The Third Reich: A New History - review by David Cesarani

David Cesarani

Defies Any Parallel

The Third Reich: A New History

Macmillan 956pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

Every 9 November during the Third Reich, Hitler and his minions performed a solemn memorial rite for comrades killed during the struggle for power. The day that properly commemorated the dead of the Great War was appropriated for men whose fate was rather less noble. But to the Nazis they were 'martyrs' who sacrificed their lives for their prophetic leader and the redemption of Germany. Michael Burleigh brilliantly sums up this flimflammery as a 'Nazified passion play'. It was, however, part of the larger picture in which the ordinary was sentimentalised and recast as sacred. Even the welfare system was adapted to nurture faith in the ethnic community and family. For this reason, too, the Nazis' conflict with the Church was anything but a sideshow.

Burleigh modestly claims no originality for these insights. Although his superb synthesis is bang up to date and can justly claim to be 'a new history' in that sense, he acknowledges in his provocative introduction that there is little 'new' in its analysis or central arguments. Instead, Burleigh has revived

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