After 1933, as the terror regime took hold, most of the two-thirds of Germans who had never voted for the Nazis tried to keep their heads down and protect their families – they moved to the country, or pretended to support the regime to avoid being denounced by neighbours, and tried to work out what was really happening in the Reich, surrounded as they were by Nazi propaganda and fake news.
The concentration camps, the invasions, the carnage on the front-lines – the horrors of Nazism are topics well-explored in Second World War history, but little is known about those who witnessed the rise of Nazism on the ground. How did ordinary Germans themselves experience the rule of Nazism? Catrine Clay recounts the personal stories of some who resisted the Nazis despite the full knowledge that they could be brutally sentenced to indefinite incarceration, torture or outright execution. And yet a remarkable number continued to resist: teachers, lawyers, factory and dock workers, housewives, shopkeepers, church members, trade unionists, army officers, aristocrats, Social Democrats, Socialists and Communists.
This is a story which has never been properly told, because for a long time after the war it was felt there was no such thing as a ‘good’ German. It is the story of ordinary, decent men and women faced with terrifying events and impossible decisions. Catrine Clay’s groundbreaking book focuses on six very different characters, making them as wide a selection as possible: workers and aristocrats, Communists and conservatives, women as well as men, young as well as old. One of the six is Rudolf Ditzen, the already famous author Hans Fallada – best known for his novel Alone in Berlin. They are not seen in isolation but as part of their families: a brother and sister; a wife; a father with three children; an only son; the parents of a Communist pioneer daughter. Their stories are interwoven throughout the book, each experiencing the big events of Nazi history as they unfold in their own small lives – Good Germans all.