reader to the people and events involved, but it is by no means definitive. Libraries interested in this subject should also purchase Peter Hoffmann's lucid German Resistance to Hitler (Harvard Univ. Pr, 1988) and Richard J. Evans's overview In Hitler's Shadow (Pantheon, 1989).-Barbara Walden, Univ of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
School Library Journal
YA-A useful work that fills in readers' rudimentary knowledge of German resistance; in fact, the unsuccessful 1944 attempt to kill Hitler occupies just one chapter. The best portions of the book are those in which Gill discusses life under the totalitarian Nazi regime, the mixed motives and degrees of dedication of resistance members, and Hitler's own wiliness and just plain luck, all of which hindered efforts to destroy him. The author notes several key points at which Hitler could have been made to back down quite easily had there been stronger leadership and less dithering in the resistance, which, then and later, was chiefly composed of upper-class Army officers of high rank and some diplomats. At the same time, though, as Gill explains, to move against Hitler, and thus Germany, went against attitudes that had been bred in the bones of the officer class. Readers are also reminded that Germans had very little democratic history or experience upon which to draw-strong leaders and good order were, and still are, the norm. Teens will find rousing the chapter devoted to a small group of idealistic college-student pampheleteers who were guillotined when identified.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Gilbert Taylor
The history of the anti-Hitler resistance follows as doomed a trail as was ever trod by classic tragedy. It has been touched on in every study of the Nazi nightmare, but this account expands into all the personalities, mixed motivations, bad luck, and bravery and pusillanimity that defines the complete story. Ultimately, Gill's capable rendition vindicates the conspirators' sacrifices at the hands of Nazi revenge after the foiled coup of July_ 1944, and reconfirms that their chances of mounting a respectable coup d'etat ended after the Czechslovakia crisis of September 1938. Only after the war was it revealed that their leader, General Ludwig Beck, told the British he would act only if they also stood up to Hitler. (This was vital to prove to the German public that war was certain sans the removal of its popular dictator.) When Munich invalidated the premise and war began anyway, the resisters in the army fluctuated in their determination to act until the war was indisputably lost. Finally, two younger officers, first von Tresckow (whose try was literally an incredible dud) and then von Stauffenberg, managed to plant bombs with nail-biting sangfroid. Gill also covers the other islets of opposition, such as the "White Rose" student group and civilians involved with the army plotters. This narrative of martyred valiance must register strongly with library patrons.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805035148
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1994
  • Edition description: 1st American ed
  • Pages: 293

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