Home > memoir > The Shipwreck Of A Nation: H Peter Nennhaus

The Shipwreck Of A Nation: H Peter Nennhaus

September 3, 2009

Early on the morning of September 3 1939, the British ambassador to Berlin delivered a letter to the German government which stated that unless the German government announced plans to withdraw its invasion force from Poland by 11am that day, Britan would declare war against Germany.

Germany ignored the British ultimatum and so, at 11.15 that morning, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister of the time, announced: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

The French government presented a similar message to Berlin at 12.30, giving Germany until 17.00 to withdraw its troops from Poland. This was also ignored, and the French government also declared war against Germany.

In the six years of fighting which followed, thousands of soldiers and civilians died in the fighting: and over seven milllion people were exterminated in the German death-camps through starvation, torture and intentional neglect.

Those death-camps were run by people who believed in the German regime. And what they did cannot be excused by any reasonable human being.

History/Europe

THE MIND-SET OF THE GERMANS
AND OTHER SECRETS OF WORLD WAR II

This memoir portrays the attitudes of a nation caught in political crisis and devastating war. The author vividly recalls his youth in Berlin before and during WWII amidst political upheaval, love, hope, and terror. The reader witnesses the appalling tyranny of Stalin in the 1930s and learns of the Germans’ conviction that they were waging a righteous and desperate struggle against the Soviet empire. The impact of this upsetting story derives from aspects of that war, which hitherto have remained unknown or been misconceived and which cast the moral equation of that conflict into a more sober light. The reader will walk in German shoes and experience the full range of their emotions, beliefs, and thoughts. The understanding of the mood then prevailing in Europe is aided by scholarly chapters of historical data that weave through the narrative of childhood, war, and ruin. In exploring the enduring mystery surrounding the root causes of the two world wars and Germany’s final destruction, the author reaches thought-provoking conclusions.

For those seeking to know what in reality transpired in the German soul during that period, this is one of only few, unbiased sources available.

H. Peter Nennhaus grew up in Berlin during WW II and became an American citizen in 1961. He is a retired surgeon and lives outside Chicago. Among his various interests, the study of history, especially of the 20th century, has been an enduring focus.

Peter Nennhaus is a fluent writer and his text is relatively clean: I found few errors in this book compared to most of the others I’ve reviewed here, although his spelling does sometimes go awry (I found both “furor” in place of “furore” and “guaranty” when “guarantee” was required on page three and no, I’m sure that first one wasn’t Freudian at all); and there were a few careless errors: the occasional misused word and some random capitalisations have also crept in (but as that latter problem could have its root in Nennhaus’s first language, I didn’t include those errors in my tally).

In this book Nennhaus aims to present a new view of World War II, and of the German people during that period of history. He states in his back-cover copy that this book “is one of only few, unbiased sources available” and while I admire his confidence in making that statement, I have to question it: thousands of books and articles have been written about the war and Germany’s role in it and while some are clearly biased, many more give a reasoned and dispassionate account of those horrific times. That Nennhaus apparently thinks otherwise reveals more about his own bias, I fear: and the more I read of this book, the more my fears were realised. Nennhaus suggests that it was Europe’s jealousy of Germany’s excellence which was the real cause of World War II; and he rationalises anti-Semitism in a way I find disturbing. I finished reading his book when I came across this little plum, in which Nennhaus suggests that we shouldn’t judge too harshly the German leaders of the time:

Who could accurately guess how you or I would have acted, had we been seized by fury and obsession while possessing the executive force to give the frantic orders?

While I’ll admit to having a bit of a temper and can remember having said a few pretty nasty things while in the grip of it, I can be pretty sure that no matter how powerful and angry I become I will never attempt to annexe several neighbouring countries through the use of force, nor will I order the debasement, torture and extermination of millions of people in the most vile ways imaginable.

Overall then, The Shipwreck of a Nation: Germany: An Inside View is very deceptive. It relies on fallacies and denial to sustain its central premise; and the author’s fluency and persuasive tone cannot compensate for the ugliness of his opinions or beliefs (some of which might stem from his time spent fighting in the German army). I read twelve pages, and cannot recommend this book on any level.

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  1. September 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I like this blog

  2. September 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Thank you, Deola. I just wish I had more good books to review here: most of the ones I'm sent don't present self-publishing in a very good light.

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