The Shmooze

Why Are the Brits So Into Nazi-Themed Books?

By Michael Kaminer

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In 1975, UK author Alan Coren published a humorous collection of essays called “Golfing for Cats” — and emblazoned the cover with a huge swastika. He had noticed the most popular titles in Britain were about cats, golf and Nazis.

Thirty-six years later, notes the BBC this week, “Nazi books are going stronger than ever. A staggering 850 books about the Third Reich were published in 2010, up from 350 in the year 2000. And they mostly still have a swastika on the front cover.”

The sheer range of Reich-related literature in Britain is astonishing, the BBC reports. “The phenomenal and continuing success of books about the Nazis includes fiction, non-fiction and science fiction. They include the occult and the Nazis, Nazi magic, Nazi weaponry and Nazi doctors. There’s the history of SS uniforms, SS staff cars, SS recruitment and propaganda. You can read counter histories imagining Britain if the Nazis had won or post-war histories of the exploitation of Nazi scientific discoveries by America and the other Allied powers. There is a firsthand account of Himmler’s masseur.”

Are British book-buyers “still looking for a warning from history or are some of them attracted by the ghastly glamour of history’s most evil baddies?” asks writer Clive Anderson. “Are some readers indulging some form of Nazi fetish? Some enthusiasts track down first editions of Hitler’s Mein Kampf?”

While Anderson comes up short on answers, reader comments provided plenty of speculation. “Part of our interest stems from liking to know about a nation/regime we defeated,” wrote MR from Kent, UK. Chris from Belfast, Ireland opined that “whether we like it or not it is part of our history and the Nazis shaped the world we live in now” – and added that he/she owns “a collection of Nazi militaria which includes weapons, army documents, armbands, postcards, and many other items.” And Anthony Clapp from Wincanton, UK noted – somewhat redundantly – that “Germans seem equally interested!”


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