100 books like Into That Darkness

By Gitta Sereny,

Here are 100 books that Into That Darkness fans have personally recommended if you like Into That Darkness. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Herlinde Pauer-Studer Author Of Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Judge

From my list on Nazi perpetrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vienna (Austria), interested in ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law. I am fascinated by the work of classical philosophers—foremost, Immanuel Kant and David Hume. A particularly interesting question for me concerns how political and legal systems shape people's identity and self-understanding. One focus of my research is on the distorted legal framework of National Socialist Germany. I wrote, together with Professor J. David Velleman (New York University), Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Judge. In German: "Weil ich nun mal ein Gerechtigkeitsfanatiker bin." Der Fall des SS-Richters Konrad Morgen. 

Herlinde's book list on Nazi perpetrators

Herlinde Pauer-Studer Why did Herlinde love this book?

How could ordinary policemen be implicated in the Holocaust by participating in mass shootings of Jews? After SS leader Heinrich Himmler took over the police forces in 1936, he was able to call up regular (i.e., non Nazified) police battalions and order them into Nazi-occupied Poland.

The historian Browning's book is based on the post-war interrogations of some of these policemen for trial. Browning delves into the reasons they went along with the mass shootings, even though they could have opted out and requested a different assignment.

His gripping analysis shows how peer pressure shapes individuals, and how participation in unspeakable, genocidal crimes becomes possible in an order-based hierarchy.

By Christopher R. Browning,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ordinary Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Christopher R. Browning's shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews-now with a new afterword and additional photographs. Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including…


Book cover of Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice

Michael S. Bryant Author Of Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

From my list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long interest in genocide dating back to my teenage years, when I read Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Murderers Among Us. Wiesenthal introduced me to the idea that governments sometimes murdered innocent people and could elude justice for their crimes. The question of human evil interacted with my theological interest in the problem of evil generally. Both genocide scholars and theologians were posing similar questions: how could people or God permit the occurrence of wanton evil when it was in their power to avoid it? And what should we do about genocide after it has happened? These questions launched my research into genocide and continue to fuel my study of this topic.

Michael's book list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes

Michael S. Bryant Why did Michael love this book?

In 2019 I published a review of Mary Fulbrook’s Reckonings in the journal HistoryThe review may have been the most laudatory I’ve written. Fulbrook’s study of the Holocaust and its noxious aftereffects lingers with me today. I’ve come to think of Reckonings as the War and Peace of Holocaust histories. Like Tolstoy’s epic, it paints on a sprawling canvas, exhausting the writer’s palette to portray the Holocaust as a searing multi-generational phenomenon. Reckonings does not approach the Shoah as most writers of the Holocaust do, namely, as a monumental but time-limited event. Fulbrook conceives of the Holocaust as a cancer that blights the victims and their families into the second and third generations. The radioactive fallout of the Shoah continues to the present day, poisoning people’s lives so deeply that no human response is adequate to deal with it. She upholds the tragedy of the Holocaust by refusing…

By Mary Fulbrook,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Reckonings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A single word - Auschwitz - is often used to encapsulate the totality of persecution and suffering involved in what we call the Holocaust. Yet a focus on a single concentration camp - however horrific what happened there, however massively catastrophic its scale - leaves an incomplete story, a truncated history. It cannot fully communicate the myriad ways in which individuals became tangled up on the side of the perpetrators, and obscures the diversity of experiences
among a wide range of victims as they struggled and died, or managed, against all odds, to survive. In the process, we also miss…


Book cover of Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal After World War II

Michael S. Bryant Author Of Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

From my list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long interest in genocide dating back to my teenage years, when I read Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Murderers Among Us. Wiesenthal introduced me to the idea that governments sometimes murdered innocent people and could elude justice for their crimes. The question of human evil interacted with my theological interest in the problem of evil generally. Both genocide scholars and theologians were posing similar questions: how could people or God permit the occurrence of wanton evil when it was in their power to avoid it? And what should we do about genocide after it has happened? These questions launched my research into genocide and continue to fuel my study of this topic.

Michael's book list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes

Michael S. Bryant Why did Michael love this book?

The trials of Nazi war criminals are an important but subsidiary theme in Mary Fulbrook’s book. In Francine Hirsch’s study, the most significant trial of top-ranking German officials takes center stage, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Unlike most previous analyses of Nuremberg, which depict the Soviets as minor actors who, if anything, were impediments to the quest for justice, Hirsch insists that Soviet contributions were essential cornerstones of the trial’s success. This may seem an unlikely role for a totalitarian country already responsible for terror famines in Ukraine, the atrocious show trials of the 1930s, and the senseless murder of 20,000 Poles in the Katyn Forest in 1940. Nonetheless, as Hirsch cogently argues, without Soviet participation the trial may never have occurred. The glory of her book is its insistence on the counterintuitive and contradictory nature of reality, in which, against all expectations, an authoritarian regime led by a…

By Francine Hirsch,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Organized in the immediate aftermath of World War Two by the victorious Allies, the Nuremberg Trials were intended to hold the Nazis to account for their crimes - and to restore a sense of justice to a world devastated by violence. As Francine Hirsch reveals in this immersive, gripping, and ground-breaking book, a major piece of the Nuremberg story has routinely been omitted from standard accounts: the part the Soviet Union played in making the trials happen in
the first place.

Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg offers the first complete picture of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), including the many ironies…


Book cover of The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive

Herlinde Pauer-Studer Author Of Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Judge

From my list on Nazi perpetrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vienna (Austria), interested in ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law. I am fascinated by the work of classical philosophers—foremost, Immanuel Kant and David Hume. A particularly interesting question for me concerns how political and legal systems shape people's identity and self-understanding. One focus of my research is on the distorted legal framework of National Socialist Germany. I wrote, together with Professor J. David Velleman (New York University), Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Judge. In German: "Weil ich nun mal ein Gerechtigkeitsfanatiker bin." Der Fall des SS-Richters Konrad Morgen. 

Herlinde's book list on Nazi perpetrators

Herlinde Pauer-Studer Why did Herlinde love this book?

How could so many Nazi perpetrators escape to South America? Most relied on the help of a bishop of the Catholic Church in the Vatican, Alois Hudal.

Sands describes the structure of this support system (the so-called ratline) through the story of former SS-Obergruppenführer Otto Gustav Wächter, the governor of Galicia (1942–1944), who was responsible for the deportation of nearly 500,000 Jews to the Nazi death camps.

Wächter's post-war escape to Argentina actually ended in Rome, where he died of an infection in July 1949. Sands offers a riveting analysis of how this man found his way into the Nazi party, rose to a position that implicated him in mass murder, and how, with the support of his wife, he managed to hide in the Austrian mountains for years after the war. Sands also reflects on how difficult it is for the next generation to face up to the…

By Philippe Sands,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Ratline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tale of Nazi lives, mass murder, love, Cold War espionage, a mysterious death in the Vatican, and the Nazi escape route to Perón's Argentina,"the Ratline"—from the author of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning East West Street.

"Hypnotic, shocking, and unputdownable." —John le Carré, internationally renowned bestselling author

Baron Otto von Wächter, Austrian lawyer, husband, father, high Nazi official, senior SS officer, former governor of Galicia during the war, creator and overseer of the Krakow ghetto, indicted after as a war criminal for the mass murder of more than 100,000 Poles, hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the British, by Simon…


Book cover of Life and Death in the Third Reich

Thomas A. Kohut Author Of A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

From my list on seeking to understand Nazi Perpetrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern Germany. As a teacher and a writer, I seek to get my students and readers to empathize with the people of the past, to think and even feel their way inside those people’s experiences. Because empathy is not sympathy, one can and should empathize with people one finds unsympathetic. We need to empathize with Nazis in order to understand how they and other Germans—human beings not unlike ourselves—could have committed the worst crimes in modern European history, not least the Holocaust.

Thomas' book list on seeking to understand Nazi Perpetrators

Thomas A. Kohut Why did Thomas love this book?

Since its publication, I have assigned this book every time I taught my course on Nazi Germany at Williams College.

Through his use of diaries, letters, and anecdotes, in combination with his profound knowledge of the history of the Third Reich, Fritzsche shows how, after January 1933, when Hitler became Reich Chancellor, the German people came rapidly to support and even to create National Socialism in Germany. The German people here were not simply duped or terrorized by the Nazis. Fritzsche shows how, in various different ways and to various different degrees, Germans became Nazis.

And, through empathy with those Germans, he helps the reader to understand why they did so. If you want to read only one book on the history of the Third Reich, this is the book I would recommend.

By Peter Fritzsche,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life and Death in the Third Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On January 30, 1933, hearing about the celebrations for Hitler's assumption of power, Erich Ebermayer remarked bitterly in his diary, "We are the losers, definitely the losers." Learning of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, which made Jews non-citizens, he raged, "hate is sown a million-fold." Yet in March 1938, he wept for joy at the Anschluss with Austria: "Not to want it just because it has been achieved by Hitler would be folly."

In a masterful work, Peter Fritzsche deciphers the puzzle of Nazism's ideological grip. Its basic appeal lay in the Volksgemeinschaft-a "people's community" that appealed to Germans to…


Book cover of The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders

Michael S. Bryant Author Of Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

From my list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long interest in genocide dating back to my teenage years, when I read Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Murderers Among Us. Wiesenthal introduced me to the idea that governments sometimes murdered innocent people and could elude justice for their crimes. The question of human evil interacted with my theological interest in the problem of evil generally. Both genocide scholars and theologians were posing similar questions: how could people or God permit the occurrence of wanton evil when it was in their power to avoid it? And what should we do about genocide after it has happened? These questions launched my research into genocide and continue to fuel my study of this topic.

Michael's book list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes

Michael S. Bryant Why did Michael love this book?

Where Gitta Sereny talks with people involved in Nazi atrocities, Ernst Klee presents documentary evidence of these crimes. No one has published better or more important compendia of documents on Nazi crimes than Klee. I discovered his books as an exchange student in Germany (1988-89) and quickly found them to be unique. Klee’s spare method is to portray the Nazis’ descent into evil through the medium of their own texts and photographs. Regrettably, few of his books have been translated into English. The one I’m recommending here is a fine introduction to his style of historical writing.  

Klee’s evidence shows the awful arc drawn by Nazi crimes, from German incitement of pogroms against Jews in the east and Einsatzgruppen shootings of Jewish men, women, and children to the development of stationary gassing installations in death camps. Klee has a point of view, but he doesn’t want to convince you with…

By Ernst Klee (editor), Willi Dressen (editor), Volker Riess (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Good Old Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The title "The Good Old Days" ("Schone Zeiten" in German) comes from the cover of a private photo album kept by concentration camp commandant Kurt Franz of Treblinka. This gruesomely sentimental and unmistakably authentic title introduces an disturbing collection of photographs, diaries, letters home, and confidential reports created by the executioners and sympathetic observers of the Holocaust. "The Good Old Days" reveals startling new evidence of the inhumanity of recent twentieth century history and is published now as yet another irrefutable response to the revisionist historians who claim to doubt the historic truth of the Holocaust.


Book cover of Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing

Michael S. Bryant Author Of Confronting the "Good Death": Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953

From my list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long interest in genocide dating back to my teenage years, when I read Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Murderers Among Us. Wiesenthal introduced me to the idea that governments sometimes murdered innocent people and could elude justice for their crimes. The question of human evil interacted with my theological interest in the problem of evil generally. Both genocide scholars and theologians were posing similar questions: how could people or God permit the occurrence of wanton evil when it was in their power to avoid it? And what should we do about genocide after it has happened? These questions launched my research into genocide and continue to fuel my study of this topic.

Michael's book list on pondering the worst of the Nazis’ crimes

Michael S. Bryant Why did Michael love this book?

James Waller’s scintillating book is for readers seeking answers to big questions. When studying the Holocaust and similar events, students invariably ask: how could human beings do such things to other people? Waller addresses this question in a tour-de-force that may be the best single book yet written on the “why” of genocide. His study is particularly compelling because he focuses not on race fanatics (Hitler, Himmler) nor ideological zealots (Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung) but on the rank-and-file, without whom the architects of genocide could never build their charnel empires in the first place. 

The second edition of his book is especially useful because he reviews both iconic and newer psychological theories of genocide perpetration. For Waller, the dynamics underlying genocide are complex. His key finding is that the potential for extreme violence resides within each person. Eschewing aberrationist theories that portray such violence as deviant, Waller invites us…

By James E. Waller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Becoming Evil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Social psychologist James Waller uncovers the internal and external factors that can lead ordinary people to commit extraordinary acts of evil. Waller offers a sophisticated and comprehensive psychological view of how anyone can potentially participate in heinous crimes against humanity. He outlines the evolutionary forces that shape human nature, the individual dispositions that are more likely to engage in acts of evil, and the context of cruelty in which these
extraordinary acts can emerge. Eyewitness accounts are presented at the end of each chapter. In this second edition, Waller has revised and updated eyewitness accounts and substantially reworked Part II…


Book cover of An Uncompromising Generation: The Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office

Herlinde Pauer-Studer Author Of Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Judge

From my list on Nazi perpetrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vienna (Austria), interested in ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law. I am fascinated by the work of classical philosophers—foremost, Immanuel Kant and David Hume. A particularly interesting question for me concerns how political and legal systems shape people's identity and self-understanding. One focus of my research is on the distorted legal framework of National Socialist Germany. I wrote, together with Professor J. David Velleman (New York University), Konrad Morgen: The Conscience of a Nazi Judge. In German: "Weil ich nun mal ein Gerechtigkeitsfanatiker bin." Der Fall des SS-Richters Konrad Morgen. 

Herlinde's book list on Nazi perpetrators

Herlinde Pauer-Studer Why did Herlinde love this book?

The Reich Security Main Office, founded in September 1939, under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich (until his death in 1942), and which included the Security Service and the Gestapo, was the organizational center of the Nazis’ murderous racial policy.

The historian Wildt's book shows how extermination plans were prepared and worked out in this office—in part by young, career-minded academics. Some of them were not just "desk perpetrators" but were directly involved in the mass murder as leaders of the notorious Einsatzgruppen operating in the occupied Soviet territories. One famous case is Otto Ohlendorf, head of Einsatzgruppe D, who openly confessed to killing 90,000 Jews in his trial.

Wildt discusses the post-war trials of these men by the American authorities, as well as the German publics’ growing ambivalence towards the trials.

By Michael Wildt, Tom Lampert (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An Uncompromising Generation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In ""An Uncompromising Generation"", Michael Wildt follows the journey of a strikingly homogenous group of young academics - who came from the educated, bourgeois stratum of society - as they started to identify with the Nazi concept of Volksgemeinschaft, which labeled Jews as enemies of the people and justified their murder. Wildt's study traces the intellectual evolution of key members of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) from their days as students until the end of World War II. Established in 1939, this office fused together the Gestapo, the Criminal Police, and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) of the SS. Far…


Book cover of A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide

Thomas A. Kohut Author Of A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

From my list on seeking to understand Nazi Perpetrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern Germany. As a teacher and a writer, I seek to get my students and readers to empathize with the people of the past, to think and even feel their way inside those people’s experiences. Because empathy is not sympathy, one can and should empathize with people one finds unsympathetic. We need to empathize with Nazis in order to understand how they and other Germans—human beings not unlike ourselves—could have committed the worst crimes in modern European history, not least the Holocaust.

Thomas' book list on seeking to understand Nazi Perpetrators

Thomas A. Kohut Why did Thomas love this book?

Although Kristallnacht has been the subject of intense scholarly interest, Confino noticed something about the pogrom of 9 November 1938 that previous historians had missed. He noticed that, in addition to plundering and destroying Jewish businesses and homes, burning synagogues, beating, arresting, and killing Jews, the Nazi mobs took particular delight in publicly burning the Hebrew Bible, the foundation of the Judeo-Christian religious and cultural tradition.

By thinking his way inside the Nazi imagination, Confino opened my eyes to the fact that the Nazis sought to create a world without Jews not only by physically exterminating them but also by committing cultural genocide, by seeking to eradicate the Jewish basis of Western civilization. 

By Alon Confino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A World Without Jews as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking reexamination of the Holocaust and of how Germans understood their genocidal project

Why exactly did the Nazis burn the Hebrew Bible everywhere in Germany on November 9, 1938? The perplexing event has not been adequately accounted for by historians in their large-scale assessments of how and why the Holocaust occurred. In this gripping new analysis, Alon Confino draws on an array of archives across three continents to propose a penetrating new assessment of one of the central moral problems of the twentieth century. To a surprising extent, Confino demonstrates, the mass murder of Jews during the war years…


Book cover of Ordinary People as Mass Murderers: Perpetrators in Comparative Perspectives

Thomas A. Kohut Author Of A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

From my list on seeking to understand Nazi Perpetrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern Germany. As a teacher and a writer, I seek to get my students and readers to empathize with the people of the past, to think and even feel their way inside those people’s experiences. Because empathy is not sympathy, one can and should empathize with people one finds unsympathetic. We need to empathize with Nazis in order to understand how they and other Germans—human beings not unlike ourselves—could have committed the worst crimes in modern European history, not least the Holocaust.

Thomas' book list on seeking to understand Nazi Perpetrators

Thomas A. Kohut Why did Thomas love this book?

This is a book of collected essays, most of which focus on the people who carried out the Holocaust. The essays are excellent, and many of them empathize to one degree or another with Nazi perpetrators.

I think that one of the articles, Harald Welzer’s “On Killing and Morality: How Normal People Become Mass Murderers,” is perhaps the single best thing I’ve read about Nazi Germany. Welzer compellingly and convincingly explains, on both a collective and individual level, how German people got, step by step, to perpetrating genocide.  

After reading Welzer’s article, I now understand how an SS man with a gun standing before a trench filled with naked Jewish men, women, and children could, when given the order to shoot those people, think that order made sense. 

By Olaf Jensen (editor), Claus-Christian W. Szejnmann (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ordinary People as Mass Murderers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since the 1990s scholars have focused heavily on the perpetrators of the Holocaust, and have presented a complex and diverse picture of perpetrators. This book provides a unique overview of the current state of research on perpetrators. The overall focus is on the key question that it still disputed: How do ordinary people become mass murderers?


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