Understanding Nazism: We can't excuse Nazism, but can we understand it?

Original title: Comprendre le Nazisme

Publication Date:

September 2018



Original language and publisher

French | Tallandier


History, WWII

Understanding Nazism: We can't excuse Nazism, but can we understand it?

Original title: Comprendre le Nazisme

  • 2 Seas Represents:Dutch, Nordic and North American rights


Looking at the horrible crimes of the Third Reich, we often take the question out of its political context, pushing National Socialism back in a corner of deviance, perversion or irrationality. This book advises the readers on taking Nazis seriously and immerses us in the universe of National Socialism.

The tens of thousands of books written in every language by historians as well as amateurs, not to mention memoirs and testimonies of victims, perpetrators and witnesses of the horrors of the Third Reich make this heinous phenomenon one of the most documented in history.

But are we sure to clearly understand it? Is there some rationality behind so much irrationality? If we can’t justify ubiquitous unleashed barbarism and hatred, can we at least explain them? Can something coherent be found between a specific historical situation, an outrageous doctrinal corpus and a group of fanatics?

Fitted with a vast knowledge of German culture, popular literature, movies production and the elite’s intellectual thinking, Johann Chapoutot underlines strong ideas, which allow a better understanding of what happened. His presentation is neat and his teaching skills provide the reader with precious keys.

If the historian’s work is to understand without judgment or to understand better in order to have a better judgment, this book sheds a new and original light upon the phenomenon of Nazism through a selection of radio and television interviews and texts previously published in journals and magazines.

Professor at the University of Paris Sorbonne IV where he teaches contemporary German history, Johann Chapoutot is the brightest of the French researchers dealing with Nazism of this generation. His last two books, Blood Justice: Think and Act Like a Nazi (2014) and The Nazi Cultural Revolution (2016), are published by Gallimard.