Book : Promise Me you’ll shoot yourself

H: Hey Celine, how have you been?
C: I am fine. Tell me what topic you have in your mind today?
H: Would it be okay, if we discuss about a book?
C: Book? Would you stop discussing if I say no?
H: Of course not. Why should I?
C: Go, ahead. What is this book?
H: The Book title is “Promise me you will shoot yourself” by Florian Huber
C: Wow! Is that a crime novel?
H: No my Friend, it is a non-fiction book
C: Then sure it must be a dark book. What is it about?
H: It is about the final days of Third Reich
C: What Reich?
H: It’s about the final days of the WW II in Germany, when Russian Army marched into a German town of Demmin
C: So, is that an army’s account?
H : No it’s an account of life of ordinary Germans towards end of Nazi regime
C: That should be interesting. tell me more about it
H: The ordinary Germans, who until the final days believed that their regime could rule the world, couldn’t come to terms with the imminent defeat of their regime
C: How could someone believe that such a brutal regime would rule the world?
H: People were so taken by the charisma of their savior that they failed to see the truth
C: What Savior? How could one see a fascist killer as savior?
H: You have to understand the situation, which led to this state.
C: What situation?
H: At the end of WW1 Germany was decimated and they were ruined due to Versailles Treaty. That followed by Great Depression in 1929. People’s lives were so decimated that they were looking for a savior
C: So they turned to a Fascist?
H: Fascist doesn’t come with the label of Fascist. They come with rhetoric skills and ability to pied pipe the people to their own fate.
C: Did people really him as a Savior ?
H: You won’t believe it. See this poem from one of the common Germans on Hitler
“I have become a child again,
Trusting, helpless and silent.
Germany bleeds from a thousand wounds.
At the eleventh hour, I have
At last found a savior”
C : Isn’t it weird that people could be so wrong in their Judgements?
H: It isn’t surprising. Us humans are crazy creatures. There is no rhyme or reason to most of our behavior
C: How could you generalize ?
H: I am not generalizing, I am simply saying.
C: Stop preaching and tell me more about the book
H: You know what Hitler did in 48 hours just after winning the elections?
C: What? Did he celebrate the massive victory?
H: No he went on a campaign. the author mentions that “he was always on the move”
C: So he had a plan to take people by his charm and make them dance to his tunes. Interesting
H: To me the surprising part was when author says that German people knew Hitler and his party’s way of dealing with opponents. Yet they turned a blind eye. Isn’t it scary?
C: Yes, indeed.
H: I was wondering how people could turn a blind eye, then the author sort of clarifies. The Chancellor (Hitler) kept a constant flow of news. So People often discussed the news not the chancellor. I think that could be one of the reasons.
C: Yeah distraction is the best weapon any dictator got at his/her disposal.
H: But another surprising note from the author is that people were scared in their hearts, yet they followed chancellor’s orders.
C: How could one reconcile this contradiction?
H: According to the author, they didn’t. They simply chose to ignore this contradiction and started having their own realities.
C: That’s actually sad to her.
H: Also, people became increasing afraid of being marginalized if they didn’t support the party. The fear of marginalization was so overwhelming that even people who were critical of the party ended up supporting it
C: I never thought that there could be so much complexities behind the horrors of Third Reich.
H: You haven’t heard half of the complexities yet
C: What else could be there?
H: People felt that the need to be part of something great. They apparently felt truly that the party and the Chancellor are going to do great things
C: Isn’t it a betrayal of people’s trust by the NAZI party and its leader?
H: Of course. People are not totally blameless either.
C: How do you say so?
H: See, here is a passage from the book, quoting an ordinary German’s journal “The only way is to turn a blind eye, block your ears, seal yourself off. You become so spineless as to be inured to what is going on around you and eventually you descend into a kind of madness & lose all grasp of reality”
C: This is really scary stuff.
H: Indeed.
C: Okay, I sort of get what it was to be a commoner during the 30s. But I still don’t get the reason behind the title
H: Oh, yes, I almost forgot.
C: Thank goodness, I asked
H: Once people realized that the Germany was losing, they couldn’t come to terms with the loss. Their illusions were shattered. Upon the arrival of Red Army, people fled the German town of Demmain.
C: Still, the title?
H: More people committed suicides, killed their kith & kin, when they found out they don’t have necessary means to flee
C: what?
H: Yes, the local office had lists of people who committed suicides. The author says that the list isn’t complete.
C: but why would they commit suicides?
H: Partly because the party’s propaganda about Red Army was so severe that people believed everything to be true. They would rather kill themselves than being governed by foreign powers.
C: So fear was the trigger
H: Yes. Isn’t it sad that people, who were mostly nice, had to resort to this desperate act for , I wouldn’t say no, their minimal act of turning blind to the horrors.
C: Shouldn’t they take full responsibility for letting such an evil doer run amok?
H: What do you think people should have done?
C: I don’t know, may be voted him out of office or take to streets
H: He promptly neutered the powers of regional governments, dissolved the parliament, made all dissent illegal within years of acquiring the power. Do you think people would do illegal things, when they are not directly harmed by actions of government? Would you have stood up?
C: I would like to think so, but I am not sure.
H: Exactly, we never know how we would behave in such situations.
C: Thanks, for ruining my evening with such a dark narrative.
H: Would you like to hear a Joke, that could make you little lighter?
C: Go on
H: You know who the first invader of people’s privacy?
C: Who Hitler?
H: No The Almighty God. Isn’t he the one watching everyone of your actions? 😉
C: You’re irredeemable..!!

Book : Promise me you’ll shoot yourself

Author: Florian Huber

Reviews from The Guardian 1 & 2

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