Defying Hitler: A Memoir

Version: Unabridged
Author: Sebastian Haffner
Narrator: Robert Whitfield , Simon Vance
Genres: History, Biography & Memoir
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Published In: August 2003
# of Units: 7 CDs
Length: 8 hours, 18 minutes
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A huge bestseller in Germany, Defying Hitler is a memoir about the rise of Nazism in Germany and the lives of ordinary German citizens between the wars. This fresh and astute account offers a unique perspective on this era of twentieth-century history.

Covering the years from 1907 to 1933, Haffner's personal memories form the basis for questioning, analyzing, and interpreting much of Germany's history. His eyewitness account of groups such as the First Free Corps -- the right-wing voluntary military force set up to suppress communism during the revolution of 1918 -- which would provide training for many of the later Nazi storm troopers; the Hitler Youth movement, which swept the nation; the apocalyptic year of 1923 when inflation crippled the country; the peaceful Stresemann years; and Hitler's coming to power all contribute to the portrait of a country in a constant state of flux. Sebastian Haffner elucidates how the educated average German grappled with a rapidly changing society, while chronicling day-to-day changes in attitudes, beliefs, politics, and prejudices.

Available for the first time in English, this highly illuminating work is a unique portrait of a time, a place, and a people.

Reviews (12)

One Word

Written by AZJEM from Phoenix, AZ on July 16th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 2/5

I have just one word to describe this book: BORING! I guess if you are incredibly curious about Germany and its social climate during the years preceding Hitler's rise and the subsequent persecution of the Jews, this may be of interest to you. But otherwise, it didn't seem to have much of a point. The text is liberally filled with German words; a good understanding of the language would facilitate your appreciation of this book. The only interesting aspect is the fact that the author completed and published his father's book, which was written under a pseudonym, due to the political climate of the era.

A fascinating look at how big events unfold slowly

Written by Ray Sikorski from Tampa, FL on November 10th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

A fascinating look at how big events unfold slowly, and how they affect the life of the average man. Although the author never becomes anyone famous during this portion of his life, and has no direct affect on history, his powers of perception and observation are uncanny. I learned a lot about how history creeps up on us, how extraordinary times can become daily life, and the inner workings of a society in distress.

Amazing Book!

Written by Ward Kelly from Monroe, GA on June 28th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I found this book to be amazing. It was entertaining and informative. I have read a lot on Nazi Germany, but this was the first I've read that put it in a perspective of one average person and the effects that occured in their life. If you want to understand how a country can succomb to tyranny, read this book!

Defying Hitler

Written by Dennis Foley on February 11th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I thought this book was fascinating, and the reader was fine. If you ever wondered how the German people let Hitler happen, this book has an explanation that makes sense. While a very personal memoir, it is a memoir that seems universal to a great many Germans, and illuminates the psychology of the German people that contributed to WW II. It also talks about what happened in Germany between the wars, something I know very little about and found very interesting. I only wish he had completed it to the end of the war.

How to take over a nation.

Written by Jerry on September 19th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I've always wondered how a nation like Germany could fall for the ideology of Hitler and the Nazi Party. This author was in a position in his life to successfully chronicle the take over of a nation. This book is extremely well written and contrary to other opinions extremely well read.

Defying Hilter

Written by Katrina on January 24th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 1/5

This book was awful, I love history especially this time period, but I sent this back after only hearing 3 of the cd's. Maybe it was the person reading it but I found it very irritating and hard to follow.

Defying Hitler

Written by Keith Hazard on June 27th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Astonishing book! What an eye-opener. Very strongly recommended.

Excellet Book

Written by SR on January 16th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book is truly a treasure as a snapshot of another time. When you consider it was written before Hitler had reached his apex of power, the insight is truly remarkable.

Essential reading for students of World War II

Written by Geri on January 10th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

"Defying Hitler" is an intriguing & introspective account of one man's life in the midst of nightmarish times. Artfully blending historical facts with deeply personal commentary, Sebastian Haffner offers us a peek into many of the reasons that Hitler came to power & was able to control millions of minds. Haffner offers no excuses for his generation's behavior, a stance that is sorely lacking in many biographies or personal reflections of pre-war Germany. It is unfortunate that he did not or could not complete his memoirs. Had he been able to share his writings with the world during the rise of Nazification, this book would be have been on equal footing with William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". For anyone interested in World War II or who simply wants to understand how such evil can proliferate, "Defying Hitler" is a must-read. Haffner's writing is superb, thought-provoking & elegant; intelligent & beautiful, filled with an old-world charm.


Written by Paul Crabtree on October 2nd, 2005

  • Book Rating: 4/5

A fascinating account of the period which is worth listening to all the way through. But a TERRIBLE reader; the German words are mangled and unintelligible.

Author Details

Author Details

Haffner, Sebastian

Sebastian Haffner was 'one of the outstanding figures in European journalism' (Guardian, 1999). He emigrated to London from Berlin in the 1930s and became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime, writing influential articles in the Observer. After the war, he became Germany's pre-eminent political commentator. His many books include Germany: Jekyll and Hyde.