The best books on Germany

117 authors have picked their favorite books about Germany and why they recommend each book.

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The Nazi Seizure of Power

By William Sheridan Allen,

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

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.


Who am I?

Jay Geller is a professor of history and Judaic studies and has published five books on the experience of the Jews in twentieth-century Germany. He has worked with secondary school teachers, religious communities, and museums to develop programs on the Holocaust, Nazism, and dangers of intolerance and radicalism. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale University.


I wrote...

The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

By Jay Geller,

Book cover of The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

What is my book about?

The evocative and riveting stories of four brothers—Gershom the Zionist, Werner the Communist, Reinhold the nationalist, and Erich the liberal—weave together in The Scholems, a biography of an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family and a social history of the Jews in Germany in the decades leading up to World War II.

The Twisted Road to Auschwitz

By Karl A. Schleunes,

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

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.


Who am I?

Jay Geller is a professor of history and Judaic studies and has published five books on the experience of the Jews in twentieth-century Germany. He has worked with secondary school teachers, religious communities, and museums to develop programs on the Holocaust, Nazism, and dangers of intolerance and radicalism. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale University.


I wrote...

The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

By Jay Geller,

Book cover of The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

What is my book about?

The evocative and riveting stories of four brothers—Gershom the Zionist, Werner the Communist, Reinhold the nationalist, and Erich the liberal—weave together in The Scholems, a biography of an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family and a social history of the Jews in Germany in the decades leading up to World War II.

Ordinary Men

By Christopher Browning,

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

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.


Who am I?

Jay Geller is a professor of history and Judaic studies and has published five books on the experience of the Jews in twentieth-century Germany. He has worked with secondary school teachers, religious communities, and museums to develop programs on the Holocaust, Nazism, and dangers of intolerance and radicalism. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale University.


I wrote...

The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

By Jay Geller,

Book cover of The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

What is my book about?

The evocative and riveting stories of four brothers—Gershom the Zionist, Werner the Communist, Reinhold the nationalist, and Erich the liberal—weave together in The Scholems, a biography of an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family and a social history of the Jews in Germany in the decades leading up to World War II.

The Seventh Cross

By Anna Seghers,

Book cover of The Seventh Cross

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?


Who am I?

Jay Geller is a professor of history and Judaic studies and has published five books on the experience of the Jews in twentieth-century Germany. He has worked with secondary school teachers, religious communities, and museums to develop programs on the Holocaust, Nazism, and dangers of intolerance and radicalism. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Yale University.


I wrote...

The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

By Jay Geller,

Book cover of The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction

What is my book about?

The evocative and riveting stories of four brothers—Gershom the Zionist, Werner the Communist, Reinhold the nationalist, and Erich the liberal—weave together in The Scholems, a biography of an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family and a social history of the Jews in Germany in the decades leading up to World War II.

Witch Craze

By Lyndal Roper,

Book cover of Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany

A truly innovative and fascinating psychological perspective on the imaginative workings behind early modern witchcraft cases. It’s common knowledge that women were much more likely than men to be accused, but Roper shows us that it’s not always for the reasons we suspect. Written in sparkling prose by one of the world’s preeminent experts on the subject and illustrated by numerous arresting images.


Who am I?

I am the Centennial Professor of history at Vanderbilt University. I have been reading and teaching about witchcraft and the occult for over thirty years. This is a topic that never fails to engage people of all backgrounds and has generated a plethora of books, some good, many not. I look for authors who understand the passions, psychology, and experiences of both accusers and supposed witches, while also exploring what it is about certain societies that leads to such claims being taken seriously, often with fatal results. The books I picked vividly convey the reality of the witch craze, while also asking some probing questions about persecutions in general.  


I wrote...

The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

By Joel F. Harrington,

Book cover of The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

What is my book about?

In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice's rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz's juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but the testimony of one man's lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith.

The Invention of Nature

By Andrea Wulf,

Book cover of The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World

He was one of the most important and popular scientists in the history of men, but for many years I didn´t know who Alexander von Humboldt really was and what he actually did do—until I read the book of Andrea Wulff. She rummaged through archives and wrote a fluffy and fascinating biography about the man who revolutionized our view on nature: Up to then it was thought that every animal and plant has its own specific place on Earth, right there where God did create them. Von Humboldt discovered that every species has its own specific climate niche and lives within the borders of belts that span around the world, von Humboldt called isotherms. The only thing the Prussian visionary didn´t describe is: What happens if these bands start moving like they do today because of climate change?


Who am I?

As a science journalist I have concentrated on the consequences of climate change. It´s the most frightening as fascinating experiment, we conduct with our planet. In 2018 I wrote a book on extreme weather together with climate scientist Freddy Otto from the University of Oxford (Angry Weather). After this I got immersed in a different climate consequence: How it is affecting biodiversity and with it the foundation of our societies. But what I also love is good storytelling. I quickly get bored with texts that have no dramaturgy or that don't give the reader any pleasure—unlike the fantastic and highly relevant books on this list.


I wrote...

Nowhere Left to Go: How Climate Change Is Driving Species to the Ends of the Earth

By Benjamin von Brackel,

Book cover of Nowhere Left to Go: How Climate Change Is Driving Species to the Ends of the Earth

What is my book about?

As humans accelerate global warming, animals and plants must flee to the margins: on scattered nature reserves, between major highways, or among urban sprawl. And when even these places become too hot and inhospitable, wildlife is left with only one path to survival: an often-formidable journey toward the poles as they race to find a new home in a warming world. Tropical zones lose their inhabitants, beavers settle in Alaska, and gigantic shoals of fish disappear—just to reappear along foreign coastlines.

Award-winning environmental journalist Benjamin von Brackel traces these awe-inspiring journeys and celebrates the remarkable resilience of species around the world. But the lengths these plants and animals must go to avoid extinction are as alarming as they are inspirational.

In the Ruins of the Reich

By Douglas Botting,

Book cover of In the Ruins of the Reich

There are dozens of excellent books about Germany and Germans in the wake of defeat – I could mention Giles MacDonogh’s After the Reich, or R.M. Douglas’s Orderly and Humane – but Douglas Botting’s book is by far the most engaging history of the subject that I’ve ever read. It was written in the 1980s, so it is not quite as up-to-date as the more recent histories, but what it lacks in cutting-edge research it more than makes up for in narrative immediacy. It is impossible not to be moved by Botting’s descriptions of postwar chaos, of orphans hiding in the ruins, of lawlessness, starvation, desperation and retribution. An absolute classic.


Who am I?

Keith Lowe is the author of several works on postwar history. His international bestseller, Savage Continent, won the English PEN/Hessell Tiltman Prize and Italy’s Cherasco History Prize. His book on the long-term legacy of World War II, The Fear and the Freedom, was awarded China’s Beijing News Annual Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Association Non-Fiction Crown. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages.


I wrote...

Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

By Keith Lowe,

Book cover of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

What is my book about?

Savage Continent is the story of post-war Europe, from the close of the war right to the establishment of an uneasy stability at the end of the 1940s. This is the chronicle of a world gone mad, the standard history of post–World War II Europe for years to come. The story of a continent where individual Germans and collaborators were rounded up and summarily executed, where concentration camps were reopened and violent anti-Semitism was reborn.

Russian Disco

By Wladimir Kaminer,

Book cover of Russian Disco

In 1989 when the Wall fell, Kaminer moved from Moscow to Berlin in a lucky wave of emigration. Russian Disco catches the euphoria and vodka-fueled madness of a city adrift in the flux of reunification with contract killer on the trams, black marketeers in sushi bars and artists dreaming of success as another week passes them by in non-stop, techno clubs.


Who am I?

Rory MacLean is one of Britain's most innovative travel writers. His books – which have been translated into a dozen languages — include UK top tens Stalin's Nose and Under the Dragon as well as Pravda Ha Ha and Berlin: Imagine a City, "the most extraordinary work of history I've ever read" according to the Washington Post which named it a Book of the Year. He has won awards from the Canada Council and the Arts Council of England and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary prize. He divides his time between Berlin, Toronto and the UK.


I wrote...

Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

By Rory MacLean,

Book cover of Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

What is my book about?

Berlin is a city of fragments and ghosts, a laboratory of ideas, the fount of both the brightest and darkest designs of history's most bloody century. The once arrogant capital of Europe was devastated by Allied bombs, divided by the Wall, then reunited and reborn as one of the creative centers of the world. Today it resonates with the echo of lives lived. No other city has repeatedly been so powerful and fallen so low; few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations.

Stolen Legacy

By Dina Gold,

Book cover of Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin

A true account of how the Nazis confiscated a Berlin business property belonging to a Jewish family and the actions taken to secure restitution. The story has a twist in that the claim for restitution could not be made until after 1989 because the building is located in the Soviet sector of the city.

The property was the business headquarters for a fur company and parts of it were leased. In 1937, the Victoria Insurance Company forecloses on the mortgage and transferred ownership of the building to Hitler’s railway system. The granddaughter investigates her ancestry and the way the building was lost, and then takes up the fight to obtain restitution. After several disappointments, she is successful.

I enjoyed the storyline because it is remarkably similar to what happens in my book. It provides another perspective of how the Nazis confiscated Jewish property, and only by reading books like this…


Who am I?

World War 2 has always interested me and my curiosity was strengthened a few years ago when my mother told me I was born illegitimate and my father had been the civil engineer building a nearby bomber airfield and a lodger with her parents. She was ashamed of what happened and lost contact with my father before I was born. Consequently, I wrote my first novel Unplanned. I then met the daughter of the Berlin mother in Abandoned in Berlin, and found it natural to pursue this story, given what I had discovered about my own upbringing. The effort has taught me to seek to forgive but never to forget.


I wrote...

Abandoned in Berlin: A True Story

By John R. Cammidge,

Book cover of Abandoned in Berlin: A True Story

What is my book about?

A true story of what happened to a block of Jewish-owned apartments in Berlin. A descendant of the family discovers the building during a visit to Berlin in 2016 and is determined to find out what took place. She learns that her mother, at age 11, became part-owner of the property, but because of her age and ownership, was forcibly placed under guardianship custody by the Nazis in 1933. Read how this arrangement is progressively used to seize the property and why the family flees to Vienna in late 1937.

The story ends in the 1950s when the family fights to recover the building. Judge whether or not justice is delivered. The descendant is advised that no new legal action can be taken.

I Worked Alone

By Lily Sergueiew,

Book cover of I Worked Alone: Diary of a Double Agent in World War II Europe

As the title of this book indicates, Lily Sergueiew was a double agent during World War II. She volunteered to become a spy for the Germans although she never intended to fulfill that role. She was determined to fight the Germans in her own way – as a double agent in the employ of the British. Sergueiew kept a diary of her activities from when she first approached the Germans until she quit working for the British in late June 1944. After the war, Sergueiew used her diaries to write a memoir in French. Before her death in 1950, she translated her memoir into English, and most of it was published posthumously in France in 1966 and in England in 1968. I recommend this book because it provides insight into why a young woman would choose to fight against the Germans who occupied her beloved France, the training that she…


Who am I?

I am a professor at Mississippi State University and a historian of World War II in general and, more specifically, of WWII intelligence history. My interest stems from a research topic that my Ph.D. advisor recommended and that became the subject of my dissertation – Operation Fortitude, which was the deception plan that provided cover for the Normandy Invasion. While my own research interests are focused on the intelligence history of the Normandy invasion, I am increasingly drawn to intelligence history or novels that showcase the people, technologies, and other theaters of war.


I wrote...

Spies, Lies, and Citizenship: The Hunt for Nazi Criminals

By Mary Kathryn Barbier,

Book cover of Spies, Lies, and Citizenship: The Hunt for Nazi Criminals

What is my book about?

In the 1970s news broke that former Nazis had escaped prosecution and were living the good life in the United States. Outrage swept the nation, and the public outcry put extreme pressure on the U.S. government to investigate these claims and to deport offenders. The subsequent creation of the Office of Special Investigations marked the official beginning of Nazi-hunting in the United States, but it was far from the end.

Drawing from this report as well as other sources, Spies, Lies, and Citizenship exposes scandalous new information about infamous Nazi perpetrators, including Andrija Artukovic, Klaus Barbie, and Arthur Rudolph, who were sheltered and protected in the United States and beyond, and the ongoing attempts to bring the remaining Nazis, such as Josef Mengele, to justice.

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