Knowing the Nazis, Inside and Out: Anti-Fascist Publishing in Austria, Germany and Britain, 1927-40

Eighty years after the outbreak of WW2, the British public is well informed about Hitler’s rise and fall. This history forms a key part of GCSE and A-Level syllabi, and is still a popular media topic. Less well documented are those Germans and Austrians who actively resisted the rise of National Socialism, both at home and from positions of exile. My project focuses on refugees who spread anti-fascist messages through the British media, based on their personal experiences of the Nazi Regime. Some wrote about their experiences of ‘protective custody’ and concentration camps, some depicted their work as part of underground resistance movements, and some former Nazis revealed what they had learned by their collaboration with the regime. Accounts by Jews highlight the specific and severe nature of the Jewish persecution in Germany, and pose difficult questions about the Allies’ response to the Holocaust.

By exploring publishers’ archives for readers reports, authors’ correspondence and sales figures, my research shows how these works by refugees were received by ordinary readers and by the British government and Ministry of Information, who controlled the wartime propaganda effort.

This three-year project (2020-2023) is generously funded by the British Academy and Wolfson Foundation. In September 2023, a conference on ‘Publishing Antifascism‘ co-organised with and hosted by the centre for Book Cultures and Publishing at the University of Reading, will bring scholars together to discuss the practice and legacy of antifascist publishing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries from a global perspective.

I have written several articles informed by this research. My first article on this topic, an exploration of different responses to Hitler’s take-over within Germany, can be found here. Two further articles are in press – see publications. I am now also working on a first draft of a monograph, provisionally entitled Early Warners: Publishing for English Readers by anti-Nazi Refugees in the Years of Appeasement and War (1933-45).

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