The Nazi State and German Society –
A Brief History with Documents
By Robert G. Moeller
Bedford/St. Martin’s – £16.99
What’s particularly appealing and indeed helpful from an academic standpoint, is the fact that this book begins at the beginning of Nazi ideology; most notably, towards the end of the First World War, which is where and when one Austrian soldier’s vision of a greater Germany, was temporarily put to rest: ‘’Like many other German-speaking central Europeans, Hitler believed that the war would create a truly unified German empire – that is, that success in battle would solidify and expand Germany’s power and prestige in Europe and the world.’’
The above wasn’t to be transiently gleaned until at least the end of the nineteen-thirties and early nineteen-forties, by which time Adolf Hitler had evolved into a deranged lunatic and was responsible for turning Germany into a horribly nationalistic and totally totalitarian state; which, as The Nazi State and German Society – A Brief History with Documents substantiates, continues to resonate with morbid sorcery: ‘’Nazi Germany continues to fascinate, a source of historical analogy, melodrama, and satire and a ubiquitous presence on television and the Internet. Perhaps this should come as no surprise. The initial triumph of National socialism, Nazi aggression, the horrors of the Final Solution, the staggering death tolls of the war the Nazis unleashed, and the geopolitical division of the post-1945 world between the United States and the Soviet Union, the superpowers most responsible for defeating Nazism, define the history of the twentieth century.’’
The trajectory of the Third Reich is undeniable. Whether it’s something as simple as former U.S. President George W. Bush comparing the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to Hitler, the continuing barrage of literature and books (such as this one) published on the subject, or the elongated critical acclaim of such powerful films as Schindler’s List, Stalingrad and The Pianist. As such, the history of the Nazi state and German society in general, remains as politically potent and all questioning today, as it has since its demise in 1945. And it shall probably remain thus for quite a considerable amount of time to come.
This partially explains why this brief history by Robert G. Moeller, is just as equally an important a book, as it is informative and quizzical. One can literally turn to any page at random, and there will be something of intense, albeit disturbing interest to read.
On page 88 for instance, we learn of the ‘Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring – July 14, 1933: ‘’Nazi policy aggressively encouraged racially fit Germans to reproduce. Just as aggressively, it imposed sanctions to prevent those deemed unfit from bringing children into the world. On the day that the French celebrated the 114th anniversary of the revolution of 1789 and the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, the Nazis passed a law that provided for the sterilisation of Germans with hereditary diseases, clearly stating that not all lives should be equally valued and not everyone should have access to the same human rights.’’ While on page 135, we have Ria Bröring’s ‘’A German Woman’s Account of Jewish Deportations – April 23, 1942: ‘’Once again there are huge columns of Jews passing our house. The suffering of these poor tottering figures is indescribable […]. Is it not an appalling injustice to rob these people of their last possessions and then finally of their homeland? Who is going to take responsibility for such guilt and wickedness? A price will have to be paid in the long run. I heard a German woman in the street say, ‘’Pray God we never have to answer for this.’’
Brave, lucid, colourful and resoundingly compelling, these 183 pages are among the best and the most succinct I’ve ever read on the subject. The five additional pages of the Selected Bibliography alone are worth reading – even if only to further investigate this heartbreakingly complex subject.