The best books about German resistance to Nazism

3 authors have picked their favorite books about German resistance to Nazism and why they recommend each book.

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German Resistance to Hitler

By Peter Hoffmann,

Book cover of German Resistance to Hitler

This work on the German military resistance to Hitler by Professor Hoffman remains the most comprehensive, scholarly work on the topic available in English. Hoffman provides a detailed account of the opposition to Hitler and his policies within the German military and explains the motives for it. He then shows how this opposition was gradually transformed into resistance which culminated in an assassination and coup attempt. While meticulously researched and documented, this book is not for the novice or the faint-hearted, as it is over 800 pages long.


Who am I?

I'm a retired diplomat and award-winning novelist with a PhD in history. I was drawn to the German Resistance because, unlike the other resistance movements across Europe, the German Resistance fought not a foreign invader but rather confronted the corruption and hijacking of their own state. Germans opposed to Hitler needed the moral fortitude to commit treason, and ultimately tyrannicide, not for the sake of the nation, but for humanity itself. I devoted ten years of my life to studying the German Resistance, first for my doctoral dissertation and then to write my novel. During that time, I was asked a thousand times why I was so fascinated and committed to the topic. The answer, tragically proven true over the last five years, is that the United States is not immune to fascism. The need to resist a racist and immoral demagogue has never been more relevant.


I wrote...

Traitors for the Sake of Humanity: A Novel of the German Resistance to Hitler

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Traitors for the Sake of Humanity: A Novel of the German Resistance to Hitler

What is my book about?

They opposed Hitler's diabolical regime on moral grounds. They sought to defend human dignity and restore the rule of law -- at the risk of their own lives. Traitors to Hitler, they were heroes to the oppressed. They remain an inspiration to anyone fighting against immoral and corrupt governments anywhere in the world.

Adolf Hitler seems to have captivated all of Germany, yet even as one Nazi victory follows another, individuals with integrity and compassion remain opposed to him, his regime, and all it stands for. People like Philip, Alexandra, and Marianne. They feel isolated and hopeless until they discover each other -- and learn that their concerns are shared by men in the highest echelons of the German High Command...

A Noble Treason

By Richard Hanser,

Book cover of A Noble Treason: The Revolt of the Munich Students against Hitler

Resistance in Nazi Germany was overwhelmingly moral and almost always fatal, but too often attention is focused on the military resistance because they were the only people in Nazi Germany with the means to topple the Nazi regime. This tale of young students outraged by the corruption and brutality of the world around them, however, has a timelessness and a universal appeal. It is the story of youthful indignation and an example of conscience over-ruling rationality and self-interest. Hanser’s book makes this clear in prose that is sober yet lively, pulling the reader in emotionally as well as intellectually.

Who am I?

I'm a retired diplomat and award-winning novelist with a PhD in history. I was drawn to the German Resistance because, unlike the other resistance movements across Europe, the German Resistance fought not a foreign invader but rather confronted the corruption and hijacking of their own state. Germans opposed to Hitler needed the moral fortitude to commit treason, and ultimately tyrannicide, not for the sake of the nation, but for humanity itself. I devoted ten years of my life to studying the German Resistance, first for my doctoral dissertation and then to write my novel. During that time, I was asked a thousand times why I was so fascinated and committed to the topic. The answer, tragically proven true over the last five years, is that the United States is not immune to fascism. The need to resist a racist and immoral demagogue has never been more relevant.


I wrote...

Traitors for the Sake of Humanity: A Novel of the German Resistance to Hitler

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Traitors for the Sake of Humanity: A Novel of the German Resistance to Hitler

What is my book about?

They opposed Hitler's diabolical regime on moral grounds. They sought to defend human dignity and restore the rule of law -- at the risk of their own lives. Traitors to Hitler, they were heroes to the oppressed. They remain an inspiration to anyone fighting against immoral and corrupt governments anywhere in the world.

Adolf Hitler seems to have captivated all of Germany, yet even as one Nazi victory follows another, individuals with integrity and compassion remain opposed to him, his regime, and all it stands for. People like Philip, Alexandra, and Marianne. They feel isolated and hopeless until they discover each other -- and learn that their concerns are shared by men in the highest echelons of the German High Command...

Germans Against Hitler - July 20, 1944

By Hans-Adolf Jacobsen Royce, Hans Zimmermann, Erich Zimmermann

Book cover of Germans Against Hitler - July 20, 1944

Given all the films and books available about the 20th  of July 1944 attempted assassination of Hitler and coup, I find this book the most fascinating one, as it contains a meticulous collection of the most striking reports of investigations on the Reich from juridical, theological and military standpoints. It is an invaluable read to fully understand the German Resistance, its motives, and its historical significance.


Who am I?

The shocking discovery that my grandfather, as a 21-year-old student, had applied to join the SS as SS-Anwärter (candidate), only to withdraw in August 1939 to pursue a career as a naval engineer and start a family, led to extensive research into my family history and WWII. I developed a keen interest in the German Resistance, contacted historians, archivists, veterans, visited museums, and was in touch with members of Claus von Stauffenberg’s family, the Bonhoeffer Centre in London, and the White Rose Memorial in Munich. To this date, not many people know that over 720,000 German civilians, military, paramilitary, and clergy died trying to overturn the Nazi regime. 


I wrote...

Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

Book cover of Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

What is my book about?

Seen as an agricultural utopia within Hitler’s Germany, it's often the view that both East and West Prussia had remained relatively untouched during the Second World War. Yet the violence, prejudice, and murder associated with the National Socialist regime that brought most of Europe to ruin were widespread throughout Prussia during its brief existence. When the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine, 9,343 passengers - 5,000 of them children - would perish. It was the worst loss of life in maritime history. Yet 75 years later, her tragic story is still unknown to many. 

Note: My mother was a 5-year-old child refugee at the time. With what is happening now in Ukraine, I find there are many unfortunate similarities between the two tragic stories.

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

By Annette Dumbach, Jud Newborn,

Book cover of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Sophie and Hans Scholl are often remembered as the siblings who “would not keep silent” against the Nazis until their arrest, flash trial, and execution by guillotine on February 22, 1943. What Sophie and Hans started was much more than a local students’ movement; The White Rose involved students, academics, clergy, and civilians in Munich and around other parts of Germany. The book captures and reflects upon the many dimensions of the activities of those involved, it contains all the 6 original leaflets published by the White Rose as well as indexes of the trial and sentences of its members.


Who am I?

The shocking discovery that my grandfather, as a 21-year-old student, had applied to join the SS as SS-Anwärter (candidate), only to withdraw in August 1939 to pursue a career as a naval engineer and start a family, led to extensive research into my family history and WWII. I developed a keen interest in the German Resistance, contacted historians, archivists, veterans, visited museums, and was in touch with members of Claus von Stauffenberg’s family, the Bonhoeffer Centre in London, and the White Rose Memorial in Munich. To this date, not many people know that over 720,000 German civilians, military, paramilitary, and clergy died trying to overturn the Nazi regime. 


I wrote...

Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

Book cover of Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

What is my book about?

Seen as an agricultural utopia within Hitler’s Germany, it's often the view that both East and West Prussia had remained relatively untouched during the Second World War. Yet the violence, prejudice, and murder associated with the National Socialist regime that brought most of Europe to ruin were widespread throughout Prussia during its brief existence. When the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine, 9,343 passengers - 5,000 of them children - would perish. It was the worst loss of life in maritime history. Yet 75 years later, her tragic story is still unknown to many. 

Note: My mother was a 5-year-old child refugee at the time. With what is happening now in Ukraine, I find there are many unfortunate similarities between the two tragic stories.

The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945

By Peter Hoffmann,

Book cover of The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945

During my research for my book, I was fortunate to get in touch with Claus von Stauffenberg’s grandson Philipp von Schultess, who recommended the Peter Hoffmann book. 

It is a very detailed, comprehensive book on a topic that is too often omitted from schoolbooks and history books alike, the over 700,000 German civilians, politicians, clergy, military, and paramilitary who lost their lives trying to overturn the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. The Hoffmann was a starting point to the discovery of several other books about the German Resistance and a visit to the German Resistance Memorial and Museum in Berlin, where von Stauffenberg and other co-conspirators were executed.


Who am I?

The shocking discovery that my grandfather, as a 21-year-old student, had applied to join the SS as SS-Anwärter (candidate), only to withdraw in August 1939 to pursue a career as a naval engineer and start a family, led to extensive research into my family history and WWII. I developed a keen interest in the German Resistance, contacted historians, archivists, veterans, visited museums, and was in touch with members of Claus von Stauffenberg’s family, the Bonhoeffer Centre in London, and the White Rose Memorial in Munich. To this date, not many people know that over 720,000 German civilians, military, paramilitary, and clergy died trying to overturn the Nazi regime. 


I wrote...

Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

Book cover of Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

What is my book about?

Seen as an agricultural utopia within Hitler’s Germany, it's often the view that both East and West Prussia had remained relatively untouched during the Second World War. Yet the violence, prejudice, and murder associated with the National Socialist regime that brought most of Europe to ruin were widespread throughout Prussia during its brief existence. When the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine, 9,343 passengers - 5,000 of them children - would perish. It was the worst loss of life in maritime history. Yet 75 years later, her tragic story is still unknown to many. 

Note: My mother was a 5-year-old child refugee at the time. With what is happening now in Ukraine, I find there are many unfortunate similarities between the two tragic stories.

The Secret War Against Hitler

By Fabian von Schlabrendorff, Andrew Chandler,

Book cover of The Secret War Against Hitler

In this gripping memoir, Fabian von Schlabrendorff recounts his way into the heart of the German conspiracy against Hitler. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, he fell under the influence of Colonel Henning von Tresckow, “a natural enemy of National-Socialism and one of the most outstanding figures in the German resistance.” Working as a team, Tresckow, Schlabrendorff, and their co-conspirators planned to kill Hitler during a visit to the eastern front in March 1943 with a bomb camouflaged as three wrapped bottles of liqueur. As recounted in Schlabrendorff’s memoirs, he and Tresckow concocted several other assassination attempts with carefully concealed bombs, suicide bombers, and sharpshooters. When the dust settled, the author was one of the only members of the inner circle who survived to tell the tale.  


Who am I?

I am an Israeli military historian, addicted to stories on the unusual, mysterious and unknown. While many of my fellow scholars are interested in the daily and the mundane, I have taken a very different course. Since childhood, I've been fascinated by decisions human beings make in times of crisis, war, and other situations of partial knowledge and moral ambiguity. Therefore, I wrote on coups d’etat, military undergrounds, covert operations, and espionage. After graduating with a PhD from Harvard University, I began teaching world military history, modern Japanese history, and the history of espionage at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For me, reading about covert operations is both a hobby and a profession.


I wrote...

Fugitives: A History of Nazi Mercenaries During the Cold War

By Danny Orbach,

Book cover of Fugitives: A History of Nazi Mercenaries During the Cold War

What is my book about?

In the aftermath of WWII, the victorious Allies vowed to hunt Nazi war criminals “to the ends of the earth.” Yet many slipped away to the four corners of the world or were shielded by the Western Allies. Other Nazi fugitives became freelance arms traffickers, spies, and covert operators, playing a crucial role in the clandestine struggle between the superpowers. From posh German restaurants, Damascene safehouses and fascist holdouts in Franco's Spain, Nazi spies created a chaotic network of influence and information. This network was tapped by both America and the USSR adding a combustible ingredient to the Cold War covert struggle.

Shrouded in government secrecy, clouded by myths and propaganda, the enigmatic tale of Nazi fugitives in the early Cold War has never been properly told—until now.

The Von Hassell Diaries

By Ulrich von Hassell,

Book cover of The Von Hassell Diaries

After his dismissal as German ambassador to Italy in 1938, Ulrich von Hassell kept a detailed diary, which he hid by burying it in his garden. He met frequently with resistance figures, including Stauffenberg. Designated foreign minister if the July plot succeeded, the Nazis placed him on trial. Despite the Nazis’ attempt to humiliate him by refusing to let him wear a belt or tie, and allowing him only a rumpled suit, Hassell cut a stylish figure with his pocket-handkerchief and his poised bearing. At one point, he calmly told the foaming judge: ‘Herr President, I have not lived sixty-two years to be told by you that I am a liar.’ He was hanged.

His diary is an essential primary source on the German opposition to Hitler.


Who am I?

I’ve lived with the example of Claus von Stauffenberg and other members of the German resistance for most of my adult life. Their clarity of purpose – when most around them clamoured in support of the Führer and his regime – is a recurring source of inspiration. This impelled me into ever deeper research into the topic, including accessing archives in several countries and using my legal training to weigh evidence. Today we face different challenges, but we can draw strength from the courage of these men and women. They failed, and many died, but there is life in a struggle for a just cause.


I wrote...

Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

By Brian Walters,

Book cover of Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

What is my book about?

When he placed his briefcase bomb in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair conference, Claus von Stauffenberg was 36 years old, married, with four children. His wife was pregnant with their fifth. He was a decorated war hero, maimed, and one of the most brilliant staff officers of the German army. He set out to rid his country of Hitler, and bring the Second World War to an end. What led him to this point? 

Treason recounts the page-turning story of Germans prepared to give their all to free their country from the Nazis. Many of these men and women paid with their lives for their principled stand. The text is complemented by hundreds of photos and hundreds of biographical glossaries.

Coming January 2022.

The Power of Solitude

By Marion Yorck von Wartenburg,

Book cover of The Power of Solitude: My Life in the German Resistance

Marion Yorck von Wartenburg, along with her husband Peter (a relative of Claus von Stauffenberg), were leading figures in the group of opponents to Hitler known as ‘the Kreisau circle’. The group usually met in the Yorcks’ home.

After the failure of the July plot, Peter was executed. Marion was held in solitary confinement for 3 months, but survived the war. She later became a judge. Her first-hand account provides an important perspective on the German resistance.


Who am I?

I’ve lived with the example of Claus von Stauffenberg and other members of the German resistance for most of my adult life. Their clarity of purpose – when most around them clamoured in support of the Führer and his regime – is a recurring source of inspiration. This impelled me into ever deeper research into the topic, including accessing archives in several countries and using my legal training to weigh evidence. Today we face different challenges, but we can draw strength from the courage of these men and women. They failed, and many died, but there is life in a struggle for a just cause.


I wrote...

Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

By Brian Walters,

Book cover of Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

What is my book about?

When he placed his briefcase bomb in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair conference, Claus von Stauffenberg was 36 years old, married, with four children. His wife was pregnant with their fifth. He was a decorated war hero, maimed, and one of the most brilliant staff officers of the German army. He set out to rid his country of Hitler, and bring the Second World War to an end. What led him to this point? 

Treason recounts the page-turning story of Germans prepared to give their all to free their country from the Nazis. Many of these men and women paid with their lives for their principled stand. The text is complemented by hundreds of photos and hundreds of biographical glossaries.

Coming January 2022.

The Good Germans

By Catrine Clay,

Book cover of The Good Germans: Resisting the Nazis, 1933-1945

This is a more recent book. It was published in 2020, the same year as mine, so I couldn’t use it as part of my bibliography. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed reading it, it offers invaluable personal accounts by ordinary Germans as well as aristocratic Prussians who shared an utter contempt for Hitler’s propaganda and showed an astonishing courage in the face of the overwhelming brutality of the Nazi regime, resisting it and staying true to their values.


Who am I?

The shocking discovery that my grandfather, as a 21-year-old student, had applied to join the SS as SS-Anwärter (candidate), only to withdraw in August 1939 to pursue a career as a naval engineer and start a family, led to extensive research into my family history and WWII. I developed a keen interest in the German Resistance, contacted historians, archivists, veterans, visited museums, and was in touch with members of Claus von Stauffenberg’s family, the Bonhoeffer Centre in London, and the White Rose Memorial in Munich. To this date, not many people know that over 720,000 German civilians, military, paramilitary, and clergy died trying to overturn the Nazi regime. 


I wrote...

Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

Book cover of Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

What is my book about?

Seen as an agricultural utopia within Hitler’s Germany, it's often the view that both East and West Prussia had remained relatively untouched during the Second World War. Yet the violence, prejudice, and murder associated with the National Socialist regime that brought most of Europe to ruin were widespread throughout Prussia during its brief existence. When the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine, 9,343 passengers - 5,000 of them children - would perish. It was the worst loss of life in maritime history. Yet 75 years later, her tragic story is still unknown to many. 

Note: My mother was a 5-year-old child refugee at the time. With what is happening now in Ukraine, I find there are many unfortunate similarities between the two tragic stories.

Stauffenberg

By Peter Hoffmann,

Book cover of Stauffenberg: A Family History, 1905-1944

When one mentions German Resistance, the name Claus Maria Schenk von Stauffenberg springs to mind for all the right reasons. Whereas the other Peter Hoffmann book on my list looks at the German Resistance as a whole, this more intimate account of Claus von Stauffenberg’s background and aristocratic upbringing focuses on his biography, particularly his close relationship with his brothers Berthold and Alexander, their formative years, their association with the circle of the poet Stefan George and their political, military and professional development, which led them to take leading positions against Hitler’s tyranny.


Who am I?

The shocking discovery that my grandfather, as a 21-year-old student, had applied to join the SS as SS-Anwärter (candidate), only to withdraw in August 1939 to pursue a career as a naval engineer and start a family, led to extensive research into my family history and WWII. I developed a keen interest in the German Resistance, contacted historians, archivists, veterans, visited museums, and was in touch with members of Claus von Stauffenberg’s family, the Bonhoeffer Centre in London, and the White Rose Memorial in Munich. To this date, not many people know that over 720,000 German civilians, military, paramilitary, and clergy died trying to overturn the Nazi regime. 


I wrote...

Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

Book cover of Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

What is my book about?

Seen as an agricultural utopia within Hitler’s Germany, it's often the view that both East and West Prussia had remained relatively untouched during the Second World War. Yet the violence, prejudice, and murder associated with the National Socialist regime that brought most of Europe to ruin were widespread throughout Prussia during its brief existence. When the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine, 9,343 passengers - 5,000 of them children - would perish. It was the worst loss of life in maritime history. Yet 75 years later, her tragic story is still unknown to many. 

Note: My mother was a 5-year-old child refugee at the time. With what is happening now in Ukraine, I find there are many unfortunate similarities between the two tragic stories.

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