One of the books I am reading is Joachim Fest's Not I: Memories of a German Childhood (orig. publ. in German in 2006 by Rowohlt, tr. Martin Chalmers, New York, Other Press, 2013).
The title alludes to Mark 14:29: "But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I."
WSJ review by T. J. Reed here. I reproduce a sizeable chunk of it in case it ends up behind a pay wall:
The [Fest] family lives under a shadow. Their dissent is no secret. Father had been a member of the Reichsbanner, the organization in which his Catholic Centre Party had joined with liberals and Social Democrats to defend the republic against Communists and Nazis. It's not every school headmaster who gets involved in street fights and comes home bloody, as Johannes Fest did. But after 1933 he was a headmaster no longer, suspended indefinitely by the new political masters. The family's status and income were lost, their lives transformed. Grandfather had to come out of retirement to earn a bit for them. Father never worked again. The Nazis did try to cajole him back into teaching, since any observable dissent was bad publicity. They even offered accelerated promotion if he would outwardly conform. He remained firm.
Family tension became palpable. Mother, bearing the brunt of straitened family circumstances, asks Father if he might not compromise. Weren't lies always the resort of the "little people"? He replies: "We aren't little people." It is one of the maxims that guided the conduct of Fest's father and a few friends. (The title of his son's memoir comes from a Gospel passage that he would often quote, Peter promising Jesus: "Even if all others fall away—not I.") There were some Germans who made sure that they were carrying something in both hands when they went out into the street, the only plausible ground for not giving the required "Heil Hitler" salute to anyone they met. But Fest's father goes out resolutely empty-handed.
"Keep your head down," Johannes [father of Joachim] told his family, "but don't let it make you smaller." Young Joachim didn't always listen. A classmate reports him for carving a Hitler caricature on his desk. (He has been scribbling them on surfaces all over town.) As a consequence, he is removed from the school; his brothers too. The episode is just one instance of an independence akin to his father's.
The friends of the Fests—they now became former friends—and many neighbors and acquaintances fell by the wayside, even without being keen Nazis. Only one of the 12 families in the apartment block was in the party. The rest merely went along as things changed, drifting deeper into acquiescence, making excuses even as stable social and political structures fell apart in the name of a new "people's community." The Nazis, after all, were formally the legitimate government, however brutal their conduct of affairs—from the realm of international diplomacy to the arbitrary laws that replaced justice down to the small changes in everyday life, the swindles and favoritism of party members.
By recording these small changes, Joachim Fest creates a picture of how the one-party state operated on an intimate level, and exerted its unbreakable grip. It recalls the bleak account of incremental misery in Victor Klemperer's diaries of the period. A woman sees a Jewish-looking man in the street not wearing a star, pursues and denounces him. There are first rumors and then reliable evidence of atrocities.
Anti-Semitism had considerably more popular resonance than many other Nazi policies, such as the campaign for "Lebensraum" in the east. How many Germans would have wanted to up sticks and resettle somewhere on the vast Russian plains? As for Jewish Germans themselves, even after Kristallnacht there were those who waited for the Nazi "phase" to pass. Their trust in a culture that had produced Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and Beethoven, a culture into which they felt they had assimilated, meant that they delayed escape too long.
But was it German culture that produced Kant, Goethe, et al.? Or was it the Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian culture that had its sources in Athens and Jerusalem? That is one question. A second question is whether talk of production is anywhere near adequate, whether any culture could produce such geniuses as opposed merely to providing a fertile soil in which they developed themselves.
A third question is whether we are not now drifting toward a totalitarian unculture in which the slightest deviations from politically correct modes of thought and speech bring down drastic punishments on those who think they can speak their minds in private and in public without fear of reprisal from illiberal 'liberals.'