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  • Published: 17 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784706654
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99
Categories:

The SS Officer's Armchair

In Search of a Hidden Life




A historical detective story and a gripping account of one historian's hunt for answers as he delves into the surprising life of an ordinary Nazi officer.

The gripping account of one historian's hunt for answers as he delves into the surprising life of an ordinary Nazi officer.

'Totally exhilarating' Philippe Sands

It began with an armchair. It began with the surprise discovery of a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas sewn into its cushion.
The SS Officer's Armchair is the story of what happened next, as Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart. As Lee delves deeper, Griesinger emerges as at once an ordinary man with a family and ambitions, and an active participant in the Nazi machinery of terror whose choices continue to reverberate today.

'Gripping, it unfolds like a detective story as an obscured past emerges into the light' Hadley Freeman, author of House of Glass
'An absorbing work of historical detection... Riveting' Evening Standard

  • Published: 17 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784706654
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99
Categories:

About the author

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee is a historian of the Second World War and a specialist in the history of Jews in France and North Africa during the Holocaust. He is a lecturer in modern history at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of Pétain’s Jewish Children (2014). As a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, Lee is a regular broadcaster on radio. He lives in north London.

Praise for The SS Officer's Armchair

This is a little gem of a book. It is beautifully written and reads as grippingly as a detective story. The story of the quest is fascinating in itself but the result is also a work of serious historical scholarship. Its reconstitution of the life and career of an 'ordinary Nazi' throws revealing light on the workings of the Nazi regime.

Julian Jackson

In Daniel Lee's The S.S. Officer's Armchair, the story of an utterly obscure and 'ordinary' SS officer, recovered through extraordinary research, is embedded in the illuminating context of upper-middle-class German society and family life in the first half of the 20th century. The result is a fascinating combination of social history, family drama, and ingenious detective work.

Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A fascinating true-life detective story, as the author engagingly chronicles his searches in archives and interviews with elderly survivors... An illuminating biography and more evidence for the "banality of evil".

Kirkus Reviews

Beautiful and gripping, it unfolds like a detective story as an obscured past emerges into the light.

Hadley Freeman, author of House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family

Beginning with his discovery of a cache of papers sewed, inexplicably, into an old armchair, Daniel Lee traces the life of an ordinary though far from insignificant Nazi bureaucrat, showing, as his story slides into horror, that there is no such thing as an armchair Nazi. His interviews with the surviving children and grandchildren add a poignant postscript to this powerful investigation of the war between memory and oblivion.

Alice Kaplan, Sterling Professor of French at Yale University and author of Looking for the Stranger

Richly detailed and eloquent... Lee's granular focus reveals the mechanisms by which ordinary Germans were drawn into horrific crimes. Even those well-versed in the history of the Holocaust will learn something new.

Publishers Weekly

Many of the most horrific acts against humanity during the Holocaust were carried out by the untold thousands of low-level, virtually-unknown civil servants, who facilitated the worst deeds of the Nazi enterprise without ever getting their own hands dirty. In this brilliantly researched story of one such 'ordinary Nazi,' Daniel Lee illuminates the whole.

Martha Weinman Lear, author of Heartsounds and Where Did I Leave My Glasses?

An extraordinary book that lingers in the memory long after you've read the final page. I became totally engrossed in Daniel Lee's investigations to discover the story behind long hidden Nazi documents.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Smith of Basildon

Balancing historical research of the highest professional level with writing...that reads like a fast-paced detective novel... The SS Officer's Armchair is such a compelling read because Lee leaves no stone unturned... Fascinating.

Renee Ghert-Zand, The Times of Israel

An interesting look into how people remember the past, how countries remember the past... This is a welcome addition to German twentieth-century history.

Kevin Winter, Seattle Book Review

A captivating portrait of an "ordinary Nazi." It is also a compelling account of Lee's sleuthwork... Lee propels his reader toward a denouement rich in mystery, mayhem, and high-stakes drama... Thanks to this skillful salvage operation, we can now see [Griesinger] for who he really was.

Malcolm Forbes, American Interest

Both an historical detective story and a gripping account of one historian's hunt for answers, The SS Officer's Armchair is at once a unique addition to our understanding of Nazi Germany and a chilling reminder of how such regimes are made not by monsters, but by ordinary people.

Gingerbread House

[An] absorbing work of historical detection... Lee's riveting book opens a window onto the life of an "ordinary" Nazi.

Ian Thomson, Evening Standard

Understand this mediocre, provincial Nazi and you understand the terrible tragedy of 20th-century Germany... This is an admirable work of historical research, and is carefully and briskly written. Lee has been a pitbull of a researcher.

David Aaronovitch, The Times

An intriguing, honest and superbly documented portrait of what could be called an 'unremarkable' SS life... The strength of Lee's book is the way these facts of history are twinned with the perverted domesticity of everyday Nazism... The armchair stuffed with hidden swastikas is an apt symbol for that weird and disturbing double life.

Bart van Es, Spectator

A page-turning piece of detective work in which the Jewish historian painstakingly weaves together scraps of evidence to assemble a fascinating portrait of an ordinary man who helped perpetrate extraordinary crimes... Utterly compelling.

Robert Philpot, Jewish Chronicle

A fascinating tale.

Swapan Dasgupta, Open the Magazine

Memorable and chilling... As well as a brilliant researcher, Lee proves himself to be an insightful narrator - of both the life of a Nazi "desk murderer", and the continuing attempts of Griesinger's family to come to terms with the long shadow his role as an SS officer has cast over their lives.

PD Smith, Guardian

Assiduously researched... Daniel Lee's remarkable book will give its readers food for thought of what has been and what could be.

Colin Shindler, Jerusalem Post

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