Stirring portraits of a motley assortment of unlikely heroes in the fight against the Nazis.
Recently deceased investigative reporter and author Thomas and documentary filmmaker and journalist Lewis (co-authors: Shadow Warriors of World War II: The Daring Women of the OSS and SOE, 2017) plunge readers directly into the action, offering an entertaining account of the diverse group of people who managed to subvert the Nazi intentions in some way. The authors move chronologically, from Hitler’s assumption of the chancellorship in early 1933 and the first demonstrations of brutal Nazi tactics to the cataclysmic end of the war. The public burning of books alarmed American-born academic Mildred Fish-Harnack, who was married to a senior German economics official, Arvid Harnack. With her friends, they galvanized sympathetic colleagues against the regime, providing secrets to the Americans and to the Soviets in the form of the Rote Kapelle group. The authors note that 45 people connected to that group were “sentenced to death,” and Mildred was “the first and only American woman executed on the order of Hitler.” Within the official Nazi apparatus, Gen. Hans Oster was working against the grain, with ambivalent Adm. Wilhelm Canaris looking the other way. In a very strange case, Kurt Gerstein reluctantly joined the SS and became one of the first to reveal the horrific inner workings of the concentration camps. Most poignantly, the authors delineate the courageous work of the young Munich students Hans and Sophie Scholl and others, whose White Rose group prevailed at least for a short time. The authors also recount the valiant, failed attempt by the group led by Col. Henning von Tresckow and Col. Claus von Stauffenberg to assassinate Hitler. All paid dearly for their brave defiance.
A deeply researched work that passionately challenges the popular myth that “the German people followed Hitler as if as one mass, mesmerized like the children of Hamelin by the Pied Piper.”