[Paleopsych] They Thought They Were Free : The Germans, 1933-45

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Fri Jan 27 03:34:55 UTC 2006

Among the impossibly vast literature about how the Nazis took and held
power, this book is one of a kind. It is an honest look into the minds of
"typical" Germans, not as we see them, but as they saw themselves. The
author admits his biases and overcomes them to let his subjects speak for
themselves. We hear them, in their own words, make their excuses and
justifications and evasions, but the same question will not stop coming up
in our minds: "What would I have done?" This book is a journey of questions
without final answers, and it deserves to be ranked as one of the essential
books of our time. The fact that it is so little known, and particularly
that it is not required reading in college courses, is a disgrace.

Mayer gives us a chilling look at Nazi Germany through conversations and
interviews with ten self described 'little men', who were all members of the
party. The men tell of their beliefs and experiences during the years of the
Third Reich. In some ways the scariest aspect of the book is how normal the
men seem to be. Their Nazi beliefs are somehow more frightning as they do
not come from high ranking officials like Himmler and Goebbles, but rather
from ordinary civilians.
Mayer lived in Germany for several years after the Second World War and
learned quite a bit about Germany. His book gives us a fascinating look at
the Germans and why they behave as they do. We learn a great deal about why
they supported Hitler, their love for law and order, and their general

The one weakness here is that his material is out of date. His statements
may accurately reflect on the Germany of the 40's and 50's, but most likely
do not apply to that country in the Twenty-First Century. The Germany of
today is largely free of the hatred and fear that existed in earlier times.

Shortly after World War II, Milton Sanford Mayer traveled to Germany to find
out the mind set of ordinary Germans who were "little men" in the Nazi
Party. They did not know that he was an American Jew, although he did not
lie to them. To a man, they declared that their days under Hitler were the
best in their lives. I found the parallels with current day America to be
much to close for comfort, if you substitute white rural culture for Jews in
Germany. This book will open your eyes as to how totalitarianism is welcomed
by the mass of people if the media support it, and the economy is good.

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