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History Blog

Living under Nazi Rule
By Richard Kennett
20 Apr
I can pinpoint where my fascination with Nazi Germany began. I was six and my Great Aunt Phyllis showed me a photo of my grandad when he was 15 years old Nazi saluting in Germany in 1938 with swastika arm band firmly in place. David was a British scout and it dumbfounded me why he would be seemingly lending his support to the baddies (as I simplistically saw history in black and white). I never found out what he was doing.

Skip forward a few years and this fascination with the Third Reich never went away, in fact it grew. Hence I was overjoyed when Michael Riley and Jamie Byrom asked me to write Living under Nazi Rule title for the new OCR B GCSE History series.

This book has been a true labour of love. I have been working on it now for pretty much two years and I am beyond excited that its publication is imminent and that it will be used in classrooms around the country.

There is a plethora of textbooks on Nazi Germany so what is different about this one?

Firstly, I have filled it with personal stories. I strongly believe that as history teachers we need to show that history affects ordinary people and rather than just focus on Hitler and his cronies this book takes an important sideways view to those people who had to live through these 12 years. From Johann Trollmann, a Sinti boxer who fought against the Nazis both physically and metaphorically, to Emil Nolde, a painter ostracized by the regime this book will introduce you to individuals whose stories need to be heard and will enliven your lessons.

Secondly, I have ensured that this book is up to date with current academic research on the Nazis. I have done my homework and my house is so full of books on the Nazis my long suffering girlfriend was at one point concerned what friends would think. I have tried to incorporate this as fully as possible and historians are explicitly referred to so you can use their interpretations in your classroom. From Frank McDonough’s work on the Gestapo to Ian Kershaw’s work on the later war years. I am also beyond pleased that I was able to include the micro history of Professor Tim Cole’s fascinating work on the Holocaust in Hungary.

Thirdly, I have spent an age researching the best images to really bring this history alive. I love using photos of artefacts in my classroom and have incorporated this into my textbook. I have traipsed the corridors of Europe’s museums of Nazi history and tried to include the best objects in the book. The best of which has to be the box of potatoes the Bontekoe family received during the winterhonger in the Netherlands representing the horror that Nazi occupation ravaged across Europe.

Fourthly, I have spent a long time ensuring this book is accurate and importantly does not over simplify complex history. The story of the persecution of the Jews is fundamental to this book and I felt it was crucial to get this right. The pages that cover this narrative took me an age and I am hugely grateful to Martin Winstone at the Holocaust Education Trust, a true expert who spent time and effort picking through them and helping to guide me to make them better.

Finally, I can guarantee that this book has one thing that is totally original - that you won't find anywhere else. It includes the only known photo of my granddad Nazi saluting! After a lot of searching around her house my Mum’s cousin unearthed that photo and I couldn’t help but use it. It appears on the pages focusing on the impact of Nazi policies on young people. So you’ll be able to use the photo that first inspired my interest in the Nazis all those years ago in your classroom.

I really hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it.

Richard Kennett
Living under Nazi rule is available now.

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