256 pages, Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0199669219
The Gestapo: Power and Terror in the Third Reich by Carsten Dams and Michael Stolle is complicated, meticulously detailed, and very much a scholarly book, not written for laypeople but quite useful if one were writing a research paper, and while it is an excellent resource from that perspective, it’s not an easy read for most people as it is written in a very aloof and dispassionate fashion (although that may be the translation). Dams and Stolle maintain that the Gestapo could only function because of the cooperation of numerous people who made it possible, as “[i]n the early years they relied more on reports of the local population than on their own surveillance”; it was the ordinary German next door who posed a problem for the persecuted, not specifically recruited informants. According to the authors, much of the population was prepared to support this persecution-through-denunciation as it was seen as necessary for the health of the body politic; indeed, Werner Best, SS-Obergruppenführer and chief ideologue of the Sicherheitsdienst, declared that The Gestapo was to be “the doctor to the German national body”. Perhaps that is all one should expect from a book on such a topic that aims to inform not titillate, but it left me with a feeling of Meh as I found few surprises or observations that went beyond the information. It is rather pedestrian. I wish I had more to say and don’t want to knock the work – its research and conclusions are granite-like – but it didn’t resonate at any level. Is this all the Gestapo amounted to? A bureaucracy of cops with too much power and too little conscience?