Living with Hitler

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Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich

Eric Kurlander

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This book addresses key questions about liberal democrats and their activities in Germany from 1933 to the end of the Nazi regime. While it is commonly assumed that liberals fled their homeland at the first sign of jackboots, in reality most stayed. Some even thrived under Hitler, personally as well as professionally. Historian Eric Kurlander examines the motivations, hopes, and fears of liberal democrats—Germans who best exemplified the middle-class progressivism of the Weimar Republic—to discover why so few resisted and so many embraced elements of the Third Reich.


German liberalism was not only the opponent and victim of National Socialism, Kurlander suggests, but in some ways its ideological and sociological antecedent. That liberalism could be both has crucial implications for understanding the genesis of authoritarian regimes everywhere. Indeed, Weimar democrats’ prolonged reluctance to oppose the regime demonstrates how easily a liberal democracy may gradually succumb to fascism.

Eric Kurlander is associate professor of history at Stetson University. He lives in Deland, Florida.

"A provocative study: Eric Kurlander exposes the spaces that liberals and democrats could make for themselves in the Third Reich and explores the aspects of National Socialism that those same liberals and democrats found appealing and even necessary. In this trenchant analysis, liberals are both resilient and complicit."—Peter Fritzsche, author of Life and Death in the Third Reich

"This important and well-researched study of a much neglected topic shows how prominent German liberals responded to the Third Reich. The long-held assumption since 1945 that liberal political and intellectual groups universally rejected or resisted the Third Reich turns out to be something of a myth."—Robert Gellately, author of Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany

"Primo Levi made 'the gray zone' a famous description of moral ambiguity in the extreme conditions of Auschwitz.  Eric Kurlander's exhaustive research brings to life the gray zone that many German liberals inhabited under the Nazis.  It is in some ways the most troubling book I have read about the Third Reich, and it should provoke profound debate about its protagonists."—Charles Maier, Harvard University

"Extremely well written, and very well documented, Eric Kurlander has provided us with not just another book about political parties in Hilter's Germany.  Rather, Living with Hitler also provides us with yet another perspective on how democracy thrived in post-war Germany against seemingly overwhelming odds."—Jeffrey Gaab

"Written in an eminently readable and inviting style. . . . This book is filled with interesting observations and original insights. . . . Certainly filling a gap in the existing scholarship, with its comprehensive portrayal of liberal democrats in the Third Reich."—Jonathan Sperber, The Journal of Central European History

"Eric Kurlander presents a complex and nuanced picture of how some of the most notable liberal intellectuals and politicians of the Weimar Republic dealt with the necessity to "live with Hitler."—Stefan Vogt, American Historical Review

"The real strength of Eric Kurlander’s Living with Hitler is that it is anecdotal. It provides rich and indeed illuminating descriptions of the different ways in which individual liberals coped with the realities of life in the Third Reich, and the book is well worth reading for that alone."—Larry Eugene Jones, German History

ISBN: 9780300116663
Publication Date: August 11, 2009
288 pages, 234 x 156
16 b/w
Hitler's Monsters

A Supernatural History of the Third Reich

Eric Kurlander

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