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The result was the devastation not only of much of Central Europe, but also of Germany itself. In the course of the war, 5.

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Close to a million German civilians were killed in air raids and the ethnic cleansing that followed the war. And the violence escalated as the war went on. The largest number died in the last desperate months, the worst being January , when the Wehrmacht lost , — more in a matter of weeks than America would suffer in all of its wars of the 20th century. In the aftermath, though a veil of silence descended in Germany over the Holocaust, the same was not true of the war itself.

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More or less muffled debate continues down to the present day. Compared with the abiding preoccupation of the German public, scholarly attention has been more fickle. Only since the s have academic historians begun to immerse themselves in the lived experience of this vast struggle that made millions of Germans into both agents and objects of unprecedented violence.


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It is an uncomfortable business seeking to understand a society so full of both perpetrators and victims. One response is to follow Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in declaring Germans as a whole to have been guilty. But the panorama Nicholas Stargardt paints in his gripping new book is altogether more subtle and convincing. But this is no static inventory of social and political types.

‘The German War’, a book that sometimes makes you hold your breath

What makes this book so dramatic is that it shows us political and personal identities in motion. What he shows us is the daily labor of interpretation, the work of making sense of the killing, death and destruction.


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Stargardt achieves something similar by staying with his subjects also until the bitter end. That these are both perpetrators and victims renders the effect only more unsettling. To write like this requires a rare sensitivity and psychological sophistication coupled with a degree of fearlessness. It also requires a willingness not just to indulge, but also to turn to productive use the preoccupation of educated Germans with philosophy, poetry and theology.

Causes of World War 2 - History of Germany & German Militarism - Propaganda Documentary - 1945

Stargardt refutes the mantra Wir haben es nicht gewuest we did not know about it with ample evidence. The German War: A Nation Under Arms, looks in a manifold of aspects of German society, paying special attention to the position of women, ideological placed in the family and the kitchen but in fact a massive voluntary workforce and minorities, with of course a special focus on the Jews.

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But also the treatment and killing on the German disabled, psychiatric patients and socially deprived is breathtakingly described in the chapter Extreme Measures. Or even worse sometimes: several of their high placed members of the clergy gave full support to the Nazis.

It shows how important this instrument was in influencing the mind and hearts of the people in Germany. The radio and written press were pivotal for its success but also culture and art were addressed. However, even with all propaganda tools, not each programme was successful. The intended building of a national community, which was voluntary willing to sacrifice all for the fatherland, failed due to traditional localism and regionalism and massive inner migration.

People kept complaining about their fate and kept accusing each other of misusing benefits. The German War: A Nation Under Arms, is a big book of about pages, giving a dramatic and worrisome picture of how a highly civilized nation, which in a relative short time disintegrated into chaos, violence and terror. It leaves you with little hope for humanity when it encounters exceptional circumstances.

So many lack moral qualities. The German War: A Nation Under Arms, shows history in its full complexity , with blur lines between perpetrators, bystanders and victims. With this and many other quotes from eyewitnesses we are able to have an in depth insight of dreams, expectations, feelings and behavior of many German civilians and soldiers.

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It leads to an adverse picture of a divided society, where many, but not all, were willing to fight until the very last moment and subsequently were unwilling to face the post war situation. The German War: A Nation Under Arms, offers ample opportunities to discuss about the way we talk about the blame for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It might be worth to explore this issue with examples given by Stargardt. He proves how massive the German military in Central and Eastern Europe was involved in such crimes, and how many of them looked away, despite even anti-Nazi convictions.