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An intimate portrait of German life during World War II, shining a light on ordinary people living in a picturesque Bavarian village under Nazi rule, from a past winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History.
Hidden deep in the Bavarian mountains lies the picturesque village of Oberstdorf—a place where for hundreds of years people lived simple lives while history was made elsewhere. Yet even this remote idyll could not escape the brutal iron grip of the Nazi regime.
From the author of the international bestseller Travelers in the Third Reich comes A Village in the Third Reich, shining a light on the lives of ordinary people. Drawing on personal archives, letters, interviews and memoirs, it lays bare their brutality and love; courage and weakness; action, apathy and grief; hope, pain, joy, and despair.
Within its pages we encounter people from all walks of life – foresters, priests, farmers and nuns; innkeepers, Nazi officials, veterans and party members; village councillors, mountaineers, socialists, slave labourers, schoolchildren, tourists and aristocrats. We meet the Jews who survived – and those who didn’t; the Nazi mayor who tried to shield those persecuted by the regime; and a blind boy whose life was judged "not worth living."
This is a tale of conflicting loyalties and desires, of shattered dreams—but one in which, ultimately, human resilience triumphs. These are the stories of ordinary lives at the crossroads of history.
Julia Boyd is the author of A Dance with the Dragon: The Vanished World of Peking’s Foreign Colony; The Excellent Doctor Blackwell: The Life of the First Woman Physician; and Hannah Riddell: An Englishwoman in Japan. Previously a trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, she now lives in London.
Angelika Patel was born into an old Oberstdorf family. She studied History and German Literature before taking an MBA at INSEAD at Fontainebleu. She is the author of Ein Dorf im Spiegel seiner Zeit (A Village in the Mirror of its Time): Oberstdorf 1918–1952. She lives in London and Oberstdorf.
"What Julia Boyd and Angelika Patel have done is nothing short of remarkable: they’ve documented in detail how villagers, at first slowly and then rapidly, came to embrace Nazism." Air Mail
"An illuminating look at Hitler's rise to power and how it played out in one Bavarian village. The prose is clear, confident and measured, connecting national events to Oberstdorf as often as possible, a device that never feels forced — only human."
"A remarkable moral drama, a miniature epic that is subtle in characterization, gripping in detail, and shocking in its brutal ordinariness.”
Dominic Green, The Wall Street Journal
"This richly textured chronicle offers valuable insights into 'the most far-reaching tragedy in human history.'" Publishers Weekly
"It is the tales of day-to-day life and struggles of the villagers that help the reader understand how people either wholeheartedly believed the Nazis’ agenda, resisted it, or pretended to follow in order to get by." Booklist
"How a storied, seemingly idyllic Bavarian town gradually embraced Nazi ideology...A thorough, chilling social history of how Nazi ideology took hold at the local level." Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Travelers in the Third Reich:
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History
"While there have been countless books written about the rise of Hitler, Travelers in the Third Reich relies on firsthand accounts by foreigners to convey what it was really like to visit, study or vacation in Germany during the 1920s and ’30s. As Julia Boyd emphasizes, too many people allowed reverence for a nation’s glorious past to warp their judgment about its morally repugnant present. That’s a lesson still worth thinking about.” Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Conveys how challenging it must have been to forecast the dimensions of the impending tragedy. Boyd notes that, in 1936, even so astute and well-intentioned an observer as the African-American educator W.E. B. DuBois—who should have been particularly attuned to race-baiting and prejudice—stopped short of demonizing the regime.” The Boston Globe