Diary of a Man in Despair
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About the author
Friedrich Reck (1884–1945) was born Friedrich Percyval Reck 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.
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.
New York Review Books
; February 2013
ISBN 9781590175996Read online
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Title: Diary of a Man in Despair
Author: Friedrich Reck; Richard Evans; Paul Rubens
In the press
“Very, very rarely one comes across a book so remarkable and so unexpectedly convincing that it deserves more to be quoted than to be reviewed…. I beg you to read this bitterly courageous book by as good a German as one could well imagine.” —Frederic Raphael, The Sunday Times
“It is stunning to read, for it is not often that invective achieves the level of art, and rarer still that hatred assumes a tragic grandeur.” —The New York Times
“Observations set down with passion, outrage, and almost unbearable sadness. . . astonishing, compelling, and unnerving.” —The New Yorker
“In his visceral loathing of the Nazis, Reck was not, of course, unique. From our perspective, however, he had one great advantage over most of his like-minded friends: he possessed the makings of a great diarist. True, he was not at the centre of things, but he knew the world and had contacts in it. He was something of a connoisseur of rumours, collecting and savouring stories about the latest Nazi scandal or atrocity and adding to them his own trenchant reflections. And if he was a slightly gullible listener, he was a very acute observer." —The Financial Times
“Unlike many memoirs of the Nazi period, this one is not a totally gloomy account of persecution, brutality and horrors. The dominating quality is its tough exuberance and (often black) satirical humor. From a great height of aristocratic disrelish Fritz Reck-Malleczewen looks down on the Nazis as lower-middle-class scum, vengefully greedy for power, with Hitler as their avatar, at once sinister and ridiculous." —The Wall Street Journal