The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering my SS Grandfathers secret past and how Hitler seduced a generation

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In 1926, at the age of twenty, a trainee dentist called Bruno Langbehn joined the Nazi party. Growing up in a Germany that was impoverished and humiliated by the defeat of the First World War, and surrounded by a fiercely military environment, Bruno was one of the first young men to sign up. And as the party rose to power, he was there every step of the way. Eventually his loyalty was rewarded with a high-ranking position in Hitler's dreaded SS, the elite security service charged with sending Germany's 'racially impure' to the death camps. For fifty years after the end of the Second World War, his family kept this horrifying secret until his British grandson, Martin Davidson, uncovered the truth. Drawing on an astonishing cache of personal documents, Davidson retraces Bruno's journey from disillusioned adolescent to SS Officer to mysterious grandfather. In this extraordinary account he tries to understand how Langbehn and millions of others like him were seduced by Hitler's regime, and attempts to come to terms with this devastating revelation.

Review

One of the most unsettling books to have been written about the Third Reich ... It is two stories in one- both riveting - that of the dentist's transformation into unswerving SS officer and of the grandson's appalled discovery. Woven together they make for unforgettable, haunting reading. (Simon Schama)

A fascinating and extraordinary journey into the heart of Nazism (Ben Macintyre, author of Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat)

Martin Davidson has done a brave thing: he has confronted and revealed his own family's Nazi past. The result is absorbing, highly readable and painstakingly researched (Niall Ferguson)

The utterly compelling account of what it's like to discover that your grandfather was a ruthless officer in Hitler's SS (Philip Kerr)

The Perfect Nazi is a terrific piece of writing, shedding light on how ordinary Germans abetted the Nazi terror and how in later years all was conveniently "forgotten" (David Cesarani, author of Eichmann: His Life and Crimes)

A fascinating and compelling account. This is an important book for anyone interested in the moral climate which led to the Holocaust and the other crimes of the Third Reich. (Adrian Weale Evening Standard)

A riveting narrative that brings a fresh vividness to a familiar episode (Valerie Grove The Times)

Davidson's journey into his grandfather's past makes for a compelling and unsettling tale ... A thoughtful and affecting book. ( Telegraph)

Shocking and compelling ... Hollywood fiction turns out to be not so far from the truth as revealed in Martin Davidson's fascinating account of his maternal grandfather ( Sunday Times)

Chillingly addictive ... Davidson was right to decide that, whatever the cost, Bruno had "forfeited the right" to post-humous anonymity (Roger Hutchinson Scotsman)

About the Author

Martin Davidson, who has two degrees from Oxford University, is an award-winning filmmaker and author specializing in historical and cultural subjects. His many director credits include: Simon Schama's A History of Britain, Albert Speer: The Nazi Who Said Sorry (A&E); Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Lie (BBC); and The Nazis and 'Degenerate Art' (BBC). He is the author of five previous non-fiction books. At present he is the commissioning editor for history and business at the BBC.