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A Village in the Third Reich

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I have some experience of villages in Bavaria which is why I wanted to read this one. It's a well researched book, it seems there's plenty of evidence of what went on during WW2. However, it is quite a grim read at times, it seems that just as I thought that I knew all of the ghastly things that went on in Germany at that time - I discovered I didn't!

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There have been a number of long and comprehensive reviews of this book with a wide variety of opinions expressed.
One of the most important things to point out to any wood-be reader, is that this is not so much a novel as a recount of life in a village in Germany before, during and after WW2.
We rarely think or hear about the resistance in Germany, except perhaps with regards to the protection of Jewish families. This book shows us how confusing and complex life was during this period for the ordinary, honest living German person. Life was not easy and this book helps us to understand.

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I really enjoyed Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd. It looked in detail at Germany between the wars, particularly as a place many Britons enjoyed visiting regularly. A Village in the Third Reich explores a similar theme; life in Germany as lived by ordinary people.

I’ve come to realise that, as a post war baby, my view of Germany.and Germans was initially shaped by those who’d just experienced the end of the Second World War. Many had also suffered and survived the First World War and whilst I consider my education was relatively comprehensive and well balanced, there was a strong negative emphasis towards Germany and Germans. They were subjected to parody well into the 1970s and 1980s in sitcoms. Britons bang on about the Blitz and how dreadful it was; I don’t doubt that. But there’s little balance; we weren’t told that Allied bombers killed some 55000 in Hamburg in a single night. More than the total deaths over many months of the Blitz.

Julia Boyd’s books give a refreshing and very different insight into ordinary Germans and their lifestyle. They weren’t all stormtroopers who idolised Hitler and many resented the way their lives were affected. This look at life in a village is a delight. There is an eclectic mix of individuals, as one might expect. Those intent on toeing the line and those prepared to challenge authority. It’s a very different perspective which spans a couple of fascinating decades as the aftermath of one war is felt and the build up to the next begins. A genuinely striking slice of social history. Well written, filled with information and so readable. I really enjoyed this book.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.

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In the Village in the Third Reich What author succeeds in depicting normal daily live in Germany before and during the Second World War. This is a very impartial glimpse into people’s lives during the rise of the Nazis. As it is a historical text its not a novel but for me, I found it rather a historical text that I dipped in and out chapter by chapter, but this did not make my enjoyment of the book any less.

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A Village In The Third Reich is a fascinating and often very sad portait of forty years in the life of the Bavarian village Oberstdorf from 1915 to 1955. Nestled in the Alps, Oberstdorf was a burgeoning tourist town, relatively cosmopolitan and affluent enough, and yet like all of German slowly got swamped by the rise of National Socialism. Boyd and Patel have done a very deep dive on what seems to be a hugely comprehensive archive to tell the story of how the village adapted and changed, but also to follow the villagers as they themselves escaped, got sent to camps or went to war. There are a lot of tragic stories here, though there are reconstructions of the willing Nazi's there are also big questions about Good Germans and perhaps the unthinkable, Good Nazis.

Their canvas is large, even a village has thousands of residents, and sometimes the sheer weight of names and stories can overwhelm. Important figures however, such as the Mayor and local Nazi party administrators reoccur, and they do their best to give everyone with a story justice. There is even a tale at the end about the resistance whose names are still being protected seventy five years on. Nevertheless it does get a little relentless in places, and the nature of the archive is such that it favours dates, arrests and official actions and the authors are loathe to fill in additional speculative colour if they can help it. There are a few eyewitness accounts which fill those memories in but there is a tendancy for it to be a little dry in places.

Its an obvious companion to Milton Sanford Meyer's 'They Thought They Were Free', looking at the lives of ten Nazi party members in another German small village. This is a piece of history while that was part political investigation and part discussion of a (now past) future. They are different villages, but there are many similarities with actions, and A Village In The Third Reich does get tangled in the knotty issues of who were true believers without some of the introspection, deception or perhaps self delusion of Mayer's interviews. The overall tone here is of deep sadness rather than anger that comes with its place as history drifting out of living memory.

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When we wonder what life was like in a village in Bavaria during WWll, this book has it all. It traces the rise of Hitler in the aftermath of WWl and the impact it had on a quiet skiing village in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.
The fascinating aspect of the story is how individuals came to terms with an ever-changing Germany and eventual total domination of the NAZI regime to everyday life. Not everybody succumbed to this regime, but they live in opposition and fear lest they were betrayed, sometimes by previously trusted neighbours. The ‘original’ inhabitants were used to accepting tourists as they formed an income stream to the village through skiing but when refugees fleeing the allied bombing offensive later in the war arrived, it was a different matter.
It was interesting to learn that several of the village leaders, including one Mayor, outwardly supported the NAZI cause but found ways to circumvent or ignore some of the more stringent dictats emanating from Berlin.
An enjoyable read to learn the other side of the story of a small community in Germany during that period.

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Remember at school being told to read all of the question before answering it? Did you learn that lesson? I STILL HAVEN’T decades on. And that’s why I made a bit of a booboo in applying for this @netgalley ARC. If I’d read ALL of the blurb, I’d have seen that it was non-fiction. Not my favourite genre.

If you like non-fiction, I say go ahead and read it. If you’re not, but are interested in WWII, you could get a lot out of it. I certainly learned a lot and, had it been a fictionalised story, I think it could have been a five star read for me. It certainly has a cast of villagers who could populate a great story: a Dutch aristocrat who smuggles Jewish children out of Germany; the daughter of one of the conspirators who plotted to assassinate Hitler; ‘good’ Nazis; members of the German resistance, to name but a few and, oh, not forgetting the man who made the largest shoe in the world! But it’s non-fiction and with copious extracts from contemporaneous newspapers and documents, it’s the worst type of non-fiction for me (I stress, it’s me, not the fault of the book). I stopped reading the extracts and just got on with the narrative.

The chapters in the book are based along subject lines – why Nazism arose, euthanasia, religion and Nazism, concentration camps, the aftermath of the war, etc – and not on time lines. This has advantages but I found that it made for a disjointed narrative and it prevented me from building any rapport with the villagers.

Knowing nothing about the rise of Nazism, I felt I learned that as well as the end of it – denazification and rehabilitation. And in between there are the stories of how ordinary Germans lived with privation, how they grieved for their men killed in the war (or at home through selection or in work camps). And, coming from a country where the war always seems to have been won by English speaking people, it was refreshing to see how the French (aided by the Moroccans) liberated the village.

Just now, it’s hard to read this book and not think of events in Ukraine. Indeed Ukraine features in the book and it’s heart breaking to think that that country is again in hell thanks to one man and his ambition.

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How NAZIs could be both better and worse than you thought they were.

This is an account of how the NAZIs affected Oberstdorf, the most Southerly village in Germany.

The proximity of Oberstdorf to mountain routes into Austria and Switzerland made the village a relatively prosperous resort in peacetime and also ensured that its inhabitants played a role in some key points in twentieth century history, especially the annexation of Austria because military reservists were well placed, well orientated and physically well-suited, to simply march across the border and take possession of key locations. The toughness and cold weather experience of the men (mostly working in outdoor trades) from Oberstdorf and the surrounding district also made them first choice for fighting on the Eastern front and the village paid a heavy price because of this.

Instructively, for the British reader, the village had minimal interactions with Britain in both peace and war. Tourists came mostly from Northern Germany and Holland. Even in wartime when villagers were listening to banned radio broadcasts from outside the Reich in the hopes of finding out what was really going on, it was to a Swiss station that they tuned. (The author doesn’t say, but, surrounded by mountains, that may well have been the easiest station both to receive and to understand.) Still, for such a rural community the inhabitants were outward-looking and knew that their prosperity depended upon strangers. The national NAZI leadership never, in fact, managed to turn even the opinion of some local NAZI officials completely against the strangers in their midst, never mind that of the general population. There was, at least at some key points in time, majority support for the NAZIs in the village, even though some key policies were disliked and the bullying antics of uniformed NAZI party members widely disapproved of.

Indeed, most of the local political confrontations were between different types of NAZI. These don’t appear to have been rival factions so much as different groups of people who had joined The Party for different reasons at different times and who held different priorities. Those who had joined because they thought something drastic simply had to be done about Germany’s core problems, were focused on doing that and either didn’t spare a lot of time for persecuting scapegoats, or even quietly sabotaged the persecution whenever a safe opportunity arose. Those who had joined out of a sense of victimhood, particularly in the early years of The Party, were utterly committed to the persecution of those they saw as persecuting themselves, and were furiously opposed to those, often more senior than them, who seemed to have other things to care about!

A larger number of Party members joined at quite a late stage, simply because it had become impossible to have a career or further any other form of ambition without joining. Those who joined simply to further their own interests could easily be incentivised to do anything Hitler wanted them to do. They may not have been as individually monstrous as some of the grudge-bearing, hatred-driven members with very low party card numbers, but in the general scheme of things they were the ones who enabled Hitler to carry out his policies. The Party was never designed to REPRESENT its members, but to be a tool by which The Leader controlled the membership and through them the Reich. If Hitler has left a legacy at all, this is it. Because all over Europe there are political parties which wouldn’t be seen dead supporting anything that might be perceived as a NAZI policy or ideology, but which are none-the-less well-honed instruments for implementing their leader’s will rather than representing that of their membership or the wider electorate. This sort of thing has become normalised in UK politics since 1994.

As for the actual policies: a lot of them, such as improving the position of farmers in society and investing in agriculture would have been reasonable or even beneficial if that was what had actually happened. But Fuhrerprinzip or the “leadership principle” meant that it was considered actually offensive for anyone in a leadership position to be seen to consider the opinions of anyone who wasn’t. And so the community of Oberstdorf, whose citizens knew an awful lot about cattle-farming in an alpine environment, found policies being dumped on it from above by people, most of whom knew nothing about farming. The seeds of failure were duly sown, not just in agriculture but across the whole of the Reich economy and German society. Even technical education, something which Germany had once been very good at, was massively dumbed down in favour of tighter control. Having lauded the men literally at the grass roots of the economy, the NAZIs proceeded to ignore them, and this, again, is something a lot of modern political parties are guilty of.

Other policies of Hitler were incapable of being beneficial however they were carried out. The Jewish Holocaust is the most obvious example, but less celebrated and in some ways even more sinister was the extermination, completed before most of the Jews were touched, of pretty well all the handicapped and disabled from the ethnic German population. Hitler had stated, in a speech, that it would benefit the German people if something like eighty thousand of the million or so babies which were born in the Reich each year were to die. He stopped short of openly saying that he was going to kill them all, but he did in fact directly and personally set in motion the killing of eighty-thousand-odd of the most handicapped or “feeble minded” people. The thing is, this was a quota, and where there was a shortage of very disabled people, less disabled ones could have been selected for termination and in many cases they were. This policy wasn’t publicly proclaimed, but local NAZI officials in Oberstdorf knew it was coming and the NAZI Mayor Fink brought his own handicapped son back from an institution, to the village where he was less likely to be selected and killed. In other instances, he quietly advised Jews and perhaps others how to register their residency in a way that made it less likely they would be “selected” for any sort of special measures. It is clear that Fink and some even higher-ranking colleagues didn’t think that this sort of policy held any benefits at all. They did not dare to openly oppose the policies, but implemented them as sparingly as they could, whereas the more self-interested NAZIs just did exactly what they were told in the hope of being rewarded for doing so.

The killing of an arbitrary percentage of the weakest in society closely parallels the activities of Lenin and Stalin, who believed that ten percent of the Bourgeoisie needed to be killed at regular intervals to effect social change by creating vacancies which people of a different social class might fill. It comes from the same class of ideas as Fuhrerprinzip, in that it’s a top-down, single-narrative way of magically creating a better world without having to engage in debate or with any complicated real-world issues. It’s hard to know where this idea originally came from, but the author’s previous book “Travellers in the Third Reich” makes it clear that Hitler and the other top NAZIs were greatly impressed by the writings and speeches of George Bernard Shaw on the topic. As were Lenin and Stalin.

It is, therefore, the Hitler policy which this reviewer most expects to see replicated in the present day, because although very few people in influential positions would admit to being admirers of Hitler, it’s almost compulsory in certain political circles to profess an admiration for George Bernard Shaw.

This is a book full of interesting insights, but it is not a book which sets out to reinforce the received “wisdom” about the NAZIs or anything else and it may well prove controversial because of this. The authors have sought out and found an awful lot of good primary source material and their work is the sum of this, rather than any particular agenda. It is, therefore, a more valuable book than others which might be easier to swallow.

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This one is a stunningly evocative portrait of Hitler’s Germany through the people of a single village. I would highly recommend this book to… anyone and everyone! This book will stay with you long after you've finished it, and in the most fabulous way!

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Life under an authoritarian dictatorship has been on my mind ever since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. Russia is now more isolated from the rest of the world than at any time since the Brezhnev era, and the Putin regime has become increasingly repressive and Margarita Simonyan’s propaganda machine increasingly strident and intense.

This happened around the same time that I read A Village in the Third Reich, a truly fascinating and disturbing account of the Bavarian resort village of Oberstdorf under twelve years of Nazi totalitarianism. Based on government documents, residents’ letters and diaries, and reports from the local newspaper - which condemned antisemitism before Hitler took power, and published instructions on how to boycott Jewish shops afterward - the book illustrates how nearly every aspect of daily life in this typical German town was affected by the rise of the Third Reich.

It’s been overshadowed by other legislation which awarded absolute power to Hitler, but authors Julia Boyd and Angelika Patel argue that a law called the “Equalisation Act” allowed the Nazis to control pretty much everything, even the local alpine ski club:

"While the Empowerment Act proved a terrifying piece of legislation for so many individual Germans, it was the Equalisation Act that was to have the most immediate effect on towns and villages throughout the country. Put in a nutshell, this act set out to ensure that every aspect of German life – social, political and cultural – conform to Nazi ideology and policy. It was the means by which Nazi tentacles would reach into every last corner of society. No organisation was to be exempt, no matter how trivial or unimportant. For a village like Oberstdorf it was a devastating piece of legislation, potentially sweeping away generations of tradition and subtle social contact. Furthermore, it was to be put in place at great speed."

The old cliche is that authoritarianism engulfs society gradually, like the (false) analogy of the frog in a pot of water slowly brought to a boil. But these are the Nazis we’re talking about. They wasted no time putting their jackbooted foot down.

"Since the transition to Nazi control, the atmosphere in the village had changed profoundly. Shop windows that had once displayed quilts now flaunted swastikas and brown shirts. Even stores selling art supplies advertised their brushes and paints under the label ‘The New Era’."

The education system was so subsumed to Nazi ideology that one teacher confessed to a friend that he’d choose imprisonment in a concentration camp to teaching students such garbage, except that his family members would also be punished.

Even churches were forced to incorporate the swastika and Nazi rhetoric into their services, resulting in a schism between German Christians who went along with this and those who bravely resisted. (As I’ve long said, I don’t think religion makes people do bad things so much as people make religion do bad things.)

The Nazi regime didn’t go out of its way to advertise what was happening in the camps and euthanasia clinics, but the word got around nonetheless.

"The message enshrined in the well-known rhyme ‘Lieber Gott, mach’ mich stumm, dass ich nicht nach Dachau kumm!’ (‘Dear God make me dumb, so I won’t to Dachau come!’), was one that everyone needed to heed before voicing any opinion."

Of course the Third Reich is most infamous for its discrimination against the Jews, which ultimately led to mass murder and genocide on an industrial scale. Oberstdorf had a negligible Jewish population, but one resident did covertly provide assistance to Jews.

It was the mayor. The Nazi mayor.

In every dictatorship, people rush to join the ruling party for any number of reasons - legitimate belief in its ideology, the make connections and get ahead in society, or to try changing the system from the inside. Mayor Ludwig Fink - seriously, his surname is considered an insult in English, and it’s the kind of thing the studio would tell you to tone down a bit if you used it for a Nazi character in your screenplay - is an unlikely hero of the book, using his position to shield his people from the worst excesses committed by his political party:

"We have already seen how Fink helped Sister Biunda and her nuns and how he protected the Jews and other persecuted individuals under his jurisdiction; how he not only helped to ensure that the elderly Emil Schnell was adequately provisioned, but had also warned him of his imminent deportation. The delicacy of his position as a moderate Nazi mayor is illustrated by an anecdote that recounts how during the war he publicly reprimanded a woman for criticising the regime but then privately advised her just to be careful not to say such things to him when others were present. In addition, Fink was widely respected for not ducking the miserable task of informing families of the deaths of their men in person (his own son Erich was killed in France in August 1944). His refusal to resist the French as ordered by the SS was entirely consistent with his eleven year record as mayor. Carl Zuckmayer described him as the ‘unknown man wearing the mask of evil’ who had protected his Jewish mother."

“Moderate Nazi” is the ultimate contradiction in terms, and there is no indication that Fink was trying to destroy the whole system from within. But there’s nothing new about totalitarian minions sparing their friends and neighbors from the worst excesses. One aim of the Nazis’ antisemitic propaganda was to convince even their devoted followers that their own Jewish doctor or accountant or classmate wasn’t one of “the decent ones.”

If we agree that some Nazis were worse than average - the sadistic Oskar Dirlewanger and his SS Brigade of rapists and murderers come to mind - it stands to reason that others might have been less evil. After the war, the German government and occupation authorities split Nazi officials and collaborators into five different categories, from those who played a minimal role in Hitler’s terror to those who carried out the worst offences. Fink was ultimately categorized as a mere “follower” and released from custody.

Other villagers - many of them social outcasts who leapt at the chance to lord it over their colleagues - went all in on supporting the Nazis, some actively resisted, but most just kept their heads down and tried to carry on as usual, without attracting too much attention. Everyone imagines they’d be brave resisters had fate placed them in Nazi Germany (and there are some dark corners of the internet where people fantasize about wearing the SS runes) but history suggests the great majority of us would simply go along to get along.

Indeed, contrary to poll results showing overwhelming support for Putin and his war, there is some evidence suggesting Russians aren’t as enthusiastic in private:

"Six weeks into the war, amid the drumbeat of disinformation, state-run polling agency results have pointed to a surge of support for Putin.

Evidence of such a surge, however, ​also showed up last week in a survey by one of Russia’s most reputable independent pollsters, the Levada Center. For people looking for a sign of Russian weariness with Putin, Levada’s poll was not it.

But among academics, social scientists, and close watchers of Russian social trends, the Levada poll showed signs of something else: a Russian reluctance -- or even fear -- of speaking frankly and honestly to pollsters.

In a report published on April 6, researchers affiliated with the London School of Economics examined “preference falsification” in Russian public opinion surveys: whether respondents were hiding their true feelings on political questions; in this case, those related to approval for Putin, for the government, or for the conduct of the war.


In their experiment, the researchers used an online Russian-designed sociological tool called Toloka to recruit 3,000 adults and devised a list of questions asking respondents whether they supported one or more of four social policies: same-sex marriage, abortion restrictions, the war in Ukraine, and cash welfare payments for poor Russians.

Respondents aren’t asked to say which policies they support, merely how many of the four items they support.

In this survey, which was conducted on April 4 and which sociologists broadly call a “list experiment,” half of the respondents were given a three-item list, with the question of the Ukraine war omitted; the other half was given a four-item list that included the Ukraine war question.

The researchers also asked respondents a straightforward, yes-or-no question: “Do you support the war?”

The results showed that when Russians were directly asked the question “Do you support the war?” 68 percent said they did. When using the list experiment, however, support for the war dropped to 53 percent.

“Do Russians tell the full truth when asked about their support for the war?” the researchers wrote. “Based on our experiment, we can safely conclude that they do not.

“Russians, at least those in our sample, clearly hide their true attitudes towards the war,” they said."

In Oberstdorf, support for Hitler and the Nazis declined as the numbers of dead and wounded increased. There’s a reason Putin has been frantically trying to shield his subjects from what’s happening in Ukraine.

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Having previously written about visitors to Germany during the 1930s and their opinions about the rise of Hitler and Nazis in Travellers in the Third Reich (excellent!), Julia Boyd now focuses on Oberstdorf, southernmost village in Germany over the 12 years of Nazi rule.

Famous for Alpine sports, it’s a traditional, picturesque village and an interesting microhistory subject for several reasons. It’s in Bavaria, the ‘heart’ of NSDAP but also deeply Catholic and historically voted for the Catholic-right parties, Hitler and the National Socialists barely had a foothold prior to 1933/4. The local newspaper, for example, does not even mention NSDAP until the 1932 election that led to Hitler becoming the chancellor. Yet in this election, Oberstdorfers voted for Hitler and aside from the usual reasons given for this voter turnabout (in short: need for a strong leader to stand up to Bolshevist threat), Boyd highlights a particular pre-election speech given locally by a prominent Nazi that focused on agriculture – very much a local concern that seems to have swayed voters. Throughout the book, local issues preoccupy villagers the most.

Some joined the party and became ‘Hitlars’, some conformed because they had to for fear of denunciation, loss of employment or worse, being sent to Dachau, some privately and quietly continued to support the few remaining Jewish villagers and others threatened by the regime. The Nazi takeover was clearly quick and total, from the municipal council to schools and shop windows but in some ways, Oberstorfers did manage to resist big changes such as proposed new housing in a prime meadow held in common and remain a sleepy, traditional village. Yet, there was black humour about being sent to Dachau for a smallest infringement – some of its many camps were quite close, ever younger local men and boys died fighting in the elite mountain divisions in the Eastern Front and the Balkans while others, emaciated foreigners were often seen doing forced labour. The extent to which most of those Oberstorfers who voted Hitler in in 1932 remained loyal as his promised Third Reich failed to materialise remains elusive.

Boyd and Patel have amassed quite a lot of research from unpublished memoirs of individual villagers to council and parish records, newspaper archives and so on and highlight some memorable characters, from Franz Noichl who belonged (as everyone had to) to Hitler Jugend but quickly grew disillusioned as a teenager, to the unflappable Elisabeth Dabbelstein and Henriette Laman Trip-de Beaufort, director and founder of the children’s institute who continued to smuggle Jewish children to Switzerland and provide assistance to Dutch prisoners of war throughout the war. Yet most of the German villagers only really come to life at two points, firstly as the Allies draw closer and secret groups form to try and surrender Oberstdorf without destruction of life and property – in direct opposition to the Nazi directive and second, in the aftermath, the privation they suffered with the influx of refugees, displaced persons and Allied troops to accommodate and feed. Conformist? Complicit? Silenced? Reluctant? Resistant? The picture is never black and white and even in a relatively small village there a multiple and nuanced responses to these questions. What the book does show is the totality of Nazi control of people’s lives and the deep trauma suffered as a result.

My thanks to Elliott and Thompson and Netgalley for the opportunity to read A Village in the Third Reich

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I was given an advance reading copy (arc) of this book from in return for a fair review. Author Julia Boyd hit this one out of the ballpark with her excellent research skills and well written book. Boyd takes us on a journey to a small Bavarian village called Oberstdorf. She begins the story right after the end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles. As Hitler rose to power promising to restore Germany to its rightful place, the peaceful town of Oberstdorf was absorbed into the Third Reich. The changes were electrifying. The popular mayor was replaced with a Nazi (who at least had a conscience) and free elections ceased to exist. Church groups were outlawed, children were put into 'educational' camps, and the notorious Dachau opened nearby. This book provides a thorough look at what it was like before, during, and after the war years for the people of Oberstdorf. Neighbors against neighbors, handicapped children put to death, boys taken away to serve their country--many of whom never returned. It was often difficult to read about the horrors endured by everyday people who had little choice in their fate. I put the book down a few times just to gather myself before I could read on. Excellent book by a fine author who really left no stone unturned. I highly recommend it.

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I remember reading an article stating that Nazi Germany and World War II are the most popular subjects among young students of history. These tragic chapters of the 20th century also seem to exert a dark fascination on “general readers” of history. There are so many books on the subject that one is tempted to ask – is there anything new to say about Hitler’s Germany? Turns out there is, and Julia Boyd is distinguishing herself in a crowded field thanks to her unusual approach to the history of the era. Her book Travellers in the Third Reich described the rise of the Nazis through the eyes of foreigners who visited Germany before the war. She has now followed this with A Village in the Third Reich, a book which describes the impact of Hitler, Nazism and World War II on everyday life through the eyes of the inhabitants of the Bavarian mountain village of Oberstdorf. Researched and written with the help of Angelika Patel, herself a native of Oberstdorf, this volume draws on reports, letters, interviews and memoirs to provide a surprisingly intimate portrait of a village facing unprecedented change and then heading into war.

One of the major philosophical and moral questions linked to Nazi Germany is how much ordinary people were aware of the injustices suffered by Jews and minorities at the hands of the regime. Boyd’s book does not seek to whitewash the responsibility of those who supported the Nazis or who might have disagreed with them while remaining silent. The advantage of approaching the subject through the “microcosm” of one village, however, helps to provide a nuanced view beyond simplistic collective condemnation.

Of course, there were many Germans who, for various reasons, embraced the novel, evil ideology of their leader. But one should also consider that the Nazis consciously sought to nip in the bud any attempts at criticism and dissent, and their violent tactics were unfortunately effective at silencing opposition. And yet, even the heavy shadow of the regime could not quell some brave souls. Boyd finds examples of humanity, sometimes in the most unexpected of places – a case in point is Oberstdorf’s mayor who, despite being a committed Nazi, also protected several Jews living in his village.

After the initial chapters on the rise of Nazism, the book also describes the outbreak of war and the war itself, including poignant stories of Oberstdorf soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front. Indirectly, the book also reveals the social change brought about not only by Nazism and war, but also by other factors. Oberstdorf, for instance, was originally a relatively inward-looking Catholic village in the mountains, but tourism was already changing it into a relatively “cosmopolitan” settlement.

A Village in the Third Reich is an engrossing work of social history which approaches well-known historical events through unusual viewpoints.

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'A Village in the Third Reich' offers a fascinating, nuanced and authoritative insight into German social history from the end of the First World War to the late 1940s by documenting the realities of daily life in one Bavarian village: Oberstdorf, a popular mountain resort and the southernmost settlement in Germany. Julia Boyd and her collaborator Anjelika Patel paint a compelling picture of how every aspect of life changed over the course of two decades within this community.

This proves to be a very effective prism through which to consider some of the most challenging questions about the Third Reich, in particular about how much ordinary German citizens knew - or cared - about the true atrocities of the Holocaust. Boyd makes a convincing case for Oberstdorfers' awareness of the Final Solution (even if not all supported it), and the most poignant aspects of the book deal with the treatment of Oberstdorf's small number of Jewish residents. However, without ever seeking to sanitise the indifference and complicity of many Germans. Boyd finds numerous examples of humanity and heroism which illustrate the complexities and contradictions of this period - perhaps most strikingly embodied in Oberstdorf's mayor, Ludwig Fink, a committed Nazi who nonetheless protected several Jews living in the village.

I found this a compelling and moving read which gave me a fresh understanding of this period of German history. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for sending me an ARC to review.

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I had read and enjoyed Julia Boyd's previous book, 'Travellers in the Third Reich', and so was eager to read her new offering, which looks at the Third Reich from the perspective of those living in the small Bavarian village of Oberstdorf. The book covers the political, cultural and social changes experienced by the residents.

The book is extremely well researched, and Boyd uses unpublished diaries and memoirs, letters, local newspapers and town records to share the story of how one rural community experienced the rise of the Third Reich. It is provides a unique perspective as most literature on the Third Reich looks at its rise from an urban perspective, and also does not go into the same level of detail regarding people's lived experiences of this period as Boyd does. Boyd cleverly shows through the recollections of the residents just how a nation could support, or just accept, the Nazi regime when it is unfathomable to the rest of the world how that could happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who would like to learn about the impact of the Nazi regime, as this style of writing is far more engaging than most books on the topic. Many thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review and ARC.

I will be posting this review on my Goodreads and Storygraph accounts, and on Waterstones and Amazon upon publication.


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Choosing the beautiful German resort of Oberstdorf as a small village representing a microcosm of everyday life in Germany under the Nazis, this book is a very readable and (as much as anything set during those awful times can be) very enjoyable read.

The authors select a few of the prominent and not so prominent residents of the village to take a deep dive into their lives. Scrupulous research really allows the reader to get to know the characters and live their lives with them - it is impossible not to feel empathy even for the young men on the battlefield. The stories are well told and interweaved, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in lives which were lived 80 years ago in the most impossible of circumstances.

For anyone with even a passing interest in the Inter-war years and World War Two, this is a very worthwhile read.

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*Many thanks to Julia Boyd, Elliot & Thompson, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
Obersdorf is one of the most famous places in Bavaria owing to ski jumping competitions and magnificent scenery for tourists to admire both in summer and winter. Ms Boyd's idea to describe life in a village during the inter-war period sounds interesting as most of the books cover towns or cities whereas countrylife is rather obscure.
This non-fiction depicts the cultural, social and political changes over the 40 years in a village whose life focused around sheep breeding, some farming and tourist industry as Obersdorf became more and more popular in the covered period. Such a detailed analysis was possible due to vast archives preserved and to memoirs, letters and memories of those whose ancestors lived in the village before the WW2 and through it.
I enjoyed this book since it gives a panorama of those days, desciribing attitudes, hardships and tragedies which affected the small village. It is a well-researched book which offers a good insight into the period.

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I was chuffed when I was allowed to read this stunning and encyclopeadic account of the Bavarian village of Oberstdorf - in the Allgäu region, and the most southern village in Germany during Nazi Germany.

Before tourism arrived, Oberstdorf survived chiefly on farming, cheese production and small deposits of iron ore; it thrived on tourism since the 1920s, and in 1930 the Nebelhorn car made her maiden voyage and became the longest cableway in the world. Until today, no other cable car in the whole Allgäu region reaches such heights.

The village has always deeply cared about its history and it kept a particularly well-maintained archive, that the author used to describe almost every feature of village life under the Nazis. The author has also used other resources for this absorbing and meticulously researched book, such as newspapers, letters from private collections, documents from state and church archives, as well as memoirs and interviews given by the villagers.

The Oberstdorfers had their doubts about the upcoming national socialism; they were predominantly Catholic (Protestants were much more loyal and in larger numbers to Hitler than Catholics ever were), and they didn’t care if the people who came to their lovely village were black, white or Jewish, as long as they paid their fees and enjoyed their stay, and they made sure tourism was not interfered with by some silly rules from Berlin.

The first half of the book gives a fairly idea of how Hitler came to power, and how the Nazi ideology came to dominate every aspect of life, with examples ranging from the children’s sanatorium 'Hohes Licht’ (est. by Henriëtte Laman Trip-de Beaufort (1890-1982), where Jewish children were admitted, who were provided with false papers and brought to Switzerland. (she was the namesake of the Henriëtte de Beaufort Prize, is a triennial prize that was established in 1985 by the Society of Dutch Literature. A literary-historical biography or autobiography is eligible for award. The prize is awarded alternately to a Dutch and a Flemish author), to mandatory membership of the Hitlerjugend and the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel - that would give its members free cinema tickets, outdoor sports, horseback riding and mountaineering ! - and the Napola, spartan educational instiutions for future Nazi leaders, like NS- Ordensburg Vogelsang, which, ironically, is now used as a asylum centre.

Apart from the fact that the author compares many historical facts and events of Nazi Germany with life in the village and its inhabitants, she has succeeded in giving victims a name and a face, and the story of the much loved little Theodor from Oberstdorf, who was euthanized because he was born blind, broke my heart.
The mayor, who may have had prior knowledge of Aktion T-4, managed to get his beloved epileptic son home in time, but for little Theodor it was already too late. Every child and adult that was institutionalized, or regarded as `deviant, disabled, or ‘useless” were the first to be euthanized under Nazi regime; red pluses on the birth certificate meant death, whereas the blue minuses were safe for the time being.

Also included are the eyewitness accounts of the 99th mountain troops divisions - young, experienced climbers and skiers from Oberstdorf, - men used to harsh outdoor activities. Their letters and war diaries give a shocking account of the war at the Eastern Front.

Disturbing, moving, from the trivial to the tragic, these personal stories and eyewitness account tell a story of Nazi Germany as never before.
With an incredible eye for detail, this meticulously researched book is a must-read for anyone interested in the rise and fall of the Third Reich. A rich and absorbing book, - maybe even a bit too overwhelming for the layman -, but as a Germanist, this book proved to be an absorbing read, and an incredible journey through the Oberstdorfarchives and eyewitness accounts of the villagers.

I have also read her previous book Travellers in the Third Reich, - a Sunday Times bestselling book, a Daily Telegraph’s Best Books of 2017 novel, and winner of the LA Times Book Prize for History 2018 -, in which the author sketches a picture of the time and its people on the basis of first-hand accounts during life under Nazi dictatorship. This book focusses on a single village instead. I think it’s even better than its predecessor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this one also wins prizes. Highly recommended!! 5 plus stars for me.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this. I leave this review voluntarily.

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A fascinating yet disturbing account of the ‘ordinary’ citizens of this unassuming mountain village in a distant corner of southern Germany. Through the author’s exhaustive and incredibly well- documented research we gain a detailed perspective of the horrors of war and how countless lives were impacted before, during and after the fall of Nazism.

It was not lost on me that the first ‘blitzkrieg’ attack by Hitler was on Lwow (nowadays we know this as Lviv in Ukraine). If we disregard history we are doomed to repeat it...

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for granting this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The Bavarian village of Oberstdorf is a pretty resort in the south of Germany. Just before, during and after WWII everything changed. But life amazingly life still went on, though in a new way. Ordinary people worked at ordinary jobs. There were aristocrats and tourists, Jews and Socialists, dissenters and Nazis. This extensively-researched book is a compelling snapshot look at one village specifically during one of the most horrendous times the world has seen. Descriptions are evocative, harrowing, haunting, crushing and infuriating. Though millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust, the focus on those comparatively few Oberstdorfers who lost their lives is also important. It was only one of thousands of villages touched by Hitler's far-reaching hand.

Liberty isn't always really freeing. After the war Germany was in a dreadful state without functional post offices, no phones or newspapers and curfews. But hunger was the most prevalent issue and it lasted for ages. Oberstdofers did not seem to share collective guilt once they saw photographs of killing camp atrocities which is interesting psychologically. Perhaps some individuals did.

I really like the seamless and easy writing style and the personal stories which made this book come alive
including those of the silver bell, shameless propaganda, Napola and the particularly sad stories about the woman who was billed for her son's execution and Russian soldiers taking every last bit of food from others, Moroccan soldiers, reasons people were sympathetic to Nazism (often for survival) and the actions of Mayor Fink who was tolerant and provided safety to Jews though a dedicated Nazi himself.

My sincere thank you to Elliott & Thompson and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this heartbreaking yet important book. It should be required reading!

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