Book Review: The Perfect Nazi by Martin Davidson

April 27, 2011

I got this book for free.
Article first published as Book Review: The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather’s Secret Past by Martin Davidson on Blogcritics.

My rating for The Perfect Nazi – 4

About:
“The Perfect Nazi:Uncovering My Grandfather’s Secret Past” by Martin Davidson, a non-fiction book which follows the authors research about his grandfather, an SS officer. Mr. Davidson hit it on the nose when he wrote that this book “is a cautionary tale, a living example of the harm even little men can achieve in times of historical madness”.

  • 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN: 9780399157011

Pur­chase “The Perfect Nazi” through the ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
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Thoughts:
I have been working on the genealogy of my family for many years now.  I boast about 2,500 in my family tree going back to around 1,550. I have discovered lost cousins, opera singers, concert musicians but never, to my knowledge, anyone as notorious as Martin Davidson discovered in “The Perfect Nazi”.

Mr. Davidson is a television producer for the BBC but as a child growing up in Scotland he thought his grandfather was simply a retired German dentist. However, Bruno Langbehn was no mere dentist, but a proud member of the Nazi party wearing his Gold Party Badge (given to those who joined early and hence can claim low party ID numbers) with pride till his last day.

In the book, Davidson is forced to confront reality. His grandfather wasn’t a German jumping on the bandwagon, but a thug committed to the ideals of the National Socialist Party. While Davidson didn’t find out if his grandfather committed any atrocities, he was certainly one of the enables which helped Hitler’s rise.

As a young man Bruno Langbehn devoured literature which glorifies war and truly believed the anti-Semitic propaganda which inspired many to join the National Socialism movement.
The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Bruno later joined Ernst Röhm’s SA, the street thugs known for their brown shirts and brutality. Suffering an injured arm which happened during a riding accident, Langbehn later ran teams of SS agents and proudly wore the SS uniform.

Bruno Langbehn is of no-note to history, which is why this book is so compelling. Mr. Davidson tries to give an insight into the mindset of a thug, one of thousands on which the rise to power of the Third Reich was based upon. This insight is unsettling but makes a forceful tale.

For me, the most disturbing part of the book was the last chapter – Bruno’s after war years. Never been brought up on war crimes (due to his law rank), Langbehn was allowed to continue practice dentistry and, amazingly, kept his own name while reaping the fruits of the economic boom West Germany was privileged to enjoy. All the while keeping to his ideological roots, never wavering from his lifelong beliefs of the National Socialist Party.

Having several family members whose life were made miserable by thugs like Langbehn, I found that aspect extremely disturbing.

This is an important book which shows the harm each and every one of us can create when the world goes nuts!

So tell me: what would you do if you find out your grandfather was a “bad guy”?

Synopsis:
Growing up in Scotland, Martin Davidson knew his grandfather is a man who likes to tell jokes and stories. After his grandfather died Mr. Davidson discovered that his grandfather had many skeletons in his closet, not the least are a membership in the Nazi party (one of the first to join) and wore with pride his SS uniform.

Mr. Davidson goes on to investigate his grandfather’s role in the Third Reich and the atrocities committed under that banner. The story is written about Bruno Langbehn, but is paralleled to the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

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Zohar – Man of la Book

 

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13 Comments

  • Book Dilettante April 27, 2011 at 8:30 am

    The truth was compelling enough for the author to write about it…Wonder how his family reacted to his book?

    Book Dilettante

    • zohar April 27, 2011 at 9:41 am

      Thanks for the comment. Mr. Davidson says his mother knew but refused to talk about her father (I can’t blame her).

  • Leslie April 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Wow, Nice review, this time in the world was so unimaginable, the review gave me chills. This type of truth is often very hard to stomach.
    Thank you for sharing

    • zohar April 27, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Thank you for the kind words Leslie. The one thing which is always amazing with history books is that truth is usually stranger than fiction.

  • SeeKRead April 27, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I am going to have to read this, it sounds very interesting. I couldn’t imagine finding out something like that about my Grandfather, I can say my idea of him would be turned upside down. Great review!

  • Suzanne April 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    So the author didn’t discover his grandfather’s past until after his death? I’m not sure if that would make the knowledge easier or more difficult to grasp.

    About eight years after my grandmother (a war bride who travelled from Scotland to live in Canada with her soldier husband) passed away, my father was contacted by a man in Scotland who turned out to be his older brother that my grandmother gave up for adoption at his birth in 1941. She obviously never talked about it, and there was absolutely nothing in her belongings we still had that mentioned this at all. We all would have loved to hear her story.

    • zohar April 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks for the comment Suzanne, what an amazing story. In our family we have these type of stories as well. My grandfather’s brother was a partisan in WWII. We only heard bits and pieces, but unfortunately he took almost all his stories to the grave.

  • Aths April 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I would love to research my own family genealogy, but have no idea where to start. But if I had to find out something like a connection to the SS, I would probably be stricken. It’s not the kind of thing anyone aspires to find. And it is sad though true that so many of the guilty never got punished for their crimes.

    • zohar April 29, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks for the comment Aths. You start on a genealogy project by asking your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and other relatives what they remember. You’d be surprised at all the information you’d get.

      From there you can research either in town records, church records but the Internet makes it easy to do today with sites like ancestry.com

  • Liz May 3, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I’ve not managed her spirit of forgiveness, but Corrie ten Boom’s reaction to her family’s incarceration by Nazis, described in The Hiding Place, might ease the burden of Davidson’s unwelcome discovery.

    • zohar May 3, 2011 at 11:44 am

      Sounds like an interesting book, thanks.

  • ChrisWolak June 20, 2011 at 12:25 am

    This book caught my eye at the bookstore not long ago and yours is the first review I’ve seen, so thanks for that! I’ll have to add it to my To Read list.

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