Friedrich Reck might seem an unlikely rebel against Nazism. Not just a conservative but a rock-ribbed reactionary, he played the part of a landed gentleman, deplored democracy, and rejected the modern world outright. To Reck the Nazis were ruthless revolutionaries in Gothic drag, and helpless as he was to counter the spell they had cast on the German people, he felt compelled to record the corruptions of their rule. The result is less a diary than a sequence of stark and astonishing snapshots of life in Germany between 1936 and 1944. We see the Nazis at the peak of power, and the murderous panic with which they respond to approaching defeat; their travesty of traditional folkways in the name of the Volk; and the author's own missed opportunity to shoot Hitler. This riveting book is not only, as Hannah Arendt proclaimed it, "one of the most important documents of the Hitler period" but a moving testament of a decent man struggling to do the right thing in a depraved world.
FRIEDRICH RECK (1884-1945) was born Friedrich Percyval Reck-Malleczewen in Masuria, East Prussia, the son of a prosperous conservative politician and landowner. Having initially complied with his father's wishes to pursue a military career, he left the army to begin medical studies. By the beginning of the First World War, for which he was ruled unfit to serve, he had begun work as a full-time theater critic and travel writer. In the following decades he became a well-known figure in Munich society, the author of both literary historical novels and popular entertainments including Bomben auf Monte Carlo (Bombs on Monte Carlo), a best-selling comic novella and the basis of a hit musical film starring Peter Lorre. In October 1944 he was arrested for the first time; in December of the same year the Gestapo returned to detain him again; in January 1945 he arrived at the Dachau concentration camp, where he was to die shortly after. PAUL RUBENS (1927-2003), a self-educated native New Yorker, mastered the German language as a member of the U.S. occupation forces after World War II . RICHARD J. EVANS is Regius Professor of History and president of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He is the author of The Third Reich at War.