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It began with an armchair. It began with the surprise discovery of a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas that had been sewn into its cushion. The SS Officer's Armchair is the story of what happened next, as historian Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart. Who was he? What had his life been - and how had it ended?Lee reveals the strange life of a man whose ambition propelled him to become part of the Nazi machinery of terror. He discovers unexpected ancestors in New Orleans, untold stories of SS life and family fragmentation. As Lee delves deeper, Griesinger's responsibility as an active participant in Nazi crimes becomes clearer.Dr Robert Griesinger's name is not infamous. But to understand the inner workings of the Third Reich, we need to know not just its leaders, but the ordinary Nazis who made up its ranks. Revealing how Griesinger's choices reverberate into present-day Germany, and among descendants of perpetrators, Lee raises potent questions about blame, manipulation and responsibility.A historical detective story and a gripping account of one historian's hunt for answers, The SS Officer's Armchair is at once a unique addition to our understanding of Nazi Germany and a chilling reminder of how such regimes are made not by monsters, but by ordinary people.

 

Details

ISBN: 9781911214984
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Publication Date: 1 Oct 2020
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication City, Country: London, United Kingdom
Dimensions (cm): 23.4(H) x 15.3(L) x 15.3(W)
Weight (gm): 419

 

Reviews

Beautiful and gripping, it unfolds like a detective story as an obscured past emerges into the light. -- Hadley Freeman, author of House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family
Memorable and chilling... As well as a brilliant researcher, Lee proves himself to be an insightful narrator - of both the life of a Nazi "desk murderer", and the continuing attempts of Griesinger's family to come to terms with the long shadow his role as an SS officer has cast over their lives. -- PD Smith * Guardian *
An intriguing, honest and superbly documented portrait of what could be called an 'unremarkable' SS life... The strength of Lee's book is the way these facts of history are twinned with the perverted domesticity of everyday Nazism... The armchair stuffed with hidden swastikas is an apt symbol for that weird and disturbing double life. -- Bart van Es * Spectator *
[An] absorbing work of historical detection... Lee's riveting book opens a window onto the life of an "ordinary" Nazi. -- Ian Thomson * Evening Standard *
Understand this mediocre, provincial Nazi and you understand the terrible tragedy of 20th-century Germany... This is an admirable work of historical research, and is carefully and briskly written. Lee has been a pitbull of a researcher. -- David Aaronovitch * The Times *

 

Author Biography

Daniel Lee is a historian of the Second World War and a specialist in the history of Jews in France and North Africa during the Holocaust. He is a lecturer in modern history at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of Petain's Jewish Children (2014). As a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, Lee is a regular broadcaster on radio. He lives in north London.
The SS Officer's Armchair: In Search of a Hidden Life
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