Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 622 pp., $34.95.
Nikolaus Wachsmann, Hitler's Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 538 pp., $45.
At the invitation of French president Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder joined the leaders of the Allied powers of World War II at this year's 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. His presence, a subtle suggestion that Germans may also claim to have been liberated from Hitler's tyranny by the Allies, was a richly symbolic moment in Schröder's long campaign for his country to be treated as "a normal nation." This had been an important theme of his first successful election campaign in 1998, and the "normal nation" phrase was deployed to justify his bold decision to deploy German troops abroad (for the first time since 1945) in Kosovo-Metohija and Afghanistan.
The increasing official prominence given in Berlin to the annual commemoration of the July 20, 1944 bomb plot against Hitler should be seen in the same political context. Graduating cadets from the Bundeswehr military academy now take their oaths of allegiance to the Federal Republic and its constitution on the date of the abortive assassination attempt and at the site of the former Wehrmacht HQ. The political implication is clear: There was a brave and determined German resistance to Hitler, and therefore Germans also enjoyed a real liberation in 1945. The new Germany, which takes an honorable part in the military operations of the international community as mandated by the UN Security Council, should thus finally be allowed to emerge from the long shadow of the Third Reich.