No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State. BY ELISABETH SIFTON AND FRITZ STERN. New York Review Books, 2013, 157 pp. $19.95.
When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Europeans had a long tradition of armed resistance to authority from which they could draw. In countries such as Denmark, France, and Poland, substantial movements emerged in opposition to Nazi occupation. Yet inside Germany itself, a comparatively small resistance struggled to gain traction and rarely posed a serious threat to Hitler’s rule.
Most Germans worried primarily about their own survival and thus, as information began to leak out about the deportation of Jews and other Nazi abuses, they kept any concerns they might have had to themselves. After all, mentioning such matters could carry the death penalty, as could listening to foreign radio stations and spreading rumors. The threat of harsh punishment largely worked: the Nazis
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