The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A Material History of Nazi Germany

The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A Material History of Nazi Germany

Author
Roger Moorhouse
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
A medium-sized hardback of 258 pages, Roger Moorhouse's "The Third Reich in 100 Objects" is a fascinating survey of Nazi Germany's short and inglorious history, covering a span from the homely appeal (if that's the word) of Rudolf Hess' cheap woollen longjohns to the high kitsch of cultic objects of the Nazi religion such as the iconic Blutfahne or 'Blood Flag' of the Munich Putsch.

As you would expect from Pen and Sword Books (Greenhill being one of their imprints) the content is of high quality, well written with large and clear illustrations, all complemented by a crisp foreword by Professor Richard Overy. Roger Moorhouse handles his material with confidence, as you might anticipate from a military historian and specialist in modern German history, and also has a good eye for interesting pieces of memorabilia with which to tell his stories.

The book, which unfolds as a continuous series of 100 vignettes, each centred around an artefact, can be dipped-into with great interest. However, I think the real benefit is realised when it is read roughly in sequence, as the broadly chronological order of the artefacts presented reveals itself, and we are given perhaps the most interesting lesson of life in Nazi Germany, the process by which the German people were stripped of - or in some cases voluntarily gave up - their rights (see the vignette of the suppression of the 'Vorwartz' newspaper), volition and freedom and the way in which the Nazi state insinuated itself into their daily lives (cf. vignettes on Mein Kampf, Winterhilfswerk, and the 'People's Receiver' radio set). Ultimately, the book provides a crash course in Nazi hegemony of the cultural milieu and the many and subtle (and not so subtle) measures of cultural control at their disposal, as well as the dire consequences of resistance (see the 'Hampel postcards' for the low-key exercises of defiance which could see their authors put to death).

This is complemented by interesting insights into Hitler the man (his moustache comb, paint set, Geli Rabaul bust), and also Nazism as a state within a state with its own hierarchy (Golden Party Badge), thus presenting more of the 'inner side' of the all-encompassing regime.

Many of the victims of Nazism were left memorialised only by what objects they had left behind - as witness vignette 83, the Treblinka flower brooch - and it is interesting and salutary to see the state which murdered them represented in the same way.

Well chosen and strikingly illustrated, with clear, concise text, this book is highly recommended for someone wanting to gain an insight into life in, and the life of, the Third Reich.

Five stars.

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