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(cover:
Sarah Haffner)

Defying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner (translated from the German by Oliver Pretzel; 78,000 words and 15 photographs)

Defying Hitler was written in 1939 and focuses on the year 1933, when, as Hitler assumed power, its author was a 25-year-old German law student, in training to join the German courts as a junior administrator. His book tries to answer two questions people have been asking since the end of World War II: “How were the Nazis possible?” and “Why did no one stop them?” Sebastian Haffner’s vivid first-person account, written in real time and only much later discovered by his son, makes the rise of the Nazis psychologically comprehensible.

Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman explains here why Haffner’s memoir is relevant when Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are America’s and Britain’s respective leaders.


“An astonishing memoir... [a] masterpiece.” — Gabriel Schoenfeld, The New York Times Book Review

“A short, stabbing, brilliant book... It is important, first, as evidence of what one intelligent German knew in the 1930s about the unspeakable nature of Nazism, at a time when the overwhelming majority of his countrymen claim to have know nothing at all. And, second, for its rare capacity to reawaken anger about those who made the Nazis possible.” — Max Hastings,
The Sunday Telegraph

Defying Hitler communicates one of the most profound and absolute feelings of exile that any writer has gotten between covers.” — Charles Taylor, Salon

“Sebastian Haffner was Germany’s political conscience, but it is only now that we can read how he experienced the Nazi terror himself — that is a memoir of frightening relevance today.” — Heinrich Jaenicke,
Stern

“The prophetic insights of a fairly young man... help us understand the plight, as Haffner refers to it, of the non-Nazi German.” —
The Denver Post

“Sebastian Haffner’s
Defying Hitler is a most brilliant and imaginative book — one of the most important books we have ever published.” — Lord Weidenfeld

“Young Americans often have only a vague understanding of what daily life in a totalitarian regime is like. What makes this memoir of growing up in Germany before and during Hitler’s seizure of power so remarkable is the fact that its young protagonist was not the member of a persecuted minority but a solid bourgeois headed toward a law career. Yet he chose to stand out, inspired by his liberal beliefs and by the depth and firmness of his hatred of Nazism. Equally remarkable was his ability to analyze the flaws in the German political culture that led to the widespread popularity of Hitler. Haffner’s comments on the domination of private life by public affairs in and after World War I; on Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister assassinated in 1922; and on the ways in which non-Nazis made their peace with the regime are but a few examples of his insights. On German nationalism, he wrote, ‘Only the Germans lose everything through nationalism: the heart of their humanity, their existence, their selves.’ Haffner’s story ends in 1933. In 1938 he left for England, where he became a prominent journalist and political writer, but he never returned to his memoir, which his son published in Germany in 2000... a marvel of intelligence.” — Stanley Hoffmann, Foreign Affairs