The British Problem with Europe

For most British people European history stopped somewhere around 1950. The Europe most people have experience of is a continent in stasis, and it’s this that breeds complacency. We British are so used to getting on with our daily lives that it’s impossible to connect modern Europe to the tumultuous nation-states of the recent past.

It seems unfathomable to someone living in 2018 that Germany could be at war with France, or that Poland could be considered “virgin territory” ripe for invasion, or that European nations would step back as Czechoslovakia was subsumed under another country, but these events happened within a human lifetime, and will happen again if allowed to.

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They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer

They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer

In 1935, Mayer, an American journalist of German and Jewish descent, travelled to Germany in an attempt to secure an interview with Hitler. He failed in this task, but what he saw in Germany terrified him enough to know that Hitler wasn’t the person he needed to speak to. Instead, he interviewed ten everyday Germans — a tailor, a cabinet maker, a salesman, a student, a baker, a bill-collector, a teacher, a policeman, and a bank clerk — to decipher how it was that the Nazi movement had swept the country.

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