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The SS Officer's Armchair: In Search of a Hidden Life

Daniel Lee

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JONATHAN CAPE
19 May 2020
Biography: historical, political & military; History; Second World War; Fascism & Nazism
It began with an armchair. It began with the surprise discovery of a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas that had been sewn into its cushion. The SS Officer's Armchair is the story of what happened next, as historian Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart. Who was he? What had his life been - and how had it ended?

Lee reveals the strange life of a man whose ambition propelled him to become part of the Nazi machinery of terror. He discovers unexpected ancestors in New Orleans, untold stories of SS life and family fragmentation. As Lee delves deeper, Griesinger's responsibility as an active participant in Nazi crimes becomes clearer.

Dr Robert Griesinger's name is not infamous. But to understand the inner workings of the Third Reich, we need to know not just its leaders, but the ordinary Nazis who made up its ranks. Revealing how Griesinger's choices reverberate into present-day Germany, and among descendants of perpetrators, Lee raises potent questions about blame, manipulation and responsibility.

A historical detective story and a gripping account of one historian's hunt for answers, The SS Officer's Armchair is at once a unique addition to our understanding of Nazi Germany and a chilling reminder of how such regimes are made not by monsters, but by ordinary people.
By:   Daniel Lee
Imprint:   JONATHAN CAPE
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 153mm
Weight:   419g
ISBN:   9781911214984
ISBN 10:   1911214985
Pages:   320
Publication Date:   19 May 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Daniel Lee is a historian of the Second World War and a specialist in the history of Jews in France and North Africa during the Holocaust. He is a lecturer in modern history at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of Petain's Jewish Children (2014). As a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, Lee is a regular broadcaster on radio. He lives in north London.

Reviews for The SS Officer's Armchair: In Search of a Hidden Life

In this richly detailed and eloquent account...Lee's granular focus reveals the mechanisms by which ordinary Germans were drawn into horrific crimes. Even those well-versed in the history of the Holocaust will learn something new. * Publishers Weekly * Lee shifts the spotlight from Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his inner circle to the masses of administrators without whom the Third Reich could not have functioned... Lee artfully recreates the life of [Griesinger]...balancing historical research of the highest professional level with writing...that reads like a fast-paced detective novel... The SS Officer's Armchair is such a compelling read because Lee leaves no stone unturned... Fascinating. -- Renee Ghert-Zand * The Times of Israel * A fascinating true-life detective story, as the author engagingly chronicles his searches in archives and interviews with elderly survivors... An illuminating biography and more evidence for the banality of evil . * Kirkus Reviews * This is a little gem of a book. It is beautifully written and reads as grippingly as a detective story. The story of the quest is fascinating in itself but the result is also a work of serious historical scholarship. Its reconstitution of the life and career of an 'ordinary Nazi' throws revealing light on the workings of the Nazi regime. -- Julian Jackson Beautiful and gripping, it unfolds like a detective story as an obscured past emerges into the light. -- Hadley Freeman, author of House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family


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