In Exorcising Hitler, Frederick Taylor tells the story of Germany's year zero and what came after. Not since the end of the Roman Empire, almost 1500 years earlier, is there a parallel, in Europe at least, to the fall of the German nation in 1945.
As Taylor describes the final Allied campaign, the hunting down of the Nazi resistance, the vast displacement of peoples in central and eastern Europe, the attitudes of the conquerors, the competition between Soviet Russia and the West, the hunger and near starvation of a once proud people, the initially naive attempt at expunging Nazism from all aspects of German life and the later more pragmatic approach, we begin to understand that despite almost total destruction, a combination of conservatism, enterprise and pragmatism in relation to former Nazis enabled the economic miracle of the 1950s. And we see how it was only when the '60s generation (the children of the Nazi era) began to question their parents with increasing violence that Germany began to awake from its sleep cure.
©2011 Frederick Taylor (P)2011 Audible Ltd
"Essential reading for anyone who is interested in the Nazis and wants to know what happened next." (Richard Evans, New Statesman)
So much is written about the rise of Nazism leading to the Second World War that the post-war impact of this is generally overlooked - particularly with the emergence of the Cold War, which distracts attention further east. This is a detailed account with plenty of original sources to support its ideas. The rival agendas of the war-time Allies when de-Nazifying Germany are well contrasted, as are the various visions of post-war Germany that emerged within American political and military circles. There is perhaps slightly too much on 1944-5 and slightly too little on the re-integration of Germany that would lead ultimately to the Common Market, which leaves one feeling that an extra chapter or so would have rounded the book off more satisfactorily. However, for teachers and students of modern Europe this book provides useful additional material to add to the study of the emergence of the Cold War and in particular to the accounts of the Berlin blockade.
Unknown history revealed.
The narrator. Im 40 and have access to TV since my youth and the internet over the last 15 years. I have also travelled (as have most people) to various places around the world. I do not need somebody to "do an impression" of what a German accent sounds like. I know what a German accent sounds like. We all do. Similarly we all know what an American accent sounds like. We dont need someone deciding to perform an impersonation (badly at that) of what the accent sounds like.
Armed with this information, it beggars belief why educated people (like this narrator) saw fit to engage in a plethora of accents that start off somewhat quaint, then become amusing and finally really annoying.
Such is the case here. The narrator's impression of what Franklin Roosevelt sounded like was awful for two reasons: firstly, he (FDR) sounded like he was from the Mid West, when in fact he was from New York (even I can do a passable, if brief, impression of a New York accent). Then, bad as this was, every other American character in the story also sounded the exact same.
Secondly, I know what FDR sounded like. Quite a few of us can remember hearing him speak in documentaries (e.g. "We have nothing to fear except fear itself"; "A day that will live on in infamy"). We dont need to hear third rate character accents mangled terribly to enjoy the experience of having the book read to us.
I take no issue with the narrator's diction or pronunciation, both were excellent throughout. But I found the "accents" which he employed, which included Russian, Czech, German, French and more besides - many of which sounded alike - exceedingly annoying. I cannot overstate this.
This book - which is a well-told, little understood historical gem- would have been far better served if the narrator had simply read the book aloud in the same voice throughout. Unless one is remarkably proficient in altering the sound and pitch of one's voice (Shakespearean actors perhaps) one should only attempt an American accent if one is American, a British accent if one is British and so on. Otherwise it detracts from the story being told and becomes "the story", as opposed to a vehicle by which the story is being relayed.
There were many touching vignettes, including the story of how the old medical doctor, trapped in Breslau with his wounded soldier son, dressed the son up in bandages, put on his old WW1 medical uniform and led both his 'injured' son and other wounded men onto a train and out of the besieged city. A terrific father and son moment, against all the odds.
Please see above.
Orderly and paced descriptions of events nation by nation
The Germans changing view of themselves
When the following German generation began to ask difficult questions and wouldn't take stock answers.
When Britain cut its own postwar ration to stop Germany from starving even though British people didn't necessarily agree with the move.
Well thought out and meticulously researched. Interesting from the first word to the last.
Explains in great detail the chronology and the characters who took part in one of the darkest periods of world history.
The sheer scale of the challenge to keep the people of Germany (and Europe) surviving following the war.
Without him It's hard to drive and read!
Rising from the Ashes?
"Into a conquered nation"
What are the rights and responsibilities of conquering nations toward a defeated enemy? Are there rules which apply, or does anything go? Do those who supported the former regime by complicity carry a responsibility similar to that of the leaders? Should they be held to account and be punished, and if so, how? How might a victor's actions bear upon the future of vanquished people?
These are some of the vexed questions the Allies faced at the end of World War II.
The problem began with surrender itself: "With the end of the war, Germany was deemed to have ceased to exist." And yet, with or without a state, its people did continue to exist, with a multitude of problems, crises, and divergent opinions. While some considered defeat a "liberation," remnants of guerilla opposition from the Volkssturm and Werwolf organizations held out to the bitter end. With multiple allies invading the former Third Reich, each of whom had their own approaches and agendas, how could sense be made of the situation?
Frederick Taylor attempts, sometimes successfully, sometime less so, to give us a clearer picture of the entangled circumstances of postwar Germany. I found parts of it extremely painful to read, and in my opinion, the book raises as many questions as it answers. It is provocative, compelling, and a great springboard for discussion for those interested in the history of warfare, law, and politics.
It is, as expected, an Allied perspective so anyone looking for a more intensive look at the German people's experience will need additional sources. Overall it is a useful and instructive look at a time which has not been given the attention it deserves, and for that it is worth careful consideration.
Matt Bates was a good choice of narrator as his reading is well-paced, clearly enunciated, and his pronunciation of German more than competent.
Excellent listen, well executed another great recommendation from Dan Carlin. I would absolutely recommend this audio book
"Thorough, Facinating and Well Narrated"
The narration. No matter how well versed you are in the subject area even the best non fiction of this kind can get a little dry at times, but the excellent narration kept things flowing.
Endgame by David Stafford, Germany 1945 by Richard Bessel come immediately to mind. This is easily my favourite.
I haven't listened to anything by this narrator before. I did appreciate that unlike a lot of narration for this genre Matt Bates' performance never felt or sounded condescending. For some reason some of the best books of this kind are narrated in a stilted, stuffy way that distracts from the material.
One of the best books of this kind available on audible. Highly recommended.
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