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Stolid description of life with Hitler
on 3 October 2013
This is a very interesting book by a person who lived close to Hitler for the 8 years 1938-45. It is best described as 'a stolid description of what happened', much of which we already know from other sources, and lacks the insights and commentaries which could have made the book unique.
The book was published 35 years after the author had destroyed his diaries and notes at the end of the war. Therefore he had to draw on his memory as well as, to some degree, on other people's accounts. In these circumstances it is remarkable that he has been able to present the detail of his story. Some of it no doubt has been coloured by the 20/20 vision of hindsight as well as by the spirit of the new democratic Germany. While some of the facts may have been distorted in this way, the atmosphere he describes in Hitlers inner circle has perhaps been truly reported. This is one of the most interesting parts of the book.
Von Below is open about his private reservations of Hitler's decisions, his fears that the Russian attack was doomed to failure and that from 1943 onwards the war was lost to Germany. And of course he knew about the murder of civilians in concentrations camps and occupied territories. He was an aristocrat and not a Nazi, and thus had standards that conflicted with his duties. But none of this stopped him serving Hitler with total loyalty and he was prepared to die at his post. It is a pity that in the book he does not reflect and enlarge on these contradictions and explain how he handled them and what he makes of them looking back from the more modern world of the 1970's.