Diary of a Man in Despair
by Friedrich Reck, afterword by Richard J. Evans, translated from the German by Paul Rubens
Friedrich Reck might seem an unlikely rebel against Nazism. Not just a conservative but a rock-ribbed reactionary, he played the part of a landed gentleman, deplored democracy, and rejected the modern world outright. To Reck the Nazis were ruthless revolutionaries in Gothic drag, and helpless as he was to counter the spell they had cast on the German people, he felt compelled to record the corruptions of their rule. The result is less a diary than a sequence of stark and astonishing snapshots of life in Germany between 1936 and 1944. We see the Nazis at the peak of power, and the murderous panic with which they respond to approaching defeat; their travesty of traditional folkways in the name of the Volk; and the author's own missed opportunity to shoot Hitler. This riveting book is not only, as Hannah Arendt proclaimed it, "one of the most important documents of the Hitler period" but a moving testament of a decent man struggling to do the right thing in a depraved world.
Very, very rarely one comes across a book so remarkable and so unexpectedly convincing that it deserves more to be quoted than to be reviewed.... I beg you to read this bitterly courageous book by as good a German as one could well imagine.
—Frederic Raphael, The Sunday Times, London
It is stunning to read, for it is not often that invective achieves the level of art, and rarer still that hatred assumes a tragic grandeur.
—The New York Times
Observations set down with passion, outrage, and almost unbearable sadness.... astonishing, compelling, and unnerving.
—The New Yorker
In his visceral loathing of the Nazis, Reck was not, of course, unique. From our perspective, however, he had one great advantage over most of his like-minded friends: he possessed the makings of a great diarist. True, he was not at the centre of things, but he knew the world and had contacts in it. He was something of a connoisseur of rumours, collecting and savouring stories about the latest Nazi scandal or atrocity and adding to them his own trenchant reflections. And if he was a slightly gullible listener, he was a very acute observer.
—The Financial Times
Unlike many memoirs of the Nazi period, this one is not a totally gloomy account of persecution, brutality and horrors. The dominating quality is its tough exuberance and (often black) satirical humor. From a great height of aristocratic disrelish Fritz Reck-Malleczewen looks down on the Nazis as lower middle class scum, vengefully greedy for power, with Hitler as their avatar, at once sinister and ridiculous.
—The Wall Street Journal