Born in Germany in 1940, I was a small child during the last five years of Adolf Hitler’s Thousand Years Empire. But I still remember some visual images from the last stages of war like they happened yesterday. They are burned into my memory like key scenes from a stark movie: Walking with Grandpa in my hometown of Wiesbaden; noticing the overwhelming number of bright red flags in front of every window; wondering if it was Hitler’s birthday as banners with a black swastika in a white circle on a blood-red field waved in the April breeze.

A year later, that agressive red color filled the night sky over Wiesbaden. Sitting on my father’s arm, on our balcony, eyes wide open, I could see Mainz burning. A night raid by Allied bombers on Wiesbaden’s neighbor seven miles away was destroying the heart of the ancient town. Six months later, Wiesbaden was hit. Into the cellar, into the bunker we ran. Inside the cellar there was dripping water, outside there were burning houses, ruins, devastation.

Then unconditional surrender. Defeat or liberation? For most Germans, just survival.

The first photographs of the concentration camps shocked the public. What had happened in the 12 years of Hitler’s rule, to the National Socialist movement in Germany, and to Germany? From 1933 to 1945 the so-called “Land der Dichter und Denker” — “Nation of poets and philosophers” — had followed a clique of criminals led by the Führer, a sinister mastermind of evil. How did he happen, and how and why did a nation like Germany follow him into disaster and a war that left more than 50 million dead worldwide?

Countless books have been

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