Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Tribute To Bravery

Just a few words tonight about a very good non-fic book!
An Honorable Defeat: A History Of German Resistance To Hitler, 1933-1945.
Written by Anton Gill.
What an incredibly good book!

For an author, there are two factors which greatly complicate a modern examination of the German resistance to Hitler.
Firstly, after the failure of the assassination attempt on July 20th 1944, the Gestapo and the SS launched operation Thunderstorm, which eliminated thousands of Germans who were under suspicion (however slight) of disloyalty to the regime. Of course, irreplacable information perished along with these individuals.
Secondly, now that well over half a century has passed, natural mortality has thinned even further the ranks of those who survived the War.
Anton Gill has overcome these obstacles by locating and interviewing that handful of living participants, and by interviewing relatives and friends of those who died. This exceptional research, his grasp of European history, and his exceptional ability to tell the story combine to result in this flawless chronicle of an era.
Let's face it, reading war history can be about as exciting as eating a bag of sawdust.
But this book reads like a novel, truly it does. It is never boring. It is a book about heroes, those who risked and (most often) lost their lives in an effort to thwart the plans of someone that history has confirmed as a madman.
Why are they heroes?
Well, among other reasons, because they had the perception to recognize Hitler as such [a madman] AT THE TIME.
It is easy to look back at this era and romantically speculate on "what I would have done," but Gill's book shows us how truly difficult it was to be the one who resisted.
For instance, it is certain that at no time could the conspirators, at whatever level they were working, count on the support of the populace or any form of legal recourse. Their lives were on the line. No turning back.
But we who have never lived in a police state, who can freely criticize our government in letters to the newspaper or on an open postcard to a friend, [or a blogpage, or a Grammy speech]... we who can speak our minds freely on the telephone or on the computer, can have no idea of what it was like to work against a regime whose hold on power depended on fear and informers, on mistrust and deception, on children reporting parents and parents denouncing children. This book is the story of those who resisted, at a time when the penalty for writing "Down With Hitler" on a wall was nothing less than death!
We can't imagine.
But Anton Gill will help you to do so!

Heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Sophie Scholl, General Hans Oster, Ludwig Beck... you will hope against hope for these and so many others, while at the same time realizing that we can re-read history, but we can't rewrite it.
The story of Claus Graf Schenck von Stauffenberg's failed assassination attempt on Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, this was the most exciting part of the book. Gill's explanation of the events makes the heart pound, and you can follow along with the excellent maps that are provided. The resolve, the fortitude, the determination of Stauffenberg is literally amazing. And Hitler's luck (then, and on several other occasions) is almost unbelievable.
This is an excellent book and should be read by everyone interested in the history of bravery.

Is this book still in print?
I’ve done some research and it seems that the answer is…. → NO!
As is the lamentable case with some of the greatest books that have ever been published. I got mine from the Book-Of-The-Month Club, like 78 years ago.
And no, you cannot borrow it!
But you can find it here, in previously loved format!


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