Terrific ... Boyd's research is impeccable ... Boyd's prose is clear, confident and measured, connecting national events to Oberstdorf as often as possible, a device that never feels forced — only human. She consistently uses the word 'murder' to describe the actions of the Nazis. They didn't kill, or exterminate — they murdered. The stark word carries a little more power each time she writes it.
A fascinating deep dive into one community as it experiences the rise and fall of Hitler ... Boyd... approaches her subjects with a sometimes uncomfortable degree of empathy. How should history judge the village mayor, for example? According to Boyd he was 'both a committed Nazi and a decent human being', and in her view this should not be seen as a contradiction in terms ... An utterly absorbing insight into the full spectrum of responses from ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
Boyd is an outstanding micro-historian. Assisted by Oberstdorf resident Angelika Patel, she gives us the finest of fine detail to demonstrate how village residents defied the regime when and where they could.
It is the tales of day-to-day life and struggles of the villagers that help the reader understand how people either wholeheartedly believed the Nazis’ agenda, resisted it, or pretended to follow in order to get by.
Boyd looks carefully at the role of the local mountain troops in the Eastern Front, especially Operation Barbarossa, and the tribunes of final reckoning by the French and Moroccan invaders, followed by the Americans. The author effectively portrays the horrific toll of the war on one small town, personalizing it among the perpetrators, but readers may find it difficult to sympathize with some of the characters she introduces.
Boyd and Patel pose difficult questions about ordinary Germans’ complicity in the horrors of the Holocaust. Making excellent use of Oberstdorf’s 'particularly well-maintained' archive, this richly textured chronicle offers valuable insights into 'the most far-reaching tragedy in human history.'