Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Killing Hitler

Killing Hitler: The Third Reich and the Plots Against the Fuhrer

Killing Hitler is a look at some of the significant plots to assassinate Hitler.  Each plot, or group of plots, is dealt with in a chapter. While they overlap and move backward and forward in time, the chapters are essentially sequential so that as the book goes on you move chronologically towards Hitler's end. It's not an easy read: lots of background information and troop numbers surround the more compelling details about the individual plots.  But it is an interesting vantage point from which to look at the progress of the second world war. No, Bonhoeffer does not get a mention.  It's made me determined to get hold of Metaxas' book and read that before too long.

So it's a book that would appeal to those who like a fair bit of detail in their war history.  The most interesting part was actually my own reactions as I read the book.  Obviously, I knew in advance that none of the plots succeed.  And yet each time I felt my hope rising as they made their plans and I had to keep reminding myself that I already knew it would not work.

Another odd thing was that I was sitting there, reading a book, and willing someone dead.  That was very odd.  And that was part of the same dilemma that each individual assassin faced.  When, if ever, is it right to assassinate someone?  I admired some of the assassins more than others depending on their motives. You can't help but wonder how many lives could have been saved if one of those assassinations had succeeded.  And yet what are the criteria that must be met before you believe someone should be killed?

Finally, it helped me to understand a bit more about how much the people of Europe suffered during that war: death, brutality, starvation, the total destruction of normal life and the long-term implications of living after the war when almost all of the infrastructure needed had been destroyed.  There was horror - true horror - on a scale impossible to grasp from where I'm sitting distanced by both time and geography.  Many people were therefore forced to flee as refugees, across borders, without paperwork or visas, to save their lives.  Some of them would have had to pay very shady characters to do so.  The needs of these refugees for asylum informed the development of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The reality is we often only understand the horror of these situations, and therefore the very real dangers people are fleeing from, after a significant regime change and the passing of some time.  I wonder how history will reflect on the refugees around the world in 2013 and the reactions of the nations to whom they applied for shelter.

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