A Village in the Third Reich: How Ordinary Lives Were Transformed By the Rise of Fascism – from the author of Sunday Times bestseller Travellers in the Third Reich

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A Village in the Third Reich: How Ordinary Lives Were Transformed By the Rise of Fascism – from the author of Sunday Times bestseller Travellers in the Third Reich

A Village in the Third Reich: How Ordinary Lives Were Transformed By the Rise of Fascism – from the author of Sunday Times bestseller Travellers in the Third Reich

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This one is a stunningly evocative portrait of Hitler’s Germany through the people of a single village. According to Boyd he was 'both a committed Nazi and a decent human being', and in her view this should not be seen as a contradiction in terms . We meet the Jews who survived – and those who didn’t; the Nazi mayor who tried to shield those persecuted by the regime; and a blind boy whose life was judged ‘not worth living’. This is one of those books that is hard to rate because the content has such a somber air around it. The delicacy of his position as a moderate Nazi mayor is illustrated by an anecdote that recounts how during the war he publicly reprimanded a woman for criticising the regime but then privately advised her just to be careful not to say such things to him when others were present.

This non-fiction depicts the cultural, social and political changes over the 40 years in a village whose life focused around sheep breeding, some farming and tourist industry as Obersdorf became more and more popular in the covered period.Yet, there was black humour about being sent to Dachau for a smallest infringement – some of its many camps were quite close, ever younger local men and boys died fighting in the elite mountain divisions in the Eastern Front and the Balkans while others, emaciated foreigners were often seen doing forced labour. It explained in detail the chain of events that led to the rise of Fascism and the consequences that followed.

It is provides a unique perspective as most literature on the Third Reich looks at its rise from an urban perspective, and also does not go into the same level of detail regarding people's lived experiences of this period as Boyd does. Important figures however, such as the Mayor and local Nazi party administrators reoccur, and they do their best to give everyone with a story justice. In every dictatorship, people rush to join the ruling party for any number of reasons - legitimate belief in its ideology, the make connections and get ahead in society, or to try changing the system from the inside.In 1933, 52% voted for the Nazis and a staggering 98,5 % voted in favour of the Austrian Anschluss in 1938. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia and Europe, by members of the Wehrmacht’s mountain division, was a publicity stunt and seems to be included in this book simply because three of the climbers were from Oberstdorf. Carl Zuckmayer described him as the ‘unknown man wearing the mask of evil’ who had protected his Jewish mother. Many initially supported Hitler's rise to power, hoping that he would address the country's economic and political problems.

This proves to be a very effective prism through which to consider some of the most challenging questions about the Third Reich, in particular about how much ordinary German citizens knew - or cared - about the true atrocities of the Holocaust. This is the period when National Socialism used all manner of devious and divisive methods of influencing the lives and opinions of citizens. The authors have sought out and found an awful lot of good primary source material and their work is the sum of this, rather than any particular agenda. There were some quite emotional parts to the story – for example I doubt I will ever forget the chapter on how the regime murdered people with disabilities which depicted the injustice through a case study. What I found even more shocking was that even when the declaration was signed to end the war, fighting and atrocities still went on for some time to come.

They did not dare to openly oppose the policies, but implemented them as sparingly as they could, whereas the more self-interested NAZIs just did exactly what they were told in the hope of being rewarded for doing so.



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