It began with an armchair. It began with the surprise discovery of a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas sewn into its cushion. The SS Officer’s Armchair is the story of what happened next, as Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart. Who was he? What had his life been – and how had it ended?
Lee reveals the strange life of a man whose ambition propelled him to become part of the Nazi machinery of terror. He discovers his unexpected ancestral roots, untold stories of SS life and family fragmentation. As Lee delves deeper, Griesinger’s responsibility as an active participant in Nazi crimes becomes clearer.
Dr Robert Griesinger’s name is not infamous. But to understand the inner workings of the Third Reich, we need to know not just its leaders, but the ordinary Nazis who made up its ranks. Revealing how Griesinger’s choices reverberate into present-day Germany, and among descendants of perpetrators, Lee raises potent questions about blame, manipulation and responsibility.
A historical detective story and a gripping account of one historian’s hunt for answers, The SS Officer’s Armchair is at once a unique addition to our understanding of Nazi Germany and a chilling reminder of how such regimes are made not by monsters, but by ordinary people.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Daniel Lee was at a dinner party when one of the guests asked him to look into the surprising discovery of Nazi papers sewn inside a vintage armchair in Amsterdam. The files belonged to Dr Robert Griesinger, a fairly low-ranking Nazi official and lawyer from Stuttgart. But who was he and how did this man’s most important documentation end up inside the chair? At the time, the historian didn’t know this particular query would turn into a full-blown investigation into how ordinary German men made their way up the Nazi Party’s ranks of terror, becoming enablers to the famous fanatics and murderers. Lee tracks down Griesinger’s surviving relatives, travels all around Europe and America to find archives about his unexpected family ancestry and intriguing upbringing as a young man. The author contextualises the SS officer’s life within the morally complex history of Nazi Germany. What will the historian uncover in this addictive read?