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The SS Officer's Armchair Reviews

The SS Officer's Armchair by Daniel Lee

The SS Officer's Armchair: In Search of a Hidden Life

Daniel Lee

4.17 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 1 Oct 2020
ISBN: 9781911214960

The SS Officer's Armchair is the story of what happened next, as Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart.

4 stars out of 5
PD Smith
10 Oct 2020

"The compelling story of tracking down the secrets of a ‘desk murderer’ and confronting his family with his crimes"

He came to like them, and even saw parallels with how his own family had dealt with their experiences: “The traumas of the war were wrapped in an oppressive silence that became habitual over the course of generations.” According to the author, “no book has ever been written on a low-ranking, regular SS officer”. As well as a brilliant researcher, Lee proves himself to be an insightful narrator – of both the life of a Nazi “desk murderer”, and the continuing attempts of Griesinger’s family to come to terms with the long shadow his role as an SS officer has cast over their lives


4 stars out of 5
3 Oct 2020

"an intriguing, honest and superbly documented portrait of what could be called an ‘unremarkable’ SS life"

The strength of Lee’s book is the way these facts of history are twinned with the perverted domesticity of everyday Nazism. SS men, for example, were encouraged to push prams and change nappies. Before he married, Griesinger’s fiancée, like all SS wives, was subjected to extensive gynaecological examinations, including checks on her menstruation, to be sure that she would produce the minimum four Aryan children. It is the domestic focus that Griesinger’s children say they remember. They claim they knew nothing of their father’s SS membership, and recall only the family Christmases and his care for the family dog. The armchair stuffed with hidden swastikas is an apt symbol for that weird and disturbing double life.

4 stars out of 5
David Aaronovitch
26 Sep 2020

"Understand this mediocre Nazi and you understand the terrible tragedy of 20th-century Germany"

I am happy to write that, because this is an admirable work of historical research, and is carefully and briskly written. Lee has been a pitbull of a researcher. He found the scattered family and went to interview them. He visited the houses that the Griesingers had lived in. He chased down their neighbours. He sought and probably found every extant document concerning Dr Griesinger, discovering that, remarkably, 27 libraries round the world hold copies of Griesinger’s law PhD.

5 stars out of 5
24 Sep 2020

"Lee’s riveting book opens a window onto the life of an “ordinary” Nazi and the depredations attendant on his desk job"

dmirably diligent, Lee tracks down Griesinger’s two daughters but, unsurprisingly, neither Jutta nor Barbara has any idea of their father’s part in the Hitler machinery. It took the 1978 Hollywood television soap opera Holocaust, starring Meryl Streep, to break 33 years of near-silence in Germany surrounding Hitler’s war against the Jews. Even then, a “culture of emotional evasion” ensured that the war generation largely stayed silent about the Nazi past. Born into a wealthy Württemberg family, in 1933 Griesinger joined the Ministry of Interior under the new chancellor, Adolf Hitler. As a lawyer his duties were administrative but, later, he served in a German army unit that executed Jews in the Soviet Union. Seventy years on, we are still trying to understand the catastrophe that engulfed the Jews in the Hitlerite storm. Lee’s riveting book opens a window onto the life of an “ordinary” Nazi and the depredations attendant on his desk job