A book that is more than deserving of its bestseller status, Norman Ohler’s ‘Blitzed‘ is an examination of drug addiction in Nazi Germany. The book’s real fascination lies not in its graphic depiction of Hitler’s long-suspected habits, wrought from the medical notes of Dr. Theodor Morell, but in the revelation of what Ohler calls a ‘doping mentality’: the consistent intoxication of the German people through readily-available methamphetamine during the years of WWII. Painstakingly researched, this book certainly might prompt you to re-examine the history of the Third Reich.
Dr. Gisele Freund (1928-2000), Jewish artist from Berlin-Schöneberg, student at the ‘Frankfurt School’ of sociologist Theodor Adorno, considered photography integral to political activism. Freund first photographed her fellow socialist students to document their mistreatment by Nazi thugs. In March 1933, Freund followed her friend, sociologist Walter Benjamin, in fleeing to Paris, with strips of photographic negatives hidden under her clothes. She went on to live with the lesbian couple Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach, owners of the famous Parisian bookstore ‘Shakespeare and Company’. In 1947, Freund became the first woman to work for Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography agency, Magnum, and would famously photograph Frida Kahlo, Man Ray, Simone De Beauvoir, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and the most elusive James Joyce. The USA denied her a visa for her leftist views in 1954, and she was ejected from Argentina after publishing photographs of Evan Perón bedecked with opulent jewels. In 1980, Freund became the first woman to receive France’s ‘Grand Prix National des Arts.’
‘The Kaiser’s Holocaust‘, by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen, exposes the long-ignored history of the German Empire’s colony in modern-day Namibia and the mass murder, first officially acknowledged as a genocide by Germany in 2015, of the Herero and Nama peoples. Colonial soldiers soon enslaved Namibians, established the Shark Island concentration camp for punitive purposes and ‘medical research’, and murdered perhaps 100,000 Herero and Nama before the territory was confiscated following World War One. Olusoga and Erichsen hypothesize an ideological continuity between the Second and Third Reichs, investigating National Socialism as a newly-technologized manifestation of colonialism, and illustrating the racism which suffused the upbringings of those who went on to become Hitler’s acolytes – not least Hermann Göring, son of the ‘Imperial Commander of German South-West Africa’. A contentious thesis to be sure, but a fascinating read and a timely publication as the Bundestag publicly grapples with the question of if, when and how to recompense Namibia.