Title: Darkness over Germany:
A Warning from History
Author: E. Amy Buller
Rating: 4.5 of 5
In the years leading up to World War II, E. Amy Buller spent a lot of effort fostering dialogue between English educators and Germans. Obviously, war was not averted, but in this book (published in 1943 while WWII was still raging) she recollects many of the conversations she had with German friends and acquaintances. Most of the conversations involve Germans who dislike Nazism to some degree, ranging from unease to outright hatred. This seems to be an attempt to help understand and humanize the enemy to some degree, looking forward to the day when the war is over and people will have to coexist again…perhaps hoping that this will not end in another bitterness-inducing Treaty of Versailles.
Additionally, these conversations provide a sober warning of how difficult it can be to resist once a brutish totalitarian regime has consolidated power. Many of them feature regret that people waited too long to stand up to the Nazis coupled with fear, bewilderment, and/or resignation regarding the seeming futility of making any kind of stand now. For example:
“Of course, our real guilt lies in our slowness and in letting these gangsters get the whole country in their grip sufficiently to paralyze all collective opposition. So many people were so relieved to see any kind of order emerge out of the uncertainty and chaos that they said ‘Certain things the Nazis are doing are good,’ and left it at that, without inquiring on what this new order was based or what was the spirit of the movement that was sweeping the land.” (p. 20)
Throughout the book Hitler and his cronies are characterized as upstart “gangsters” whose ham-handed foreign policy can lead only to war. For instance:
“It is also, I gather, true that Hitler is completely ill at ease with the more cultured and conventional diplomats, and looks upon them as quite unsuitable agents for putting over his policy with vigour and determination. The groveling insincerity of von Ribbentrop with his horde of keen and fanatical young men, together with the high tension atmosphere of No. 63 [the Nazi Foreign Office], gave Hitler the kind of setting and support he felt he needed.” (p. 69)
“And finally there was the von Ribbentrop and Hewel type who had never held power, men who had very little integrity to suppress and who loved the power that was so new to them. They cheated, bullied and would even murder, I suspect, to gain their ends. All the tricks of the dishonest commercial traveler were in use among this crowd.” (p. 93)
Quite a bit of space is also devoted to exploring how Nazism became widely accepted because it had a religious appeal to those who had drifted from traditional spirituality (especially Christianity).
“The whole world today is full of false gods, and it is not surprising that in Germany they have chosen particularly brutal and violent gods. That makes it easier to see what is happening but there are also other false gods being followed in America and England.'” (p. 157)
The recently written introduction to the book is unnecessary (any relevant information on Buller is presented again and better in the afterward) and goes a bit “Godwin’s Law.” I would strongly recommend skipping it and deciding for yourself what kinds of warnings the sobering history contained in this book has for our own time.