Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance in the Last Year of WWII By Randall Hansen, book review

 

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The Independent Culture

The price of disobeying Hitler was death, the Nazi "Sippenhaft" law ensuring this meant death for all family members.

This is the subject of Randall Hansen's superlative, scholarly read, a fitting tribute to those whose names are less known to us in the post-20 July 1944 world of Stauffenberg's failed assassination attempt, as well as exploring the truth of Speer's safeguarding of German towns through counter-orders, and desert-fox Rommel's willingness to talk truth to power.

There being "different straws that broke the backs of different camels", the route into resistance or the paper trails and triple games of defiance were manifold, from the sense that the Bismarck-ian brand of honour in warfare had been made a mockery of, or, for the mayor of Leipzig, Carl Goerdeler, the removal of Felix Mendelssohn's monument from the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall, from love of a building to belief in a future and a pragmatic eye to war-crime tribunals.

Some women played a decisive role: three 16-year-old girls took the negotiating team over the river Neckar in a paddleboat through artillery fire thereby saving Heidelberg in the 11th hour; or middle-aged Philomene Steiger in Freiburg who persuaded General Bader to defy Hitler's "scorched earth" policy. Hansen is a master storyteller, the narrative at times like an exciting war movie, the Paris and south of France chapters particularly so.

Without the actions of these individuals, many more lives would have been lost and post-war recovery less possible, Hansen argues convincingly and these are names that should be known.

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