Joachim Fest was one of the most important authors and historians of the Federal Republic of Germany. From 1963 he worked as chief editor of Norddeutscher Rundfunk (North German Broadcasting), and from 1973 to 1993 as editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His biography Hitler (1974) has been translated into more than twenty languages. His other works include Inside Hitler’s Bunker (2005), Speer: The Final Verdict (2002), and Plotting Hitler’s Death (1996).
Herbert A. Arnold holds a PhD from the University of Würzburg and is a professor emeritus of German and Letters at Wesleyan University.
Martin Chalmers’s recent translations include Summer Resort by Esther Kinsky and Brussels, the Gentle Monster: or the Disenfranchisement of Europe by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. In 2004 he was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for The Lesser Evil, his translation of the post-1945 diaries of Victor Klemperer.
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In early 1936, from our place by the wall, Wolfgang and I eavesdropped on a rare argument between our parents. There had been a strangely irritable atmosphere all day. My mother evidently started it, reminding my father in a few short sentences what she had put up with, politically and personally, in the last three years. She said she wasn’t complaining, but she had never dreamt of such a future. From morning to night she was standing in front of pots, pans, and washboards, and when the day was over she had to attend to the torn clothes of the children, patched five times over. And then, after what seemed like a hesitant pause, she asked whether my father did not, after all, want to reconsider joining the Party. The gentlemen from the education authority had called twice in the course of the year to persuade him to give way; at the last visit they had even held out the prospect of rapid promotion. In any case, she couldn’t cope anymore…And to indicate the end of her plea, after a long pause she added a simple “Please!”
My father replied a little too wordily (as I sometimes thought in the years to come), but at the same time revealed how uneasy he had been about the question for a long time. He said something about the readjustments that she, like many others, had been forced to make. He spoke about habit, which after often difficult beginnings provides a certain degree of stability. He spoke about conscience and trust in God. Also that he himself, as well as my brothers and I, could gradually relieve her of some of the work in the household, and so on. But my mother insisted on an answer, suggesting that joining the Party would not change anything: “After all, we remain who we are!” It did not take long for my father to retort: “Precisely not! It would change everything!”
A portrait of an intellectually rigorous German household opposed to the Nazis and how its members suffered for their political stance
Few writers have deepened our understanding of the Third Reich as much as German historian, biographer, journalist, and critic Joachim Fest. His biography of Adolf Hitler has reached millions of readers around the world. Born in 1926, Fest experienced firsthand the rise of the Nazis, the Second World War, and a catastrophically defeated Germany, thus becoming a vital witness to these difficult years.
In this memoir of his childhood and youth, Fest offers a far-reaching view of how he experienced the war and National Socialism. True to the German Bildung tradition, Fest grows up immersed in the works of Goethe, Schiller, Mörike, Rilke, Kleist, Mozart, and Beethoven. His father, a conservative Catholic teacher, oppose“Exceptional…it tells in a modest, believable, quietly bitter, and totally proud way of a family’s extraordinary decency…Strong and unique. Without it, the English language these days is short a very good book.” —New York Times (Global Edition)
“Fest’s accounts of being called up, of trying to avoid military service, fighting, seeing comrades die, and being caught and kept as a prisoner of war are engrossing.” —Independent On Sunday
“A heroic interrogation of Germany’s past.” —Sunday Telegraph
“[Fest] makes it hard to think about those blighted years, and it should be hard. His book is a glory, but only if you dare.” —The Scotsman
"Fest’s portraits of his brothers, his mother, and his cousins—and of himself as a teenage soldier and POW—are equally vivid and full of pathos. —Lorin Stein, The Paris Review