They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45

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University of Chicago Press, May 19, 1966 - History - 346 pages
41 Reviews
First published in 1955, They Thought They Were Free is an eloquent and provocative examination of the development of fascism in Germany. Mayer’s book is a study of ten Germans and their lives from 1933-45, based on interviews he conducted after the war when he lived in Germany. Mayer had a position as a research professor at the University of Frankfurt and lived in a nearby small Hessian town which he disguised with the name “Kronenberg.” “These ten men were not men of distinction,” Mayer noted, but they had been members of the Nazi Party; Mayer wanted to discover what had made them Nazis.

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.”--from Chapter 13, “But Then It Was Too Late”

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Review: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45

User Review  - Goodreads

A must read. Though a lost American virtue, Public Virtue, placing the need of others above your own it is necessary in society. The Germans of this time went along with society, because of this the ... Read full review

Review: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45

User Review  - Daniel - Goodreads

A must read. Though a lost American virtue, Public Virtue, placing the need of others above your own it is necessary in society. The Germans of this time went along with society, because of this the ... Read full review

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About the author (1966)

Milton Sanford Mayer (1908-1986) was a journalist and educator. He was the author of about a dozen books. He studied at the University of Chicago from 1925 to 1928 but he did not earn a degree; in 1942 he told the Saturday Evening Post that he was "placed on permanent probation for throwing beer bottles out a dormitory window." He was a reporter for the Associated Press, the Chicago Evening Post, and the Chicago Evening American. He wrote a monthly column in the Progressive for over forty years. He won the George Polk Memorial Award and the Benjamin Franklin Citation for Journalism. He worked for the University of Chicago in its public relations office and lectured in its Great Books Program. He also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College, and the University of Louisville. He was an adviser to Robert M. Hutchins when Hutchins founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Mayer was a conscientious objector during World War II but after the war traveled to Germany and lived with German families. Those experiences informed his most influential book They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45.

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