An NPR Best Book of the Year
Winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt, this behind-the-scenes account of the manipulation, hubris, and greed that together led to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria brilliantly dismantles the myth of an effortless victory and offers a dire warning for our current political crisis.
February 20, 1933, an unremarkable day during a harsh Berlin winter: A meeting of twenty-four German captains of industry and senior Nazi officials is being held in secret in the plush lounge of the Reichstag. They are there to extract funds for the accession to power of the National Socialist Party and its Chancellor. This opening scene sets a tone of consent that will lead to the worst possible repercussions.
March 12, 1938, the annexation of Austria is on the agenda: A grotesque day intended to make history—the newsreels capture a motorized army on the move, a terrible, inexorable power. But behind Goebbels’s splendid propaganda, an ersatz Blitzkrieg unfolds, the Panzers breaking down en masse on the roads into Austria. The true behind-the-scenes account of the Anschluss—a patchwork of minor flourishes of strength and fine words, fevered telephone calls, and vulgar threats—all reveal a starkly different picture. It is not strength of character or the determination of a people that wins the day, but rather a combination of intimidation and bluff.
With this vivid, compelling history, Éric Vuillard warns against the peril of willfully blind acquiescence, and offers a reminder that, ultimately, the worst is not inescapable.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Not what I expected
This is not a history. There are no citations, no references. There are ideas presented as facts, if you care to check them you might find them real, or not. The ones I know ring true, the many others I may try to verify because they may lead me farther on my quest. So what did I read? A rant, a diatribe, a lengthy complaint against the men complicit in Hitler’s brutal attempt at world domination. That’s it.
A true and inciteful condemnation of cowardly, ineffective leaders, greedy businessmen, and a non-existent response to Hitler’s first foray into another country. A raging madman, and no one willing to stand in his path. And it would have been so easy in 1938. Not so easy in 1942.
There are lessons in this book for America. I hope we are listening. Did I find what I was looking for? No. Is what I found useful? Maybe, time will tell.
Amazing, sad, compelling.
It is hard to describe the intensity and meaning of this brief work. The language is soaring as well as packing a gut-punch. It is an important work about humankind.