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Life and Death in the Third Reich

Peter Fritzsche

ISBN 9780674034655

Publication date: 09/30/2009

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On January 30, 1933, hearing about the celebrations for Hitler’s assumption of power, Erich Ebermayer remarked bitterly in his diary, “We are the losers, definitely the losers.” Learning of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, which made Jews non-citizens, he raged, “hate is sown a million-fold.” Yet in March 1938, he wept for joy at the Anschluss with Austria: “Not to want it just because it has been achieved by Hitler would be folly.”

In a masterful work, Peter Fritzsche deciphers the puzzle of Nazism’s ideological grip. Its basic appeal lay in the Volksgemeinschaft—a “people’s community” that appealed to Germans to be part of a great project to redress the wrongs of the Versailles treaty, make the country strong and vital, and rid the body politic of unhealthy elements. The goal was to create a new national and racial self-consciousness among Germans. For Germany to live, others—especially Jews—had to die. Diaries and letters reveal Germans’ fears, desires, and reservations, while showing how Nazi concepts saturated everyday life. Fritzsche examines the efforts of Germans to adjust to new racial identities, to believe in the necessity of war, to accept the dynamic of unconditional destruction—in short, to become Nazis.

Powerful and provocative, Life and Death in the Third Reich is a chilling portrait of how ideology takes hold.


  • A provocative revisionist view of the Third Reich and the complex relationship of Germans to it. This book, more than any other I know, conveys the complex nature of day-to-day life in Nazi Germany from the perspective of its political leaders, German citizens, and Jewish victims. In many ways, Fritzsche's interpretation of National Socialism and its supporters is far more unnerving than a view of a terrorized, hypnotized populace. The book offers not only an admirable analytic clarity but also passages of such human pathos that they leave the reader quaking.

    —Thomas Childers, author of In the Shadows of War


  • Peter Fritzsche is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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