Cover image for A mind in prison : the memoir of a son and soldier of the Third Reich
A mind in prison : the memoir of a son and soldier of the Third Reich
Manz, Bruno, 1921-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Brassey's, [2000]

Physical Description:
287 pages : portraits ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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D811 .M342 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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" A Mind in Prison is a candid autobiographical examination of life in Nazi Germany and the powerful hold Nazi propaganda had on Germany's youth. It is rare to find such an eloquent, frank, and truly remorseful account of the Nazi years by a German who made the tragic mistake of following Adolf Hitler."

Author Notes

Bruno Manz was born in 1921 in Dortmund, Germany. A former member of the Hitler Youth, the Luftwaffe, and the German army, he fought on the Arctic Ocean front during World War II. In 1957, he received his doctorate in theoretical physics and soon emigrated to the United States to work on the U.S. Army's ballistic missile program. Now a U.S. citizen, Dr. Manz lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Two Wehrmacht veterans' memoirs add up to make a valuable contribution to understanding how the Third Reich's war looked from the "Willie and Joe" level. Frisch, an Austrian whose family was politically left of center, spent the whole war as a private in a motorized artillery unit, seeing action in Poland, France, Russia, Sicily, and Italy, after which he was a POW for two years. He focuses less on his personal experiences than on the gritty details of daily German army life, showing that that well-equipped, formidable organization was still subject to Murphy's Law, "hurry-up-and-wait," and the other universal tribulations of soldiers. Manz focuses on his ideological journey, a complex one thanks to his loving but virulently anti-Semitic father, which made the son's subsequent disillusionment with Hitler all the more painful. Manz also provides some rare material on the arctic front, where two thin, gray lines of soldiers fought the climate as much as each other. Both Frisch and Manz eventually emigrated to the U.S. Manz worked in the space program, and Frisch in ship design. Both seem concerned to put the best foot forward, and even the most skeptical reader may well agree that the generation of Germans coming of age during the Third Reich was subjected to political and cultural crossfire long before they reached the battlefield, and that no simple scenario can adequately explain the complex paths so many of them followed, often to a premature grave. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Germans lacked the American spirit." This is the conclusion that Manz reaches through writing this honest, soul-searching autobiography in which he attempts to understand the Third Reich and his place within it. Now a physicist and U.S. citizen, Manz was the son of an anti-Semitic father whom he loved. Though his early education was dominated by one teacher who resisted the Nazification of the classroom, Manz entered the Hitler Youth and recounts how he was shaped by Nazi tales of a Jewish conspiracy against Germany. Shortly after WWII began, Manz joined the Luftwaffe and became a ground support soldier stationed in northern Finland. After hand-to-hand fighting with the Soviets during the withdrawal to Norway late in the war, Manz was among those who surrendered to the British in 1945. Emaciated and torn with guilt, Manz survived, returned to his home town of ™rlinghausen in northwestern Germany and eventually became a university student, emigrating in 1957. Throughout his narrative, he recounts the instances where he was confronted with the truth of the Nazi regime, but chose to look the other way and do nothing. Ashamed and disillusioned by war's end, Manz at last tried to come to grips with the awful truth of the Holocaust. The resulting "unlocking" of Manz's mind becomes the apologyÄthis bookÄfor his part in supporting a monstrous government. Photos not seen by PW. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One In the Crucible of Despair I was born in 1921 in the city of Dortmund, one of the big industrial towns of the Rhine-Ruhr District of western Germany. In the years of my childhood the city was cloaked in the smoke and soot from its two main industries, coal-mining and steel-making.     I was the second of four children. My father was a self-employed architect who was often out of work. At the beginning of World War I in 1914, he had been seriously wounded and lost control of one leg. A grenade exploded next to him and sent its fragments into his body. He fell into horse manure and contracted tetanus, whereupon he fought for his life for the next four years. My mother was also disabled by an eye injury she experienced during her childhood.     It was a difficult time for parents to raise children, a time of economic hardship, high unemployment, and political chaos. I still remember when the bailiff confiscated a cherished piece of furniture because my parents could not pay the rent. In spite of these hardships, my parents provided us children with a home in which we felt loved and secure.     I loved and respected my parents, and I still do. Yet my father was that fateful person who, when I was less than ten years old, initiated the insidious process of my mental imprisonment, which was later completed with even more efficiency by Nazi institutions and propaganda. My father was a German chauvinist, who soon fell into Hitler's wide-open arms. His nationalistic conceit is perhaps best exemplified by his favorite saying, Von deutschem Wesen wird dereinst die ganze Welt genesen (The German character one day will cure the whole world). He spoke of Germany as the nation of poets and philosophers, and implied, as did the Nazis, that Germany was the cradle of culture (the word "civilization," interestingly, was out of favor). I wholeheartedly embraced this hubris because it presented itself so cleverly as age-old wisdom in poetic form. Little did I know that collective pride is a narcotic for the mentally homeless.     In 1929, the year of the Great Depression, my father became a member of the Nazi Party. From then on he relentlessly tried to win others over to his course. I still remember his incessant proselytizing and his penchant for blaming other groups and nations, and the Jews particularly, for Germany's troubles. What I recall most vividly were his outbursts of hatred, which were essentially directed against three groups: the Jews, the French, and the so-called November criminals who had negotiated the Treaty of Versailles. At the same time he hailed Nazi crimes, such as the assassination of Walther Rathenau (a German statesman), as deeds of patriotism and historical justice.     Had my father been aloof or cold to us children, his preaching might not have influenced me as strongly as it did. But he was loving and caring, and he made for us wonderful toys that were the envy of our friends. Once he built a Black Forest peasant house with people and animals, which attracted visitors from all over town. For my younger brother he tailored the uniform of a grenadier of the Prussian army under Frederick the Great, complete with helmet and wooden rifle. On Christmas Day he took the six-year-old boy to town to show him off to young and old.     For me, he built a miniature workshop mounted on a large board, featuring an electric motor, a transmission, a generator, a steam engine, and a dozen special tools such as a circular saw and a lathe. He also supplied fine woods and showed me how to make chess figures. Unfortunately, since I did not share his talent, I disappointed him by simply cutting the wood to pieces.     My fondest memories are the little walks on which he took me in spite of his physical handicap, on warm summer mornings. There, he forgot his anti-Semitic hatred. Instead, he talked about his work, the houses he built, and how they fitted into the landscape. These were the happiest moments of my childhood. I suppose they were also some of my father's happier moments.     The conversation at the dinner table, when it did not deal with political subjects, was often substantive, constructive, and educational. My father had two favorite maxims that I took to heart. One was "Do right and fear nobody"; the other was "Be more than you pretend to be." I believe that he sincerely tried to live up to these principles, but never realized how seriously he violated the first one by preaching his hatred. As to the second motto, I believe that he truly adhered to it. Had it not been for his disastrous political hatemongering, I think he would have been an ideal father.     My family was essentially non-religious. My father considered himself a free-thinking man, and my mother had suffered in her childhood at the hands of Catholic nuns because she was the child of a "mixed marriage" between a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. On Monday mornings, if she had missed the Sunday Bible school, she had to stretch out her hands to receive a blow with a ruler across the fingers. Today the story helps me to appreciate the wisdom of the separation of church and state in the American Constitution.     Although my parents did not favor religious education, I had the good fortune of having a teacher in the Evangelical grammar school who had an extraordinary talent for telling Bible stories, such as Joseph in Egypt or the Flight of the Holy Family. My father must have felt how much I loved this Biblical instruction, for he did not interfere, except that he disparagingly referred to the teacher as a Sozi (a slang word for a Social Democrat). But his clerical animosity was directed not so much against Protestants as against Catholics, whom he called bigots. He referred to the annual procession of the Catholic faithful through the streets of our town as "a triumphal march of stupidity."     My father had been born and raised in a small village directly at the border with France. In the town, anti-French feelings ran deep, and he had adopted the chauvinism of his father, the director of a coal mine. Though my grandfather had a reputation as a tyrant, both at home and on his job, he saw to it that his twelve children received a decent high school education. Yet he hated the French and the Jews and passed his hatred on to my father, who then passed it on to me.     Yet my father's antipathy against the French was not the hatred that transfused his anti-Semitism but, rather, a presumptuous contempt. He portrayed the French as unmanly, despite-his experience with the bravery of French soldiers during the First World War. One of his favorite shibboleths was: "A good German likes no Frenchman, but he loves to drink his wines." He still smarted from the lost war, as did many Germans of his generation. They deeply resented the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which they called "The Dictate of Versailles" and which, it is true, was an instrument of vengeance. With its humiliating provisions, such as Germany's loss of sovereignty over its rivers and some of its territories, the treaty contributed considerably to the revisionist sentiment of most Germans and, in the end, to WorldWar II.     Though my father had suffered terribly during the war, he spoke in fond terms of his service in the Imperial army. He particularly raved about the thick pea soup in which, as he put it, the spoon would stand upright. When I joined Hitler's army in World War II, I found to my disappointment that neither the pea soup nor most other things were as topnotch as my father had described them. Indeed, I doubt that he really liked his service in the army as much as he claimed. Rather I believe that he was motivated by a nationalistic ardor and desire to stimulate the same fervor in me. In this regard, he was extraordinarily successful.     Both of my parents had suffered greatly during the difficult period at the end of World War I and immediately thereafter. My mother told us horrible stories of people dying of starvation in the streets. One of the victims was her brother. What Germans resented most was that the food blockade continued even after Germany had surrendered, and that it did not end until the emissaries of the Weimar Republic had signed the Treaty of Versailles. But even then the punishment did not end. When Germany was unable to pay the astronomical war reparations, the French invaded Germany's Ruhr district and took coal and steel in place of money.     An immediate consequence of the unreasonable war reparations was the great inflation of the 1920s. Since the German government was unable to come up with the billions of marks demanded by France, it printed more money, creating an inflationary spiral. My mother told us the story of how she received the wages my father had earned as an employee of a large industrial company in Dortmund. Because of the rapid devaluation of the money, the employees were paid daily. My parents would meet at the company gate, where my father dumped the paper money into my mother's apron. She then rushed to the closest bakery to buy a loaf of bread before the price doubled. She also showed us one of the billion-mark notes printed on only one side in order to save time and printing costs.     I do not recall sensing any hatred when my mother told us these stories, only a desire to lament the suffering. It was her nature to suffer, but not to hate. In World War II, when Dortmund was burning from Allied bombing raids and her home was destroyed, my mother showed the same penchant for hateless lamentation. Her favorite dictum was Goethe's words, "If you wish to know what is proper, ask well-bred women."     When my father talked about the hardship of the war and its aftermath, it was different, particularly when he spoke about the Treaty of Versailles. Ironically, he blamed the Jews even more than the French. According to him, the Jews were responsible for everything: for inciting anti-German feelings all over the world, for starting the war, for the punishment of Versailles, for the starvation, and for all the misery and humiliations that were still visited on the German people. He was convinced that the Jews were leading a world conspiracy against Germany, and he preached his irrational hatred with an almost religious zeal. Rothschild, Morgan, Rathenau, and Trotsky were some of the Jewish leaders whose names he pronounced as if they were the scum of the earth.     A good example of my father's proselytizing was a family that lived in the apartment beneath ours. They were churchgoing Catholics who rejected Hitler--until he came to power, that is. They also were friends of ours, in spite of my father's persistent attempts to bring them into the Nazi fold. The brunt of my father's zealotry fell on the family father, who was no match for him. Sometimes it seemed that my father had won the politically unsophisticated gentleman over to his side, but after another church attendance the poor devil, as we called him, had rekindled his doubts and reinvigorated his anti-Nazi feelings. When my father noticed his relapse, he would say that it was time to give him another "head wash."     Eventually, repeated "head washes" produced results. After every "grooming," that family moved a little closer to the Nazi movement. And when the Nazis came to power in 1933, the family discovered, to our surprise, that they had sympathized with Hitler all along. To prove it, the old man asked my father to sponsor his oldest son for the SS. A few months later when the young man presented himself in his new black uniform, my childish soul was filled with envy.     My father's anti-Semitism invaded even provinces as serene as music. He loved classical music and sometimes whistled familiar tunes or played them on the violoncello. I still remember when he was whistling a melody, which I later identified as the second theme from the presto of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. After he had finished the tune, he asked with unfeigned amazement, "How can anybody invent such a beautiful melody?" However, in spite of his undeniable music appreciation, he would never listen to the works of Jewish composers such as Mendelssohn or Mahler. I am not sure whether this was because he was afraid the music would poison his Aryan soul or because he was convinced that it was not worthwhile listening to.     He displayed the same obstinacy in other fields, such as science. Though he clearly lacked the education to understand Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, he declared with the arrogance of the ignorant that every schoolteacher knew the "trivialities" that Einstein tried to sell as profound scientific discoveries. It took fifteen years until I had the opportunity to acquaint myself with the theory of relativity, and another fifteen years until I could truthfully claim that I understood it. My father's favorite term for Jewish accomplishments in science was "a typically Jewish attempt to stupefy." With distortions like this he denied every achievement of German Jewry from Heinrich Heine to Sigmund Freud.     Most of my father's preaching reached us children at the family table. I was barely old enough to understand it all, but the primitive slogans were hammered into my mind, particularly the ever-repeated lie "The Jews are our misfortune." After he had talked himself into a rage, my father would use language, that shocked all of us, particularly my mother. On one occasion he raved about "The Night of the Long Knives," which apparently he considered the remedy for "The Jewish Question." At another instance he shouted that there would be no peace in the world until all Jews were dead. When my mother cried out in anguish, "My God, they are human beings, too!" he countered with the contemptuous phrase, "Lice are animals, too."     While I abhorred the violence that these outbursts seemed to suggest, I was convinced that the underlying cause was just and patriotic. And patriotism was a cause close to my heart. The nation, the flag, soldiery, sacrifice on the altar of the Fatherland, these were the ideals I nurtured in my childish mind. I had adopted them from my father and the people with whom he socialized, and also from some of the teachers at high school. Not all of these elders were anti-Semitic hatemongers; some were well-meaning patriots who entertained nostalgic dreams of national glory.     One of the more innocent dreamers was a teacher who organized the Boy Scouts at high school. His idol was Walter Flex, a hero from the First World War who had written the book Wanderer Between Both Worlds . Sometimes the young teacher read to us from this book, which touched me deeply with its purity and sincerity, as did a song from the same author. It dealt with a column of young volunteers marching to the front in Flanders in 1914 and beholding a formation of gray geese flying overhead. Anticipating early death on the field of glory, and fearing that the migrating birds might share their fate, the young men ended the somber song on the refrain, "Oh restless journeyer, beware, beware, the world is full of murder!" Today this artless poetry still touches me as an island of patriotic innocence in a sea of political deprivation.     Most of my father's business acquaintances were either Nazi sympathizers or party members. In fact, I recall only one unmistakable anti-Nazi, the owner of a prosperous carpenter shop whom my older brother called Herr Geheimrat ( Geheimrat means privy councillor or confidential advisor) because he was a Freemason and had a certain air of distinction. He also had a predilection for satire, which my father admired as long as it was not aimed at Hitler. A few years later, when criticizing the Nazis had become dangerous, Herr Geheimrat proved that he also had courage, as I shall report later. In spite of his affiliation with the Freemasons, he and my father were close friends, as were his wife and my mother. He also entertained a splendid army of play soldiers from the time of Frederick the Great, with horses and cannons, which I sometimes was allowed to review but never to touch.     What I recall most vividly about this enigmatic man were the political discussions in which he engaged my father. When they touched upon Hitler and the Nazis, the debate became quite loud and sometimes bitter. "You will see," I recall my father shouting, "Hitler will save us." "No," retorted Herr Geheimrat, "he will get us only deeper into trouble." In my childish judgment, this man was the only person who could stand his ground against my father. I liked to listen to him because he seemed to support his arguments with historical examples. Unfortunately, the unscheduled lessons from the Geheimrat came to an early end, when his wife came crying to our house claiming that he had beaten her. Since she also had a black eye to prove it, my mother got so enraged that she banished Herr Geheimrat from our house. When he returned years later, I was already fully indoctrinated with Nazi ideology.     A decidedly negative influence on me was another of my father's business acquaintances, who was the owner of a building company. My father called him Haudegen (literally "hitting saber," meaning "old champion"). He surpassed my father both in age and years of Nazi Party membership. I believe it was this old champion who had recruited my father for the party in 1929. His trademarks were a curved pipe of the kind foresters used to smoke and a large brimmed hat that concealed a conspicuous scar across his skull. At about this time, I saw a picture from Wagner's opera Siegfried , in which the god Wotan appears as a "Wanderer on Earth," wearing a brimmed hat of the kind Old Champion wore. Unfortunately, the picture from German mythology filled me with more respect for the man than he deserved.     According to rumor, Old Champion had received a blow on his head in a brawl with the Communists and suffered some brain damage. From this dubious source I heard for the first time the grisly tales of Jewish ritual murders. Such tales were routinely fabricated by the notorious Nazi propaganda organ Der Stürmer . While this ugly mouthpiece of German anti-Semitism would have an even more deplorable influence on our lives in the years to come, its venom reached me already at this early age.     Once, the man with the brimmed hat took me aside and taught me an anti-Semitic rhyme of calculated offensiveness. He wanted me to sing the verse to one of my playmates who was Jewish, but I resented it because it exuded the smell of the gutter. I was so embarrassed that I delayed the provocation from day to day, but Old Champion kept pressuring me until I finally obliged. The vulgar words pained me so much that I rattled them off rather quickly, hoping the poor boy would not understand them. But I was mistaken. The lad must have heard the insulting verse before, for he turned around without a word and avoided me after that. I can still recall the feeling of shame. The rhyme is so ugly that I would not repeat it here if it were not so symptomatic of the hateful atmosphere in which I grew up. Thus, I present it with an apology for its vulgarity. Jude Itzig Nase spitzig Augen eckig Arschloch dreckig. Jew "Itzig" Nose pointed Eyes angular Ass-hole dirty.     In summary, the atmosphere in which I grew up was a mixture of national glory and misery, pride and humiliation, hope and despair, devotion and hatred, beauty and ugliness, romantic tales and infamous lies. Though I learned history in school, I did not understand that history is more than battles and victories, glory and conquest. It did not occur to me that there are values such as historical responsibility, historical merit, and, alas, historical guilt. I was a guileless, gullible romantic who blindly accepted the nationalistic rhetoric and anti-Semitic canards of the elders. By the time I was ten years old, my soul was already thoroughly poisoned with a dull, collective hatred.     Yet all of this was talk, not action. I believe my father was as incapable of physical brutality as I am. I do not know whether he ever witnessed any of the more serious atrocities of the Nazis, or whether, had he seen them with his own eyes, he would have condemned them. But I do know that he was incapable of committing such acts, though he sometimes talked as if he was only waiting for an opportunity to carry them out. He was a highly excitable rabble-rouser who, in the heat of debate, would say things of inexcusable irresponsibility. Had he been physically brutal, and had I found out, he would have lost me that very instant. But I stayed in the mental prison he had prepared for me because I loved him and believed that his cause was just, even noble.     Of course, preaching hatred is a particular kind of destructive action. It can have consequences as harmful and irreparable as any deed of violence. I doubt whether my father understood this, for even after the Second World War, when he was old and demoralized, he did not show any sign of regret or atonement, but went right on blaming the new misery of the defeated nation on the Jews, as he had done before. My sister told me that, at the time of the Nuremberg trials, she played a record with music of Felix Mendelssohn. My father probably had never heard it before, but listened so attentively that my sister hoped he might have been converted to the truth. However, after it ended he murmured the word Klaubacke , which is a colloquialism for plagiarist. He could not believe, or did not want to believe, that a Jew could have composed the beautiful music he had just heard. It still pains me that his destiny had not granted him redemption from his pernicious hatred. Copyright © 2000 Brassey's. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 3
1. In the Crucible of Despairp. 6
2. A Whirlwind of Seduction and Doubtp. 18
3. Violation of a Defenseless Mindp. 24
4. Imprisonment of Seventy Million Mindsp. 30
5. No Escapep. 35
6. The Master Jailerp. 52
7. Professors of Propagandap. 63
8. Long on Obedience, Short on Purposep. 89
9. The Arctic Ocean Frontp. 111
10. "Do You Want Total War?"p. 145
11. The Great Retreatp. 169
12. Total Defeat, Total Disillusionmentp. 196
13. The Truth Sinks Inp. 216
14. Drunk with the Wine of Freedomp. 236
15. A Semblance of Normalcy Returnsp. 255
Epiloguep. 269
Indexp. 275
About the Authorp. 287