Memoirs of life under fascism....
September 13, 2018 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for first-person memoirs by people who lived in fascist countries, but were (at least initially) members of the group in power, not a persecuted minority.... that is, I want to hear from the Germans, not the Jews.

There's a vast number of Holocaust-themed memoirs - for good reason and I've read a lot of them - but from what I can tell - and there's obviously reasons for this too - not that many Germans chose to write about their lives under Hitler. Or Italians who lived under Mussolini. Or Spaniards under Franco. Can you point me to some of those examples (in English)? Could be people who were actually in government positions or just ordinary lives. Asking for, uh, a friend who lives in a country with a power-hungry ruler bent on maximizing his personal power and breaking down long-standing democratic norms and institutions.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Law & Government (21 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler
I read it in German, hopefully well translated.
posted by 15L06 at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hans Hotter, a notable opera bass who lived in Germany at the time, writes about that period in his memoirs. They aren't the focus of the work, though.
posted by praemunire at 1:21 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Diaries of Count Ciano (Mussolini's son-in-law and foreign minister) are readily available in English.
posted by TheRaven at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been reading a lot about the Weimar Republic and fascism this summer. This book was mentioned in one of the books I read as a good source of firsthand stories of life during the the third reich:

Life in the Third Reich: Daily Life in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945

This too looks interesting:

Inside the Third Reich
posted by nikaspark at 1:24 PM on September 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Also, if you wanna throw in a great book on fascism in general this book is fantastic:

The Anatomy of Fascism
posted by nikaspark at 1:26 PM on September 13, 2018

Oh yeah, as far as Mussolini goes, Umberto Eco has an excellent essay based on his experiences under Italian fascism:

posted by nikaspark at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not a memoir, but Frauen consists of interviews with women who were adults during the Third Reich.

Also, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed might work, but I don't remember details about the book.
posted by FencingGal at 1:40 PM on September 13, 2018

Came here to recommend Mischling, Second Degree. The author was 1/4 Jewish, but passed as Aryan and it describes her experiences in an elite school for Hitler Youth. Fascinating.

As the Waltz Was Ending is similar, and good: it's a memoir of a woman who was a dancer with the Vienna Ballet as a teenager during the Nazi era (so, not German, but Austrians were basically treated like Aryan Germans).
posted by lunasol at 2:07 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might find Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts interesting. It covers life in Germany in the mid-to-late 1930s from the point of view of the US Ambassador and his family.
posted by rebekah at 2:09 PM on September 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Red Horizons by Ion Pacepa.

From Amazon: "A former chief of Romania's foreign intelligence service reveals the extraordinary corruption of the Nicolae Ceausescu government of Romania, its brutal machinery of oppression, and its Machiavellian relationship with the West. An inside story of how Communist Party leaders really live."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:27 PM on September 13, 2018

Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–45 is very likely of interest for you. Here is a review, titled "It Can Happen Here," from the 28 June 2018 issue of The New York Review of Books.
Milton Mayer’s 1955 classic They Thought They Were Free, recently republished with an afterword by the Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans, was one of the first accounts of ordinary life under Nazism. Dotted with humor and written with an improbably light touch, it provides a jarring contrast with Sebastian Haffner’s devastating, unfinished 1939 memoir, Defying Hitler, which gives a moment-by-moment, you-are-there feeling to Hitler’s rise. (The manuscript was discovered by Haffner’s son after the author’s death and published in 2000 in Germany, where it became an immediate sensation.)* A much broader perspective comes from Konrad Jarausch’s Broken Lives, an effort to reconstruct the experience of Germans across the entire twentieth century. What distinguishes the three books is their sense of intimacy. They do not focus on historic figures making transformative decisions. They explore how ordinary people attempted to navigate their lives under terrible conditions.

In They Thought They Were Free, Mayer decided to focus on ten people, different in many respects but with one characteristic in common: they had all been members of the Nazi Party. Eventually they agreed to talk, accepting his explanation that he hoped to enable the people of his nation to have a better understanding of Germany. Mayer was truthful about that and about nearly everything else. But he did not tell them that he was a Jew.

In the late 1930s—the period that most interested Mayer—his subjects were working as a janitor, a soldier, a cabinetmaker, an office manager, a baker, a bill collector, an inspector, a high school teacher, and a police officer. One had been a high school student. All were male. None of them occupied positions of leadership or influence. All of them referred to themselves as “wir kleine Leute, we little people.” They lived in Marburg, a university town on the river Lahn, not far from Frankfurt.
posted by standardasparagus at 3:09 PM on September 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Not fascist, but if your interests stretch as far as daily life under totalitarianism more generally, then I can strongly recommend Svetlana Alexievich's oral histories, such as Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, and also Tina Rosenberg's The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism.
posted by Beardman at 3:37 PM on September 13, 2018

The German War.
posted by Buddy_Boy at 4:34 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Inside the Third Reich
posted by nikaspark at 1:24 PM on September 13

Seconding this, It's authored by Albert Speer, Hitler's favored architect amongst other things. It's well written and goes into detail about Speer's personal experiences with Hitler and the beginnings of the Third Reich.

The Fall of Berlin 1945 is also good, it's really about the last days of WWII but also goes into the lives of ordinary German soldiers/citizens under the decaying Nazi leadership at some length.
posted by Query at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2018

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada is a novel, but it's based on a true story and was written in 1947 so you may find it worthwhile.
posted by gatorae at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Woman in Berlin
posted by perhapses at 8:10 PM on September 13, 2018

Haven’t read it but I understand A Model Childhood by Christa Wolf is about her childhood in Nazi Germany.
posted by EatMyHat at 12:57 AM on September 14, 2018

Mephisto by Klaus Mann.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:06 AM on September 14, 2018

Related: On the Natural History of Destruction by W.G. Sebald
posted by whimsicalnymph at 5:14 PM on September 17, 2018

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