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Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of… (2009)

af Anne Nelson

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1636126,371 (3.8)7
This riveting account of German resistance is based on years of research by the distinguished journalist Anne Nelson. This is a beautiful and moving portrait of ordinary but heroic figures-an untold story of a circle of Germans and German-Americans in Berlin who took a principled stand against Hitler and the Holocaust. They expressed their opposition by infiltrating the Nazi ministries, distributing samizdat literature to break through the information blockade, and trying to help the Allied forces achieve a military victory.The narrative is constructed around the life of Greta Kuckhoff, an "ordinary woman" educated at the University of Wisconsin, who returned to Germany only to see it sink into a fascist nightmare. The book relates the history of her resistance circle against an explanation of how Germany's civil society was systematically eroded.Greta and her friends grapple with questions of ongoing concern today. How can a citizen balance the tensions between patriotism and ethics? How can civic duty be defined in a period when peaceful protest fails? How do government restrictions and the concentration of media ownership compromise democratic expression?… (mere)
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Fascinating. There was a lot going on in the resistance in Germany thruout the war that simply hasn't been big news to us. Mainly because the dreaded Communists were involved we've actively tried to hide that fact. An important and very interesting read. ( )
  tmph | Sep 13, 2020 |
A great read, I particularly liked that the Author did her homework and started the story in the 1920's well before the Nazi's came to power. It showed the personalities involved and why they opposed Nazism. My only complaint is that there are so many involved that it can be hard to keep track of everyone, but really thats a very minor complaint. If your interested in the Inter war period, WWII, resistance movements, or German society in this period read this book. ( )
  bookmarkaussie | Mar 26, 2015 |
A good general history of the Red Orchestra.

This resistance group was far different from the well known July 20, 1944 Valkyrie assassination attempt on Hitler.

The Red Orchestra group was made up of a wide variety of individuals from intellectuals to artists, bureaucrats and some military officers, some with links to the German Communist party.

Sadly their attempts at sending out military information to the Allies' intelligence agencies was largely ignored.

There are a few mistakes in the text such as the commenting on Nazi Germany's toehold in Gibraltar?! News to me!

However I found some surprising information such as "Widows of officers and statesmen who gave their lives in the 20th July coup attempt were denied West German Government pensions until the 1960's." mainly due to "The history of the anti-nazi resistance was suppressed and the West German legal system upheld the convictions of Germans executed for resistance activities"

All in all worth a read especially if you are interested in espionage in World War 2 and German resistance activities.
( )
1 stem mancmilhist | Aug 28, 2014 |
This story of German resistance to Nazis is, according to the author, a first attempt to tell the story of the interlocking circles of Germans who tried to undermine the activities and existence of the Nazi regime. Additional documents may indeed reveal gaps and misinterpretations in this account but that it has come to light at all is good news for anyone who wonders why no one resisted Hitler. The answer is that quite a number of Germans did, in large and small ways, and continued to do so despite brutal repression. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
The received wisdom of the Holocaust is that all the Jews went passively to their deaths like so many sheep and all Germans either committed heinous war crimes or stood passively by and allowed them to happen. There is also the notion that only Jews died in concentration camps. Then, if you're like me and find history fascinating, you read more and learn about the Warsaw Ghetto and Sobibor and partisan groups of all kinds (even Jewish ones). You learn about the resistance movements in various places (and the very real consequences to taking part in them). The literature (both fictional and non-fictional) is rich and worthwhile. Yet this is the first time that I've really understood that there as an active resistance inside Germany. Yes, I knew that the communists and trade unionists and social democrats and lots of anything else that can be imagined were purged pretty much throughout the time leading up to the war and during the war itself. Yes, I knew that there were a number of different conspiracies to assassinate Hitler. What I didn't know about was the Rote Kapelle (the Red Orchestra) and the gripping story of their courageous resistance from within the highest echelons of German society and the horrible price they paid for it.

Nelson's book documents this group in intricate well-researched detail using as many primary sources as she could get her hands on. Often characterized as Soviet spies, the group was actually filled with artists and intellectuals who passed along information to the Soviets, but who also organized and participated in various resistance efforts in their community. The horror of it all is that it was the sheer ineptitude of the Soviets that ultimately got them caught and executed. The sheer enormity of the risks these people took for so very little gain was both inspiring and terribly tragic. The cast of characters is large, but Nelson does a great job of telling this story. I'd like to say that the aftermath of their sacrifice was justice for the people who perpetrated their deaths, but those individuals were protected by the US in a misguided attempt to fight the demons of communism.

Lastly, I was struck by the information that over a period of twelve years almost 3,000,000 Germans were in and out of concentration camps and penitentiaries for political reasons. About 800,000 were arrest for overt anti-Nazi acts; of these, only 300,000 were still alive after the war so about 500,000 died resisting the Nazi government.

The thirties and the run up to the War and the War itself are crucial to understanding the world today. So much of history repeats itself again and again - the more information we have, the more nuanced our view, the more prepared we will be to fight fascism wherever it occurs. ( )
4 stem kraaivrouw | Nov 30, 2009 |
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To the children of the Rote Kapelle: Stefan, Hans, Karin, Saskia, Ule Irene, and so many others.
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This riveting account of German resistance is based on years of research by the distinguished journalist Anne Nelson. This is a beautiful and moving portrait of ordinary but heroic figures-an untold story of a circle of Germans and German-Americans in Berlin who took a principled stand against Hitler and the Holocaust. They expressed their opposition by infiltrating the Nazi ministries, distributing samizdat literature to break through the information blockade, and trying to help the Allied forces achieve a military victory.The narrative is constructed around the life of Greta Kuckhoff, an "ordinary woman" educated at the University of Wisconsin, who returned to Germany only to see it sink into a fascist nightmare. The book relates the history of her resistance circle against an explanation of how Germany's civil society was systematically eroded.Greta and her friends grapple with questions of ongoing concern today. How can a citizen balance the tensions between patriotism and ethics? How can civic duty be defined in a period when peaceful protest fails? How do government restrictions and the concentration of media ownership compromise democratic expression?

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