There can be few more thankless tasks than chronicling the fate of liberals and democrats under Hitler. Thankless not because it is a tale of horror and tragedy, but because there can have been few political activists who laid claim to the ideals of liberalism and democracy who were more confused, spineless, dilatory and myopic. Which is not to say that Eric Kurlander’s sedulous research is pointless: on the contrary, his study is immensely valuable for the light it sheds on the weakness of liberalism in the Weimar Republic, the ease with which the Nazis manipulated redundant democrats, and the vexed question of whether the Third Reich endured more by consent than coercion.
By examining the conduct of this previously neglected group Kurlander fills in that part of the spectrum between resistance and collaboration. The regime allowed a remarkable degree of latitude to opponents it could afford to ignore (thanks to their ineffectuality and isolation). Liberals exploited this room to various