What We Knew by Eric A. Johnson, Karl-Heinz Reuband
What We Knew by Eric A. Johnson, Karl-Heinz Reuband

What We Knew

Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany: An Oral History
by Eric A. Johnson, Karl-Heinz Reuband
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The horrors of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust still present some of the most disturbing questions in modern history: why did Hitler's party appeal to millions of Germans, and how entrenched was anti-Semitism among the population? How could anyone claim, after the war, that the genocide of Europe's Jews was a secret? Did ordinary non-Jewish Germans live in fear of the Nazi state? In this unprecedented firsthand analysis of daily life as experienced in the Third Reich, What We Knew offers definitive answers to these most important questions.

Combining the expertise of Eric A. Johnson, an American historian, and Karl-Heinz Reuband, a German sociologist, What We Knew is the most startling oral history yet of everyday life in the Third Reich, drawing on gripping interviews as well as a unique survey of four thousand people, both German Jews and non-Jewish Germans.

What We Knew shows firsthand the disparity between German Jews like Elise and Hermann Gottfried, to whom all Germans seemed like "detectives in civilian clothing," and non-Jews like Hubert Lutz, who spent ten years in the Hitler Youth, and "never heard anybody suggest that you spy on your parents or that you spy on anybody else."

Johnson and Reuband's research confirms that much of the German population-at least one-third-were aware of the mass murder of European Jews as it was going on. They were similarly aware of the murder of the mentally ill and handicapped, and the widespread torture employed by Hitler's Gestapo. And surprisingly, the research confirms that Hitler and National Socialism were so immensely popular among most Germans that intimidation and terror were rarely needed to enforce loyalty.

Eric Johnson's earlier book, Nazi Terror, was praised by to the Associated Press as "a benchmark work in Third Reich studies" and by The New York Times Books Review for its "levelheadedness and common sense, backed by painstaking research." Continuing this tradition of erudition, What We Knew redefines our perception about life under the Third Reich and changes the way we think about the Holocaust.