The Myth and Reality of Hitler's Secret Police
By Frank McDonough
The definitive and profound account of the Gestapo.
A Daily Telegraph 'Book of the Week' (August 2015)
Longlisted for 2016 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize
Ranked in 100 Best Books of 2015 in the Daily Telegraph
Professor Frank McDonough is one of the leading scholars and most popular writers on the history of Nazi Germany.
Frank McDonough's work has been described as, 'modern history writing at its very best...Ground-breaking, fascinating, occasionally deeply revisionist' by renowned historian Andrew Roberts.
Drawing on a detailed examination of previously unpublished Gestapo case files this book relates the fascinating, vivid and disturbing accounts of a cross-section of ordinary and extraordinary people who opposed the Nazi regime. It also tells the equally disturbing stories of their friends, neighbours, colleagues and even relatives who were often drawn into the Gestapo's web of intrigue. The book reveals, too, the cold-blooded and efficient methods of the Gestapo officers.
This book will also show that the Gestapo lacked the manpower and resources to spy on everyone as it was reliant on tip offs from the general public. Yet this did not mean the Gestapo was a weak or inefficient instrument of Nazi terror. On the contrary, it ruthlessly and efficiently targeted its officers against clearly defined political and racial 'enemies of the people'.
The Gestapo will provide a chilling new doorway into the everyday life of the Third Reich and give powerful testimony from the victims of Nazi terror and poignant life stories of those who opposed Hitler's regime while challenging popular myths about the Gestapo.
Frank McDonough is Professor of International History at Liverpool John Moores University. He was born in Liverpool. He studied history at Balliol College, Oxford and gained a PhD from Lancaster University.
He has written many books on the Third Reich, including: Hitler and the Rise of the Nazi Party (2012), Sophie Scholl: The Woman Who Defied Hitler (2009), The Holocaust (2008), Opposition and Resistance in NaziGermany (2001), Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement (2002), and Hitler and NaziGermany (1999).
He has also published many other books, most notably, The Origins of the Second World War: An International Perspective (2011), The Conservative Party and Anglo-German Relations (2007), Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War (1998) and The Origins of the First and Second World Wars (1997).
Frank has appeared on TV and radio numerous times discussing the Third Reich. He featured in a six part series 'Nazi Secrets' for National Geographic in 2012 and a 10 part series 'The Rise of the Nazis' for the Discovery Channel. He has appeared in Third Reich documentaries for BBC 1, Channel 5, and Russia Today. He acted as 'Historical Consultant' for the BBC 'History of the World Project' and the 'BBC World War One at Home' series of programmes.
The US History Network placed Frank's popular Twitter account: @FXMC1957 in the Top 30 most popular historical Twitter accounts in the World.
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- Publication date:
27 Aug 2015
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This fascinating and absorbing new book, drawing on original Gestapo files, provides a wide range of vivid and fascinating stories that explore the tragic human plight of victims of Nazi terror, and the motives of the German citizens who denounced them. By examining in depth how the Gestapo dealt with Jews, Communists, religious dissidents and those on the margins of society, McDonough has produced a brilliant, readable and deeply significant examination of Hitler's notorious secret police. — Andrew Roberts
A compelling and crisply written new history of the Third Reich's central instrument on domestic terror between 1933 and 1945. McDonough moves beyond the administrative history of the Gestapo to examine the key target groups not just political and religious opponents, but social outsiders and Jews He provides a nuanced account via Gestapo files and courtroom testimony. In setting a range of victims' life stories revealed in these neglected Gestapo case files against long standing historical views of either an all pervasive surveillance or total reliance on public denunciations, The Gestapo provides an original and welcome perspective on this often misunderstood symbol of Nazi repression and enforced conformity. Impressive, illuminated by real victim stories, this book is strongly recommended. — Matthew Feldman, Professor in Contemporary History at Teesside University and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bergen, Norway
In this thoroughly researched and elegantly written book, Frank McDonough confronts decades of myth-making to uncover the complex realities of Hitler's notorious secret police. The Gestapo is as surprising as it is illuminating, and it sets a new standard for this vitally important subject. — Roger Moorhouse, leading Third Reich historian and best-selling author
Superbly scholarly and just as readable. A chilling, meticulous record of state brutality that is more compelling than any novel. — Dan Snow, Award-winning TV historian and best-selling author
Professor Frank McDonough has unearthed much, drawn from recent research and his own work in the Gestapo's surviving archives and has blended it in this lucid, authoratative study of the institution and its servants. As for those servants' villiany, he lets them and their victims speak for themselves: this is a chilling as well as a compelling read...In telling the story of the how the Gestapo worked, McDonough has provided fascinating insights into the experiences of Germans in a fickle and frightening world. — Lawrence James, The Times
It seems incredible that humane qualities could be exhumed from such evil, but that is one achievement of Frank McDonough's nuanced study...The contribution of McDonough's illuminating account - based on the 73,000 files at Düsseldorf, the largest surviving collection of Gestapo records - is to reveal that the organisation was neither faceless nor monolithic....Too often historians present material of this vile kind in emotive prose, forcing the reader into uneasy agreement with whatever argument they are presenting. Here, by combining a calm tone with a lucid, factual approach, McDonough has convincingly portrayed a system that was highly efficient and profoundly pernicious, but not unequivocally wicked. — Miranda Seymour, The Sunday Telegraph
A myth-busting study exposes how ordinary Germans ran rings round the secret police...[McDonough] offers real insight into the methods, motives and backgrounds of the men who tried... to police the thoughts of the inhabitants of the Third Reich...Another remarkable point that McDonough makes is that judges often threw out cases brought by the Gestapo. Many were old-fashioned conservatives... with a prickly sense of their own independence. — Marcus Ranner, The Independent
McDonough's penetrating study of the Gestapo, which challenges established myths- for instance that the Gestapo was everywhere, an Orwellian 'thought police' that kept everyone in check and fear, listening for every knock on the door in the middle of the night. In reality, it had fewer than 16,000 active officers to police the loyalty of a nation of 70 million. Its investigations were fuelled by informants, tell-tales in the community, of whom there were no shortage in Hitler's paranoid Reich... McDonough's book also reveals, thousands of other Nazi thugs and killers simply kept their heads down, slid back into society and were never properly brought to book. At the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the Gestapo was branded a 'criminal organisation' responsible or 'crimes against humanity. Yet no major collective Gestapo trial was held in the post war period. — Daily Mail
This year has produced a slew of important books relating to the Second World War and this informative study of the Gestapo is one of the best. The author tries to dismantle some of the common myths about Hitler's secret police. He does so with style and intelligence — Catholic Herald
McDonough has an instinct for good stories and, for example, when he writes about the policing process aimed at the outlawed Communist Party, he finds a bewildering array of people, among them some who converted to Nazism or joined the Wehrmacht. — Professor Robert Gellately, The Times Higher Education Supplement
A very important and rigorous study based on original research from German archives. — Corriere della Sera (leading Italian newspaper)
Highly illuminating. It sets the Gestapo in historical context. McDonough also gives a detailed account of the Gestapo's day to operations and assists us in our efforts to understand the work done by the Gestapo. — Dr. Richard Mullender, Newcastle University, Journal of Law and Society