The Nazis and the German Population: A Faustian Deal? Review of Eric A. Johnson, Nazi Terror. The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans, New York: Basic Books, 2000, 636 pp.
Eric Johnson’s book is a case study of three cities in the Rhineland, based on archival sources and interviews, which tries to elucidate the degree of terror imposed by the Gestapo. The author concludes that the Gestapo neither imposed nor wished to impose a climate of terror on ordinary Germans but rather terrorized specific enemies: the political left and the Jews and, to a lesser extent, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, homosexuals and the so-called asocials. In the war years, the victims included slave laborers. On the basis of court trials the author maintains that most cases were closed without litigation, or ended with light penalties for the accused if he did not belong to one of these groups. According to Johnson, the Nazis and the German population concluded a Faustian pact —the population turned a blind eye to the Gestapo’s persecution and in return, the Nazis overlooked minor transgressions of the law by ordinary Germans.