A stunning portrait of a strenuously anti-Nazi family in Berlin who managed to hang on to their moral convictions during the brutalizing Hitler years.
A conservative historian and journalist who wrote a biography of Hitler, among other works (Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich, 2004, etc.), Fest first published this moving memoir of his coming-of-age during the Third Reich to enormous acclaim in Germany in 2006, also the year of his death at age 79. One of five children born to a politically committed teacher, Johannes Fest, who was alarmed by the ascent of the Nazi Party at the expense of the Weimar Republic, the author and his siblings grew up in a middle-class Berlin suburb and were duly inculcated with their father’s staunch prophetic teachings about the perils of surrendering to Nazi lawlessness. Johannes took his children to see the burned-out Reichstag, lost his civil service job in 1933 due to his perceived inability to support the “national state,” and was frequently shunned by neighbors, prompting his fearful wife to plea for compromise with the Nazi state so that their life would be easier. But Johannes maintained his moral convictions, and the author and his older brother were invited to a “second supper” with his parents after the smaller ones had gone to bed in order to discuss the events of the day in secrecy. Fest’s portrait of his father is strikingly sympathetic, especially against the backdrop of an increasingly acquiescent German populace for whom “upholding the law was more important…than justice.” After boarding school and recruitment into the compulsory Hitler Youth, then the Luftwaffe, Fest experienced a horrifying end to the war, yet his memoir focuses more on his literary and musical development.
A beautifully written and translated work that creates rare, subtle portraits of Germans.