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Bravery in the Third Reich

Posted by Christopher Shea  March 3, 2009 04:10 PM

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Do you think you would have had the courage to speak or act against the Nazis as they marched toward power in 1930s Germany -- or (a rougher proposition) when they held power? It would be nice to think so. But Ian Kershaw, author of a two-volume biography of Hitler, is under no such illusions: "I think I would have failed the test -- along with millions of others."

Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, members of the "White Rose" student organization in Munich, a handful of would-be assassins: these people showed courage that most Germans did not, Kershaw writes in the journal In Character. And they were usually killed. More typically non-brave citizens included most members of "the major Christian Churches -- Catholic and Protestant," as well as the leaders of those churches.

The article is part of In Character's "courage issue."

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