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Backing Hitler: Consent And Coercion In Nazi Germany Paperback – 16 May 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, Usa; New Ed edition (16 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802910
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 3 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


This book will not be the last word on the subject but it will encourage the debate and increase our desire to understand fully the horrible things that happened to and in a civilised nation. (Contempoary Review, Vol.278, No.1625, June 2001)

Review from previous edition In 1933 Germans ... hankered for a return to traditional values of order, family, discipline, work. Noone could forsee how such ordinary aspirations would eventuate in that most extreme act, genocide. But this is one lesson the Nazis teach us and, thanks to Robert Gellately's fine book, it is available for all to learn. (David Cesarani, The Independent)

powerful and challenging book (Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph)

Just how much the ordinary German knew about the apparatus of terror and discrimination in the Hitler years is the subject of Robert Gellately's fascinating and disturbing account of the bonds that drew regime and people together after 1933. (Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph)

original and outstanding, genuinely important. (Michael Burdesh)

Backing Hitler is based on the first systematic analysis by a historian of surviving German newspaper and magazine archives since 1933, the year Hitler became chancellor. (John Ezard, The Guardian)

About the Author

Robert Gellately is the Strassler Professor in Holocaust History at Clark University, and is the author of The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945. He lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

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Format: Hardcover
A review of Robert Gellately's Backing Hitler
The hitherto unanswered questions of German culpability and the ordinary German citizen's knowledge of the horrors committed by the regime, have finally and systematically been addressed in Backing Hitler, Robert Gellately's forceful and provocative study of public responses to the Nazi challenge. Gellately contends in his wide ranging survey of Nazi crimes that terror was not, as has too often been presumed, hidden from the German people but that it was in fact carried out openly and with their consent. His research is impeccable throughout and consequently he leaves little room for doubt or counter-argument. It concentrates on three broadly representative areas of Germany: the Palatinate, Lower Franconia and the Rhine/Ruhr area centred on Duesseldorf, three demographically different areas that had not traditionally lent support to the Nazi party representing: city, town and country. His research is new and makes extensive use of hitherto untouched press and police reports to examine the public face of Nazi law and order. He argues that Germans were well aware of the existence of the Gestapo secret police network, the concentration camp system and the persecution of perceived enemies: communists, socialists, the Jews, the 'congenitally ill' and others regarded as racially inferior: the Gypsies and the Slavs and in doing so adds credible intellectual weight to the Goldhagen thesis. Moreover he makes clear that the return to 'normality' -that one could leave one's house unlocked- promised and seemingly delivered by Hitler necessitated the harsh methods employed by the regime to combat those held by most Germans to be responsible for Germany's decline; namely the socialists, communists, so-called 'asocials' and the Jews.
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Necessary coursework.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8ff07ed0) out of 5 stars 20 reviews
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8fdbf7a4) out of 5 stars Best documentation yet of enthusiastic acceptance of Hitler 26 May 2001
By S. Heminger - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Although many books have been written within the past decade regarding the policies and power of Hitler during the 'Third Reich'-including "Nazi Terror", by Eric Johnson and the duelling theories of Daniel Goldhagen and Christopher Browning- this is so far the most complete history of the Nazis power and terror. In Gellately's study, he examines the methods that Hitler and others in all levels of the heirarchy used propaganda and popular german sentiment to shape both policy, the public opinion of said policy, and the manner in which his policies were policed. In every example, from the sweeping national arrests and terror against the Communists, to the use of slave labor at wars-end, Gellately is very thorough in documentation and in using examples to make his points. This is a key point I think, which also happens to be one of the failings of Goldhagen's book-if an author is going to make a sweeping generalization(for example Goldhagen's 'the women camp guards were more brutal and sadistic than the male camp guards'), then he needs more than a few examples to make it. He makes his points very clearly using case after case from Gestapo files and other sources, without demonstrating the tendancy to revert back to the same few examples as proof positive of a specific trait, such as Goldhagen does. Another strong point is that he does not tend to 'bulls-eye' on any single topic in his book. Gellately gives a fair accounting of a wide variety of issues in which the German people were willing accomplices in sending Communists, Jews, asocials, and increasingly in the war years, their fellow neighbors and relatives to the gallows or camps. My single largest complaint with this book is in the manner of presentation. It is a bit too clinical at times and never really engaging, such as I found Eric Johnson's "Nazi Terror", and the best so far regarding the Jewish persecution; volume 1 of Saul Friedlander's "Nazi Germany and the Jews". All in all though I found it to be a very worthwhile read, as it definitely raised some good questions and was a thorough study of Germans during the Third Reich, and their support of Hitler.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8fdbfb40) out of 5 stars How The Germans Accepted Nazism And Hitler 27 Dec. 2002
By John Kwok - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Robert Gellately's "Backing Hitler" may be the most thought provoking, extensive study as to how and why the German people ultimately embraced both Nazism and Adolf Hitler during the course of the Great Depression and World War II. Gellately makes the startling claim that most Germans were aware of Nazi atrocities - though not necessarily the worst - and yet found them tolerable as a means to combat crime. Indeed, he notes how Germans embraced Nazism as a succesful antidote to the financial and cultural corruption they'd seen in the 1920's and early 1930's during the Weimar Republic. With the notable exception of the Holocaust, Nazi goverment officials and agencies such as the Gestapo and the SS did not hide the existence of concentration camps and torture from the general public, but instead, allowed them to be published both in Nazi popular journals and daily newspapers (And the Holocaust itself was not hidden, except for its most virulent, deadly phases, in which Jews were dealt with via "special handling", the Nazi euphemism for genocide.). Only towards the end, during the final months and weeks of the war, did the German public see the most brutal aspects of the Nazi regime. Yet surprisingly, many Germans continued to support the regime until the very end. Gellately's premise may seem unoriginal in light of Daniel Goldhagen's popular book indicting the entire German nation for the Holocaust, yet unlike Goldhagen, Gellately offers substantially more persuasive evidence to demonstrate how a social consensus was reached within German society in support of the Nazi regime. Gellately's book may be the seminal work looking at how the Nazis successfully used the media in disseminating their philosophy to Germany.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x902b3a94) out of 5 stars How much did the German people know? 17 Sept. 2001
By Nadyne Richmond - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Backing Hitler" tackles a difficult question: how much did the German people know about what Hitler was actually doing to the groups he so zealously persecuted? The answer to this, according to the author, is that they were well aware of what Hitler was doing.
By examining the surviving newspapers, magazines, and dossiers from the police and Gestapo, the author explores what the German people knew, and how they participated in the Holocaust. We learn, for example, that the Gestapo appears to have largely relied on denunciations from the public, not its own research and intelligence.
The mathematician in me would like to have seen more discussion of the sampling techniques used in the book. In many cases where the author examined police dossiers, he said that he looked at "every other" file. This raises many questions: what exactly does he mean by every other file? What order were the files in: chronological, alphabetical, random, some ordering scheme he used while going through them? This question is not answered. With a good ordering, it would be trivial for him to adjust the files to give the results he wanted to "prove".
Ignoring my reservations on the statistical methods used by the author, this book is an excellent discussion on the propaganda fed to the public. It is not an introductory reader for those interested in Nazi Germany, but would make an excellent complement to a book collection with a heavy emphasis on that time period.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ff049b4) out of 5 stars Fascinating exploration of public opinion in Nazi Germany 19 July 2001
By Richard E. Hegner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this relatively brief but searching analysis of how much the German public knew about the underside of the Third Reich--from violations of civil liberties to euthanasia and the Holocaust--Gellately demonstrates fairly conclusively that there was a fair amount of both media publicity and common knowledge about Nazi excesses. Far from being reluctant to have the public know about their misdeeds, Hitler and the Nazi leadership are shown to have been concerned about how the public perceived what they were doing and to have carefully manipulated public opinion in the process.
The destruction of civil liberties and the rule of law from the Wilhelmine and Weimar eras was depicted as restoration of "law and order," in terms that are hauntingly reminiscent of those used by some of the more extreme American proponents of "law and order." The concentration camps during the prewar era were portrayed as places for reforming and reeducating those who for one reason or another had gone astray politically or socially; in this sense, the common threads of totalitarianism are evident, as the Third Reich sounds similar to Stalin's Russia and Mao's China.
Gellately argues persuasively that there were three distinct phases to how the Nazis portrayed themselves and in the degree to which they resorted to radical means of controlling society. The prewar era showed much more concern about public opinion and rationality. Once the War began, the methods became more radical and the arguments to support them became more extreme. (As others have also shown, Gellately posits that this is when the genocide against the Jews really went into high gear.) In the final months of the Reich, literally "anything goes" became the attitude and relatively little concern was given to public opinion--though Gellately argues that the majority of Germans stuck with Hitler to the very end.
Especially intriguing are the author's review of a number of Gestapo files on individuals who were accused of betraying the regime in one way or another. From an admittedly limited sample that he has thoroughly analyzed, Gellately demonstrates that the Gestapo and other police agencies had the active cooperation of the citizenry in ferreting out offenders. Indeed, their sources were overwhelmingly citizen complaints, most of them quite open and non-anonymous. But the specifics of a number of these cases are both fascinating and disturbing in the extreme. Clearly, a number of citizens used the Gestapo and the mechanisms of terror to get even with innocent people who had never violated the law.
Gellately's final synoptic chapter is the best part of the book and is especially well written. (In fact, it might warrant being read first.) The rest of the book, especially the early chapters, is somewhat turgid and difficult going; one wishes that it had been written and edited as well as the end. But this is a book that will clearly repay the time spent on it. I doubt that general readers new to the subject would find it as useful as those with more background, however.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ff0496c) out of 5 stars Fantastic history of National Socialist Germany 16 Dec. 2006
By Eric Hobart - Published on
Format: Paperback
Traditionally, I have read books on American history rather than European history, but this one caught my eye because of the premise - that ordinary Germans played a role in enforcing Hitler's mandates of Aryan supremacy.

Backing Hitler: Consent & Coercion in nazi Germany is a thought-provoking book that looks at ordinary German citizens and their involvement in the governmental policies of forcing "racial purity". By examining the police (both ordinary uniformed police and undercover officers), Gellately has given us a view into Hitler's Germany that hasn't been explored much before.

Gellately explored the police and contends that ordinary people made up the police force and were consentually backing Hitler's policies. These people opted to enforce the policies, regardless of whether they felt that the policies were right because their personal experiences told them so or that the propaganda won them over. The folks that were coerced into compliance were often herded into concentration camps such as Auschwitz or Dachau.

The concepts in the book are well argued, though it appears that the author is not overly familiar with all of the rules of English grammar (i.e. placement of commas, etc.), thus making the book a touch more difficult to read, but it is a book that really should be on your list if you are interested in German history between 1933-1945.
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