An Honourable Defeat: A History of German Resistance to Hitler, 1933-1945

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9780805035155: An Honourable Defeat: A History of German Resistance to Hitler, 1933-1945
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Despite the threat of summary trial and execution, a tiny minority of Germans opposed National Socialism by distributing dissident literature, meeting secretly to discuss politics and sheltering Communist Jews and other 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.

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About the Author:

Antony Cutler is the pseudonym of acclaimed novelist and Renaissance historian ANTON GILL. Under his own name he has published a series of thrillers set in Ancient Egypt, and a history-mystery, The Sacred Scroll. An English Literature graduate of Clare College, Cambridge, he has been a freelance writer since 1984, and has been translated and published worldwide. He has written a wide variety of historical non-fiction, and previously worked in theatre, radio and television. Anton is married to the actress Marji Campi, and divides his time between London and Paris.

Review:

For an author, there are two factors which greatly complicate a modern examination of the German resistance to Hitler. Firstly, after the failure of the assassination attempt on July 20th 1944, the Gestapo and the SS launched operation Thunderstorm, which eliminated thousands of Germans who were under suspicion (however slight) of disloyalty to the regime. Of course, irreplacable information perished along with these individuals. Secondly, now that half a century has passed, natural mortality has thinned even further the ranks of those who survived the War. Anton Gill has overcome these obstacles by locating and interviewing that handful of living participants, and by interviewing relatives and friends of those who died. This exceptional research, his grasp of European history, and his exceptional ability to tell the story combine to result in this flawless chronicle of an era. Let's face it, reading war history can be about as exciting as eating a bag of sawdust. But this book reads like a novel, truly it does. It is never boring. It is a book about heroes, those who risked and lost their lives in an effort to thwart the plans of someone that history has confirmed as a madman. Why are they heroes? Among other reasons, because they had the perception to recognize Hitler as such AT THE TIME. It is easy to look back at this era and think of "what I would have done" but Gill's book shows us how truly difficult it was to be the one who resisted. For instance, it is certain that at no time could the conspirators, at whatever level they were working, count on the support of the populace or any form of legal recourse. Their lives were on the line. No turning back. But we who have never lived in a police state, who can criticise our government in letters to the newspaper or on an open postcard to a friend, who can speak our minds freely on the telephone or on the computer, can have no idea of what it is like to work against a regime whose hold on power depends on fear and informers, on mistrust and deception, on children reporting parents and parents denouncing children. This book is the story of those who resisted, at a time when the penalty for writing "Down With Hitler" on a wall was nothing less than death! We can't imagine. Heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Sophie Scholl, General Hans Oster, Ludwig Beck... you will hope against hope for these and so many others, while at the same time realizing that we can re-read history, but we can't rewrite it. The story of Claus Graf Schenck von Stauffenberg's failed assassination attempt on Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, this was the most exciting part of the book. Gill's explanation of the events makes the heart pound, and you can follow along with the excellent maps that are provided. The resolve, the fortitude, the determination of Stauffenberg is literally amazing. And Hitler's luck (then, and on several other occasions) is almost unbelievable. This is an excellent book and should be read by everyone interested in the history of bravery. --By Cipriano -

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 National Socialism, 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

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