Red Orches­tra: The Sto­ry of the Berlin Under­ground and the Cir­cle of Friends who Resist­ed Hitler

  • Review
By – January 13, 2012

Anne Nel­son has writ­ten a major work on a trag­ic dilem­ma of our time — how a cul­tured peo­ple, defeat­ed and impov­er­ished though they were, could turn on and bru­tal­ize their own cit­i­zen­ry. And how the civ­i­lized world could stand by, rea­son­ing that it would all soon blow over.” 

In an inno­v­a­tive approach this book describes Hitler’s rise to pow­er from the point of view of the under­ground, which opposed him. The Red Orches­tra was promi­nent in that opposition. 

Using exhaus­tive­ly researched real-life accounts of peo­ple of the time, Nel­son, an expe­ri­enced jour­nal­ist, shows how men and women scram­bled in and out of Ger­many, some final­ly decid­ing to stay and fight the glit­ter­ing, ruth­less new power. 

The vol­un­teer spies act­ed as loy­al mem­bers of the regime, often par­ty­ing with the Nazi elite and the Pruss­ian nobil­i­ty, while pass­ing mil­i­tary infor­ma­tion to the Rus­sians and Allies. 

Nelson’s un-the­atri­cal style some­times lacks pace. But her work stands as a trib­ute to the under­ground that opposed Hitler, the many mur­dered, and the embit­tered sur­vivors. It is also a fine source for schol­ars, libraries, and curi­ous read­ers. Bib­li­o­graph­i­cal notes, doc­u­men­taries, epi­logue, index, pref­ace, pro­logue, select bibliography.

Jane Waller­stein worked in pub­lic rela­tions for many years. She is the author of Voic­es from the Pater­son Silk Mills and co-author of a nation­al crim­i­nal jus­tice study of parole for Rut­gers University.

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