The German War by Nicholas Stargardt

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The German War by Nicholas Stargardt

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Category: History
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Andy Heath
Reviewed by Andy Heath
Summary: 'The German War' is a history of the second world war from a German perspective. Through detailed research and anecdotes, it charts the war from its build up to earth shattering conclusion. Told through the eyes of ordinary Germans it is massive, in its both scope and achievement.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 736 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099539872

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History can be a dry subject when it focusses only on events and the key people that shaped them. However, when it uses those events as the backdrop to the lives of ordinary people it truly comes to life. ‘The German War' is the story of the second world war through the eyes of a diverse group of Germans. It tells their stories, with great candour and humanity, as it follows, the build up to the war, the war itself, and its aftermath. Using detailed research, interviews and anecdotal evidence, Nicholas Stargardt has created a narrative that is both a historical record and compelling. Its scope is massive but it is a tremendous achievement. Books from the allies' perspective are many and varied; as a result, this can lead to a distortion of the historical record. This work addresses this imbalance.

Nicholas Stargardt is one of Britain's foremost scholars of Nazi Germany. He is Professor of Modern European History at Magdalen College, Oxford. Because of his academic background, you could forgive him for producing a book only for rarefied academic circles. This is not the case. What he has produced is a history book that moves with the pace of a thriller. He has the master historians' ability to tell a story that is full of life. What makes it so compelling is the choice of the people whose stories he tells. Many are couples and through the exchange of their correspondence and their own private thoughts, you feel the hopes, anxieties and fears along with them. There is a pace to the book as events unfold and at numerous points, there are very poignant and moving scenes that show the sheer absurdity of war.

At a time when the rise in populist nationalism has never been greater, 'The German War' is also a timely book. It shows just how easy it is for a tyrannical leader to capture an entire nation. How easy it is for people to fall under the spell cast by charismatic rhetoric and propaganda. It also shows the consequences that it can have for humanity. Nicholas Stargardt is not only a gifted historian; he is also an incredibly gifted writer. Using the Second World War as his canvas, he has painted a masterpiece. It has scale and depth but more than anything, it is about the human condition in extraordinary circumstances. As an addition to the historical record, it is to be welcomed, but in bringing the Europe of the forties to life, it is to be celebrated. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

If you enjoy The German War, you may also enjoy:
Churchill's Children: The Evacuee Experience in Wartime Britain by John Welshman
Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One by Kate Adie
Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-45 by Roger Moorhouse

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Buy The German War by Nicholas Stargardt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The German War by Nicholas Stargardt at


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