On the Road to the Wolf’s Lair: German Resistance to Hitler

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9780674636804: On the Road to the Wolf’s Lair: German Resistance to Hitler
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In the beginning, they rallied behind Hitler in the national interest of Germany; in the end, they sacrificed their lives to assassinate him. A history of German resistance to Hitler in high places, this book offers a glimpse into one of the most intractable mysteries. Why did high-ranking army officers, civil servants, and religious leaders support Hitler? Why did they ultimately turn against him? What transformed these unlikely men, most of them elitist, militaristic, and fiercely nationalistic, into martyrs to a universal ideal?

The resisters in On the Road to the Wolf's Lair are not the singular souls doomed to failure by the massive Nazi machinery, but those who emerged from the Third Reich itself--those people whose cultural, administrative, and military positions allowed them, ultimately, to form a systematic, organized opposition to the Nazi regime. These were people with a vested interest in the Third Reich, and their slow and painful awakening to its evils makes a dramatic story, marked as much by temporizing and compromise, vacillation and reluctance--a resistance to conscience--as by the intrigue and heroics of political resistance that finally emerged. Hamerow follows these men as, one by one, they find themselves overwhelmed by guilt and contrition over their support of a murderous regime. He shows how their awakened moral reckonings and higher interests overrode lifetime habits and disciplines on the road to "the wolf's lair."

The result is an unsparing history of the German resistance to Hitler--one where the players emerge for the first time as real people with complex motives and evolving characters. Almost a history of the possibility of an emerging collective moral conscience within a destructive environment, the book adds to our understanding of the fall of the Third Reich and of the task of history itself.

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Though written as an historical account, On the Road to the Wolf's Lair reads at times like a spy thriller, complete with intrigue and danger. It is also meticulously researched, offering insight into the rise and fall of the Third Reich from the perspective of German resisters who once supported the movement. What is most interesting about the members of the civil service, military, and the clergy who came to oppose Hitler is that they initially embraced the party warmly, many of them sharing the nationalist fervor and anti-Semitism that characterized the Third Reich. In fact, it was their level of enthusiasm that originally granted them their high status and privilege within the dictatorship.

In this engrossing account, historian Theodore S. Hamerow closely examines why these people chose to reverse their alliance not only in spirit, but to take active steps to overthrow the regime, culminating in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler at his headquarters--the "Wolf's Lair"--in East Prussia in 1944. The book is less a strategic rendering than an analysis of motives, and Hamerow does not paint the resisters as unconditional heroes or moralists. Rather, he reveals all their foibles in an attempt to highlight the depth of their ultimate repulsion to Hitler's monstrous master plan. In telling his story, Hamerow also makes it clear that the resistance was stronger than initially believed by both Germany and the Allies, for it included high-ranking officers as well as bureaucrats at virtually every level of the government. In this way, the author makes a sizable contribution to the history of the Nazi party, adding a valuable volume to the ever-expanding World War II archives.

From the Back Cover:

[Hamerow] paints a candid picture of the resisters: there were no unflawed supermen; rather, many were elitists who enjoyed their improved status under Hitler's regime. Some were anti-Semites who believed that the Third Reich was correct to segregate Jews from the rest of Germany. Hamerow's painstakingly researched book ... does an outstanding job in showing how and why the resisters became more than just blind followers of a movement.-Carolyn T. Hughes, New York Times Book Review

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