Darkness Over Germany

by E Amy Buller, Arcadia Books, £15

First published in 1943, this series of conversations and reflections sheds a fascinating light on Germany in the 1930s. Its British author, a scholar of German, High Anglican and member of the Student Christian Movement, had been organising Anglo-German discussion groups and exchanges from 1935 in a brave, if naïve, attempt to foster mutual understanding between the two countries.

Reading E Amy Buller’s anecdotes of her encounters with German women, army officers, members of the clergy and minor landowners is a reminder that there were men and women of honour in the Third Reich who deplored National Socialism yet felt powerless to challenge it effectively.

They were not necessarily afraid of imprisonment for themselves, but they feared for their families and children. The era posed many acute moral dilemmas, such as that of the young history teacher who told the author that “It is very exhausting as well as dangerous to live under the strain of a deliberate compromise with evil.” Buller travelled the country several times during the pre-war decade. From Saxony to Bavaria and from Berlin to Silesia, she noted the gloom and despondency of her hosts, desperate to keep up links with England so that after the “nightmare” was over, they could be helped to rebuild their civilisation.

These people had opposed the growth of communism. Thus they were appalled to discover that “the Nazis would do the very thing they most feared in communism, viz suppress freedom in the Church, the university and the press”.

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