Amid the ravages of economic depression, Germans in the early 1930s were pulled to political extremes both left and right. Then, in the spring of 1933, Germany turned itself inside out, from a deeply divided republic into a one-party dictatorship. Fritzsche examines the events of the period— the elections and mass arrests, the bonfires and gunfire, the patriotic rallies and anti-Jewish boycotts—to understand both the terrifying power the National Socialists exerted over ordinary Germans and the powerful appeal of the new era they promised.
Fritzsche’s 101 days certainly capture the scale of the upheaval and a swiftly coalescing sense of where the new Germany was headed ... What makes Fritzsche’s telling so refreshing is that he uses all his skills as a writer and historian to stop us from drifting into that sense of foreknowledge ... Especially thought-provoking are the eyewitnesses in this book, Germans who had nothing to do with the machinations of the elites, who watched events as they unfolded in the street, in their workplaces and apartment blocks, or frequented the great halls where the Nazi mass meetings were held ... Fritzsche’s skill is in finding a wide enough cast of Germans to give a sense not just of the faithful, but of the skeptics, the disbelieving and the defeated. And it is here that the full value of telling his story through eyewitness testimony becomes clear. Fritzsche turns their surprise, ambivalence, enthusiasm or horror into far greater account than most other historians. Just how they were moved, what values they held fast to and which became dispensable, tells him—and us—more than just what kind of witnesses they were ... it is his capacity for turning the lens back onto the viewer that makes his work so profound and so convincing.
Fritzsche describes an era that has been covered by other books—not least his own—many times over. As an esteemed historian of how ordinary Germans accommodated themselves to the Nazi regime, Fritzsche is neither revising his scholarship nor breaking new ground here. But there’s something particularly clarifying about the hundred-days framing, especially as it’s presented in this elegant and sobering book, which shows how an unimaginable political transformation can happen astonishingly quickly.
In some perceptive passages in the earlier stages of this book, Mr. Fritzsche examines how, during the party’s years in opposition, the Nazis were able to broaden their support away from the original ideological core to voters who, for example, just thought that 'something' had to be done to sort out a deeply unsettled country. And Mr. Fritzsche looks particularly closely at those who swung behind the party in early 1933 ... Mr. Gellately is, however, possibly too dismissive of just how much Hitler’s success owed to his own strange charisma and, by extension, his curiously personal bond with millions of Germans ... Yet Mr. Gellately is correct to stress that many voters had been radicalized by the inflationary spiral of the early 1920s or by the Great Depression.