Sure to fuel the continuing controversy over the response of German citizens to National Socialism. Fest is one of the...


PLOTTING HITLER'S DEATH: The Story of the German Resistance

Sure to fuel the continuing controversy over the response of German citizens to National Socialism. Fest is one of the preeminent scholars of the Nazi period whose previous books (Hitler, 1974; The Face of the Third Reich, 1970) are considered standard works in the field. Consequently, his latest work must be accorded serious attention, even (or especially) if it contradicts current interpretations. While scholars such as Daniel Goldhagen (Hitler's Willing Executioners) and John Weiss (Ideology of Death) argue that most Germans actively supported the Nazi regime and acquiesced in its exterminationist programs, Fest argues that we should not overlook an active, diverse resistance movement. In fact, he documents more than a dozen plots to assassinate Hitler. In part because of the devastating Nazi repression of the left, it was, ironically, from conservative and military circles that opposition to Hitler emerged. Aristocratic circles in business, agriculture, the church, and the army viewed Hitler's rise with some trepidation. They had prospered under earlier regimes, and while they shared some of Hitler's beliefs, such as anti-Semitism and an aversion to modernism, they deeply mistrusted his modern, mass politics. Soon after Hitler's arrival in office, the major figures of the Communist, Socialist, and religious opposition disappeared into prisons, concentration camps, or exile, leaving the conservative groups to plot an assassination. And as the war took a fatal turn, military figures stepped up their efforts to kill Hitler. The cynical might argue that with defeat in sight, the dissidents were merely trying to ensure their own survival. In fact, the scope of the resistance seems very narrow, never becoming a civil movement as in France or Italy, with evidence of a subject people seeking moral and political redemption. A story of pathos and defeat rather than heroism and triumph, it may unwittingly reinforce our view of the aggregate unwillingness or inability of Germans to resist Hitler's vision.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 1996


Page Count: 432

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996