Although its tragic and harrowing subject matter makes it a daunting read, Under Two Dictators is one of the most significant memoirs of the twentieth century, and remains a wake-up call to anyone who might still fall for the totalitarian temptation in the twenty-first. It should be required reading for any serious student of history and politics.
The author, Margarete Buber-Neumann, was born in 1901 to a good bourgeois German family in Potsdam, outside Berlin. Though we learn little of her background and early life from the book, the young Grete Thüring – as she was before her marriage – seems to have suffered the typical Prussian curse of a harshly authoritarian father; she received more understanding from her liberal mother.
Coming of age in the shadow of the First World War, Grete, humourless and earnest, joined a Socialist Youth organisation where she met and rapidly married Rafael Buber, son of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. After the birth of two daughters, they broke up equally rapidly, as Grete's radicalisation took