Why did ordinary Germans vote for Hitler? In this dramatically plotted book, organized around crucial turning points in 1914, 1918, and 1933, Peter Fritzsche explains why the Nazis were so popular and what was behind the political choice made by the German people.
Rejecting the view that Germans voted for the Nazis simply because they hated the Jews, or had been humiliated in World War I, or had been ruined by the Great Depression, Fritzsche makes the controversial argument that Nazism was part of a larger process of democratization and political invigoration that began with the outbreak of World War I.
The twenty-year period beginning in 1914 was characterized by the steady advance of a broad populist revolution that was animated by war, drew strength from the Revolution of 1918, menaced the Weimar Republic, and finally culminated in the rise of the Nazis. Better than anyone else, the Nazis twisted together ideas from the political Left and Right, crossing nationalism with social reform, anti-Semitism with democracy, fear of the future with hope for a new beginning. This radical rebelliousness destroyed old authoritarian structures as much as it attacked liberal principles.
The outcome of this dramatic social revolution was a surprisingly popular regime that drew on public support to realize its horrible racial goals. Within a generation, Germans had grown increasingly self-reliant and sovereign, while intensely nationalistic and chauvinistic. They had recast the nation, but put it on the road to war and genocide.
Peter Fritzsche, in his Germans into Nazis, makes a…crucial point about public opinion in the 1930s and 1940s. He recalls—and this is something that foreigners living in Germany have always understood more readily than academics—that the popular appeal of Hitler’s movement lay much more in the hope and optimism it generated than in its various invitations to hate and to fear.
The question still haunts: Why did Germans embrace Hitler? Dr. Fritzsche rejects the standard view that Germany welcomed Nazism because of the harsh strictures of the Treaty of Versailles, the economics hardships of the Depression or a long-standing hatred of Jews, and argues instead that Hitler’s ‘program’ articulated the aims and desires of the lower and middle classes. Perhaps the most unsettling view in this thoughtful book is that the German people saw Hitler and his plan as embodying their hopes for their future. And what would that triumph have produced?
Historians examining nations over periods of time have somehow to find a balance between what is inherent in a people and what is not, in order to attempt explanations of national attitudes and conduct. This balance is not often found in the study of Germany during the fateful pre-Hitler period. The question is clear enough: Why did a civilized Central European power suddenly and swiftly descend into moral depths? …[A unified explanation] is unlikely to be found. But Peter Fritzsche has come up with new light on an old question. Instead of starting from 1918, he goes further back, and…looks at Germany as a nation undergoing redefinition, an animal changing out of all recognition… Fritzsche writes attractive, polished prose, and non-specialists should have no trouble in following his line of thought.
Drawing on a wealth of documentation, including newspaper reports, historical analyses and studies of everyday life, Fritzsche gives a fascinating look at the rise of Nazism, the dynamics of populism and the power of ideology.
In this book Mr. Fritzsche gives us an original, new and extremely helpful way to understand how Nazi Germany came into being. This is one of the best books on Nazi Germany published in many a month.
Peter Fritzsche’s Germans into Nazis is an interpretive study of the rise of Nazism which uses the key events of four crisis periods—August 1914, November 1918, January 1933 and May 1933—to explain the success of the Nazis in their drive to gain and solidify their power by winning over the German people… This book is gracefully written, provides provocative challenges for more extensive reinterpretations, and is worthy reading for all students of Nazi Germany.
Fritzsche presents a well-informed argument that uniquely identifies a political process in the Nazis’ climb to power and not just the feeding of racial hatred or the failure of the Weimar Republic.
Well researched and succinct, this history offers a nuanced view of a complicated history.
Fritzsche convincingly explains the rise of the Nazis as the success of populist nationalism—‘the culmination of a process of popular mobilization going back to 1914 and beyond’… This is a fascinating issue—what consciousness of being ‘German’ was and how it was shaped. A well-crafted, well-informed, well-written and convincing account. It should be accessible to its intended audience of general public and university students.
The book’s strength lies in the vigor and colorfulness with which Fritzsche presents his ideas. He has style and class in his writing, and that should attract general readers as well as specialists. Fritzsche has a sharp eye, moreover, for vivid or illuminating details, and he uses them very effectively to weave his narrative… The book provides a combination of scholarly research and literary skill, a combination too rare in academic works.
- 288 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.