Unlike many books, stories, and articles about the Nazis, Reck's diary (or rather the excerpts we get here) does not dwell on concentration camps, slave labor, or military devastation. Reck's book is a subtle and agonizing rumination on daily life for ordinary Germans that becomes more and more nightmarish as the book, and time, progress. Reck describes the vulgarity, the stupidity, arrogance, and evilness of the Nazis by focusing on details of German life from the late 1930's to August 1944 when the diary abruptly ends. Reck is a wealthy, cultured, and well-connected semi-aristocrat who knew many leading members of Germany's cultural elite. He relates many anecdotes told him by his friends and is also a sharp and insightful observer of society. He conveys the nightmare world of the Nazis by relating small and poignant details rather than world-historical events.
Reck hates, detests the Nazis and realizes early that they will lead Germany to destruction and the world to catastrophe. Reck engages in long political diatribes which although repetitive are insightful in places. Reck is an ultra-conservative monarchist. America and England were only slightly less evil than Germany. Industrialization and bourgeois culture are to blame for the rise of the Nazis. Reck seems to focus on I.G. Farben as the epitome of the sort of the corporate greed that made Nazism possible. Industrialization, nationalism, the vulgarization of culture, and corporate greed and unhindered capitalism are the sources of the Nazi revolution, according to Reck. Reck is no darling lovable liberal chap--he has many difficult and reactionary opinions and at least in the German there are racial (but not anti-semitic) aspersions.
There are demons and devils that are only weakly held in check in the basements, caves, and corners of our societies and ourselves. It does not take much for the demons and devils to break their feeble chains and emerge from their hiding places and wreak horror and devastation. Reck has much to teach us or to remind us--since we really already know the lessons he is writing about. The demons and devils of greed, hatred, stupidity, violence, are there only waiting to emerge, always lurking just beneath the surface of peaceful, plentiful, cultured, and properous society. Slight tremors in the weak ediface leave openings for the devils to come crawling out and ruin us. We have got to make conscious and focused efforts to keep them in check before they emerge--for once they get loose, we'll not get them back in their chains without the horror of war, slaughter, and devastation. Or least that is Reck's message as I understood it.
I read this book in the original German which is difficult and convoluted. Reck is a brilliant writer but his style is anything but easy. There are also many obscure, at least to me, references to events and people in the Third Reich and the earlier history of Germany that meant nothing to me. I'm sure that I did not "get" it all and had to skim particularly difficult passages. There were few notes in the German edition I had. But I understood enough to become drawn into Reck's world, his personality, and his and Germany's and Europe's nightmare.