HOW DEMOCRACY FAILED by Ellen Switzer

HOW DEMOCRACY FAILED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author was a refugee from Germany in the '30's; here she returns to interview her contemporaries who stayed behind and to make an attempt, rare enough at any level, to understand the human dynamics behind the German people's acceptance of Hitler. Switzer covers most of the obvious social causes--resentment over Versailles, the authoritarian educational system, and, in particular, the runaway inflation (there's a brilliant description by George Grosz of his meeting with a hoarder), and she avoids simplistic interpretations, such as blaming the left-wing victims or Weimar decadence. The most chilling chapters however, turn not on the ways Nazism appealed to adult frustration, but its attraction for youthful idealists. As Switzer herself recalls, ""Often the most popular, friendliest, most helpful of your classmates wore the red flag with the white center and the black armband."" She also shows how effective the Nazis' tactics for crushing dissent were, and while she focuses on the hypocrisy of many Germans, she doesn't spare Americans, quoting from pro-Nazi articles that appeared in the American press and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's ephemeral defense of The Wave of the Future. Though they illustrate Switzer's commitment to relevance, a few parallels between Germany and the Watergate mentality would probably have been better left to the reader's own judgment. Otherwise, this is a very personal and complex investigation into a tragic phenomenon.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1975
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Atheneum