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Customer Review

on 12 June 2004
Books about the rise and fall of the Third Reich usually suffer from two shortcomings. They tend to be extremely long and exquisitely detailed, which makes them hard to fit into a busy schedule. And they sometimes emphasize high level German politics and World War II at the expense of explaining what it was like for an ordinary person to live through the twelve brutal years of the "Thousand Year Reich."
"Insider Hitler's Germany", on the other hand, is a very approachable book that chronciles life in Germany after the Great War and during the Third Reich. The authors write in a clear and informative style, letting the facts speak for themselves.
Most of us assume that totalitarian Germany must have been a nightmare for the German citizens who lived through it. It certainly was for Germans who were Jewish or Communist or otherwise gave the slightest hint of being out of step with the Nazi Party. But many Germans experienced the 1930s as a golden age of low unemployment, vacations for the average worker, and resurgent national pride. For them, it was only the catastrophe of World War II that exposed the true horrors of Nazism.
The most striking feature of this book is the photography that it reproduces. All of the photos are in black and white, but many are amazingly crisp and clear and filled with a chilling immediacy. One that really caught my attention was a photo of the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg, which is now a pedestrian mall filled with the usual shops (and yes, even a McDonald's). I have walked down that street many times. The photo shows a procession of scholars from the university, but in the background all of the buildings along the street are festooned with flags displaying the swastika of the Nazi party. The stunning contrast between then and now is sobering, and this photo (like the book as a whole) is a useful reminder that the abyss is often just a very short step away.
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