The Best Books On Nazi Germany And The Holocaust

By Jay Geller

The Books I Picked & Why

The Nazi Seizure Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945

By William Sheridan Allen

The Nazi Seizure Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945

Why this book?

It is important for Americans to understand why millions of Germans who were not violent antisemites and racists voted for the Nazis. Looking at the case of a typical German town, Allen shows that economics, culture wars, and fear for the future motivated middle-class Germans to vote for an extremist party – not because of its racism, but despite its racism.


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Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany

By Robert Gellately

Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany

Why this book?

Contrary to popular belief, the Nazis did not rely on an omnipresent secret police force to win Germans’ cooperation. A skilled combination of fear, propaganda, and self-promotion alternatively cowed Germans and manufactured their consent for this regime. In the 1930s, ordinary Germans regarded the Nazis as restoring order to a chaotic society, and a flood of denunciations helped the Gestapo with its work. At the same time, the existence of the concentration camps was no secret to ordinary Germans.


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The Twisted Road to Auschwitz: Nazi Policy toward German Jews, 1933-39

By Karl A. Schleunes

The Twisted Road to Auschwitz: Nazi Policy toward German Jews, 1933-39

Why this book?

When the Nazis came to power, they were viciously antisemitic, but they had not planned a genocide of the Jews. By 1942, that genocide was their driving purpose. What changed? Schleunes argues that pressures within the Nazi Party and the circumstances of World War II induced an increasing radicalization of the Nazis’ plan for the Jews, culminating in the Holocaust.


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Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

By Christopher Browning

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

Why this book?

In one of the most famous and most important books about the Holocaust, Browning shows that many of the soldiers who perpetrated the Holocaust were not sadists or vicious antisemites by nature. They were ordinary men who were affected by the circumstances of the brutal war, incessant Nazi propaganda about Jews, feelings of group solidarity during wartime, and the power of orders from a higher authority. Once middle-aged policemen in northern Germany, many became hardened killers in Poland.


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The Seventh Cross

By Anna Seghers

The Seventh Cross

Why this book?

There are very few German novels about Nazi persecution written at the time it was taking place, but the Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers is among the very best. (Another is The Oppermanns by Lion Feuchtwanger, which shows the experience of a single, affluent German-Jewish family.) Seghers narrates the story of George Heisler, a communist who escapes from a concentration camp along with six other men. Can he reach freedom across the border before the manhunt catches up with him? Will anyone hide him or help him in a society wracked by fear, where friends no longer meet and strangers do not trust each other?


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