Defying Hitler: A Memoir

August 14, 2016

Defying Hitler was written in 1939 and focuses on the year 1933, when, as Hitler assumed power, its author was a 25-year-old German law student, in training to join the German courts as a junior administrator. His book tries to answer two questions people have been asking since the end of World War II: “How were the Nazis possible?” and “Why did no one stop them?” Sebastian Haffner’s vivid first-person account, written in real time and only much later discovered by his son, makes the rise of the Nazis psychologically comprehensible.

A unique and compelling eyewitness account of Germany between the wars.

A huge bestseller in Germany, Defying Hitler is a memoir about the rise of Nazism in Germany and the lives of ordinary German citizens between the wars. This fresh and astute account offers a unique perspective on this era of twentieth-century history.

Covering the years from 1907 to 1933, Haffner’s personal memories form the basis for questioning, analyzing, and interpreting much of Germany’s history. His eyewitness account of groups such as the First Free Corps — the right-wing voluntary military force set up to suppress communism during the revolution of 1918 — which would provide training for many of the later Nazi storm troopers; the Hitler Youth movement, which swept the nation; the apocalyptic year of 1923 when inflation crippled the country; the peaceful Stresemann years; and Hitler’s coming to power all contribute to the portrait of a country in a constant state of flux. Sebastian Haffner elucidates how the educated average German grappled with a rapidly changing society, while chronicling day-to-day changes in attitudes, beliefs, politics, and prejudices.

Available for the first time in English, this highly illuminating work is a unique portrait of a time, a place, and a people.

“An astonishing memoir… [a] masterpiece.” — Gabriel Schoenfeld, The New York Times Book Review

“A short, stabbing, brilliant book… It is important, first, as evidence of what one intelligent German knew in the 1930s about the unspeakable nature of Nazism, at a time when the overwhelming majority of his countrymen claim to have know nothing at all. And, second, for its rare capacity to reawaken anger about those who made the Nazis possible.” — Max Hastings, The Sunday Telegraph

“Defying Hitler communicates one of the most profound and absolute feelings of exile that any writer has gotten between covers.” — Charles Taylor, Salon

“Sebastian Haffner was Germany’s political conscience, but it is only now that we can read how he experienced the Nazi terror himself — that is a memoir of frightening relevance today.” — Heinrich Jaenicke, Stern

“The prophetic insights of a fairly young man… help us understand the plight, as Haffner refers to it, of the non-Nazi German.” — The Denver Post

“Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler is a most brilliant and imaginative book — one of the most important books we have ever published.” — Lord Weidenfeld

Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374161577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374161576
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars   125 customer reviews

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