Ailing Empire: Germany from Bismarck to Hitler

Overview

Using his skills as a journalist, historian, and memoirist, Sebastian Haffner (author of The Meaning of Hitler) traces the development of the German Empire (1871-1945) and the central role of warfare that characterized the Reich. Haffner contends that Germany’s unfavorable geographic position had much to do with the state’s belligerence and that, from its inception, created the conflicts that culminated in two world wars.

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The Ailing Empire: Germany from Bismarck to Hitler

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Overview

Using his skills as a journalist, historian, and memoirist, Sebastian Haffner (author of The Meaning of Hitler) traces the development of the German Empire (1871-1945) and the central role of warfare that characterized the Reich. Haffner contends that Germany’s unfavorable geographic position had much to do with the state’s belligerence and that, from its inception, created the conflicts that culminated in two world wars.

“The fruit of decades of study, the moving and sometimes very personal testament of an author whose works more than any others have influenced public opinion and challenged academic historians.” — Die Zeit

“A brilliant work from the top hat of a powerful historical magician.” — Rudolf Augstein, Der Spiegel

“A thoroughly successful work.” — Wiener Tagblatt

“A book with more historical insights than a whole pile of learned volumes.” — Münchner Abendzeitung

“The history of the Third Reich in just 43 pages? Impossible to do more than discuss a few features superficially. But not with Sebastian Haffner. This brilliant thinker — a journalist turned historian — reveals the fundamental lines of development in a way that anyone can follow. The pages bristle with questions and unexpected answers. The 300 pages of ‘The Ailing Empire’ contain more clever and original insights into German history between 1871 and 1945 than many a weighty tome.” — Dieter Wunderlich

“This illuminating survey by a German journalist focuses on the continuities and discontinuities of the modern German Reich ... Haffner argues that the founding of the state was never regarded as a climactic achievement but rather as a springboard for expansion, and that Germany’s unfavorable geographic position had much to do with the state’s armed belligerence. The author also contends that the Reich was self-destructive almost from the beginning, creating a host of enemies who brought it to its knees in two world wars and eventually divided it. He describes how Hitler accelerated the catastrophic finish of the Reich by inopportunely taking on both the Russians and Americans, then tried to turn military defeat into the annihilation of the German people with his Nero Directive of March 18-19, 1945.” — Publishers Weekly

“[The Ailing Empire] tells the story of yesterday’s Germans who made today. It is a story Americans must understand.” — San-Diego Union

“Sebastian Haffner has written a book that traces the path of Germany’s political self-destruction, and offers a realistic account of the war’s real causes ... It is a highly readable analysis of the road from Bismarck to Hitler ... This book, based on many previously unpublished accounts, is a devastating portrait of human society.” — Chattanooga Times

“This is a highly readable analysis of German history over the last century. A long-time journalist, Haffner asserts that the foundations of the German Reich were an inadequate basis for a modern nation state and contained the seeds of its own destruction. Though lacking documentation, Haffner’s first-hand recollections of the Nazi era are most interesting. Particularly noteworthy are his observations on daily life during the regime and his judgment regarding those literary and artistic ‘antis’ who chose ‘internal emigration’ within the Hitler state.” — Library Journal
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
German journalist Haffner discusses Germany's characteristic aggression from 1871-1945, arguing that its armed belligerence and self-destructiveness resulted from its geographic location. ``This illuminating survey . . . focuses on the continuities and discontinuities of the modern German Reich and the central role of warfare in the empire,'' said PW. (Mar.)
Library Journal
An intriguing combination of history, essay, and memoir, this is a highly readable analysis of German history over the last century. A long-time journalist, Haffner asserts that the foundations of the German Reich were an inadequate basis for a modern nation state and contained the seeds of its own destruction. Though lacking documentation, Haffner's first-hand recollections of the Nazi era are most interesting. Particularly noteworthy are his observations on daily life during the regime and his judgment regarding those literary and artistic ``antis'' who chose ``internal emigration'' within the Hitler state. The book's final chapter is perhaps its most provocative point, given its argument that a ``united Germany'' is a virtual impossibility. Entertaining, and suitable for libraries with large German history collections.-- Joseph W. Constance Jr., Boston Coll. Libs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880641272
  • Publisher: Fromm International Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 3/28/1991
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Sebastian Haffner was born in 1907 as Raimund Pretzel the last of four children. His father was headmaster of a Berlin school and a noted liberal school reformer. Pretzel studied law and received his doctorate in 1934. Although he was not Jewish he abandoned his planned career as a lawyer in public service when the Nazis came to power. Instead he worked as a non-political journalist.

In 1938 he and his pregnant fiancée, who was of Jewish descent and for that reason had been dismissed from her post as university librarian, managed to emigrate to the UK, where they were married. There he started to write a memoir about his youth in Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazis. The book (Defying Hitler) was abandoned at the outbreak of war and replaced by another (Germany, Jekyll and Hyde) offering an analysis of Germany for the benefit of the allies. This book, published under the pseudonym Sebastian Haffner which he used for the rest of his life, procured his release from internment in the Summer of 1940. In 1942 he became a journalist at the Observer and quickly made a reputation as a political thinker.
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