The S.S. Officer’s Armchair: Uncovering the Hidden Life of a Nazi

Hachette. Jun. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780316509091. $28. HIST
In 2011, Lee (history, Queen Mary, Univ. of London; Petain’s Jewish Children) attended a dinner party in Florence, Italy, where another guest told him of a discovery made by her mother in Amsterdam. While reupholstering an old armchair, the restorer uncovered a packet of Nazi documents sewn into the seat cushion. This sparked Lee’s search for information about the documents’ original owner: Stuttgart lawyer Robert Griesinger, who worked for the Schutzstaffel (SS) from 1936 to 1945. What follows is a searching assessment of the beliefs, actions, and support network of a midlevel Nazi administrator. Yet just as interesting is the detailed account of how Lee tracked down information about this elusive figure. What Lee uncovered, with extraordinary persistence, helps us understand life within the administrative side of Nazi Germany, a topic little explored because of gaps in historical records; the SS destroyed most of its files in the final days of the war. Readers follow the author as he engages on this detective story, ultimately meeting with Griesinger’s descendants, who realize how little they knew about their ancestor.
VERDICT Readers of World War II literature and the history of the Nazi regime should find this a fascinating read.

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