Sebastian Haffner

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Sebastian Haffner
Sebastian-haffner book-cover.jpg
Detail of book cover Germany: Jekyll & Hyde
BornRaimund Pretzel
(1907-12-27)27 December 1907
Berlin, German Empire
Died2 January 1999(1999-01-02) (aged 91)
Berlin, Germany
OccupationJournalist and historian
Subject Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, World War I, Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, World War II
Notable works The Meaning of Hitler
Children Sarah Haffner 1940-2018, Oliver Pretzel

Raimund Pretzel (27 December 1907 – 2 January 1999), [1] better known by his pseudonym Sebastian Haffner, was a German journalist and author. He wrote mainly about recent German history. His focus was specifically on the history of the German Reich (1871–1945); his books dealt with the origins and course of the First World War, the failure of the Weimar Republic, and the subsequent rise and fall of Nazi Germany under Hitler. His most known work is The Meaning of Hitler (German: Anmerkungen zu Hitler, 1978), a short biography and analysis of Hitler.

German <i>Reich</i> official name for the German nation state from 1871 to 1945, and name of Germany until 1949

Deutsches Reich was the official name in the German language for the German nation state that existed from 1871 to 1945. The Reich became understood as deriving its authority and sovereignty entirely from a continuing unitary German 'national people'; with that authority and sovereignty being exercised at any one time over a unitary German 'state territory' with variable boundaries and extent. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not in itself have monarchical connotations. The word Kaiserreich is applied to denote an empire with an emperor; hence the German Empire of 1871–1918 is termed Deutsches Kaiserreich in standard works of reference. From 1943 to 1945, the official name of Germany became – but was not formally proclaimed – Großdeutsches Reich on account of the additional German peoples and associated territories annexed into the state's administration before and during the Second World War.

Weimar Republic Germany state in the years 1918/1919–1933

The Weimar Republic is an unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the republic remained Deutsches Reich unchanged from 1871, because of the German tradition of substates. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not have monarchical connotations in itself. The Reich was changed from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. In English, the country was usually known simply as Germany.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.



He studied Law and became a judge. In 1938 he emigrated from Nazi Germany with his Jewish fiancée to London, where he intended to work as an author and journalist. He encountered difficulties at first since he was hardly able to speak English at the time (but rapidly became remarkably proficient in the language), had no money and no financial support, and his fiancée (who became his wife later on) was pregnant. He adopted the pseudonym Sebastian Haffner so that his family, who remained in Germany, would not be endangered by his writing. It was a combination of Johann Sebastian Bach and of Mozart's Haffner Symphony , later he used the signature of this piece (KV 385) on his vehicle registration plate.

Johann Sebastian Bach German composer

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Art of Fugue, the Brandenburg Concertos, and the Goldberg Variations as well as for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Vehicle registration plate Vehicle license plates

A vehicle registration plate, also known as a number plate or a license plate, is a metal or plastic plate attached to a motor vehicle or trailer for official identification purposes. All countries require registration plates for road vehicles such as cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Whether they are required for other vehicles, such as bicycles, boats, or tractors, may vary by jurisdiction. The registration identifier is a numeric or alphanumeric ID that uniquely identifies the vehicle owner within the issuing region's vehicle register. In some countries, the identifier is unique within the entire country, while in others it is unique within a state or province. Whether the identifier is associated with a vehicle or a person also varies by issuing agency. There are also electronic license plates.

During the Second World War in England Haffner was interned for several months in 1940 and released only after publication of his first book in English, Germany: Jekyll and Hyde (1940.) [2] He was one of the promoters and early writers of Die Zeitung , published for German exiles by the British government 1941-45. His book Offensive against Germany (1941) was commissioned by George Orwell and T.R. Fyvel for Searchlight Books. [3] Under the auspices of his mentor, David Astor, Haffner then wrote for the London Sunday newspaper, The Observer , and became its editor-in-chief. However, because of differences between Astor, who had become the newspaper's publisher, and the London editorship regarding a divided Germany, he became the German correspondent in Berlin in 1954, a position which he kept until the building of the Berlin Wall.

Die Zeitung was a German-language newspaper in London published during World War II. It had an average circulation of 15,000 to 20,000 from March 1941 to June 1945 and was mainly read by Germans in exile. A lighter version was sold overseas and airdropped over Germany by the Royal Air Force.

<i>The Observer</i> weekly British newspaper, published on Sundays

The Observer is a British newspaper published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its sister papers The Guardian and The Guardian Weekly, whose parent company Guardian Media Group Limited acquired it in 1993, it takes a social liberal or social democratic line on most issues. First published in 1791, it is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.

Berlin Wall barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic, enclosing West Berlin

The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic, starting on 13 August 1961, the Wall cut off West Berlin from virtually all of surrounding East Germany and East Berlin until government officials opened it in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and finished in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany.

He then wrote for a German newspaper, Die Welt , until 1962, and from then until 1975 was a columnist for the Stern magazine. Haffner was a frequent guest on the television show Internationaler Frühschoppen (translates roughly to "international morning pint"), hosted by Werner Höfer, and even had his own television program on the German channel Sender Freies Berlin.

<i>Die Welt</i> German national daily newspaper

Die Welt is a German national daily newspaper, published as a broadsheet by Axel Springer SE.

<i>Stern</i> (magazine) German magazine

Stern is a weekly news magazine published in Hamburg, Germany, by Gruner + Jahr, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann.

Frühschoppen is the German and Austrian tradition of meeting up at a pub, inn or tavern in the late morning, usually on Sundays. The specific customs vary from region to region. Frühschoppen is often a kind of brunch, but does not necessarily involve food. Frühschoppen is also often held at fun fairs, the most famous being Oktoberfest or Cannstatter Volksfest and most important the Bremer Freimarkt]

Haffner is considered one of the most successful German authors in the history of the 19th and 20th century writing for a broad, nonacademic audience.

He wrote most of his works in German, some of which have been translated into English, French, Spanish, Hebrew and other languages. The manuscript of Defying Hitler, discovered posthumously by his son, Oliver Pretzel, [4] is a memoir of the Nazis' rise to power, as witnessed by Haffner before he went into exile.

Selected writings

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Searchlight Books was a series of essays published as hardback books, edited by T. R. Fyvel and George Orwell. The series was published by Secker & Warburg.

  • 2nd edition: Die deutsche Revolution 1918/1919 – wie war es wirklich? Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Geschichte. München, Kindler Verlag 1979, ISBN   3-463-00738-X
  • 3rd edition: 1918/1919 – eine deutsche Revolution. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1981, ISBN   3-499-17455-3
  • 4th edition: 1918/1919 – eine deutsche Revolution. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1986, ISBN   3-499-17455-3
  • 5th edition: 1918/1919 – eine deutsche Revolution. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1988, ISBN   3-499-17455-3
  • 6th edition: Der Verrat. Deutschland 1918/19. Berlin, Verlag 1900, 1993, ISBN   3-930278-00-6
  • 7th edition: Der Verrat. 1918/1919 – als Deutschland wurde, wie es ist. Berlin, Verlag 1900, 1994, ISBN   3-930278-00-6
  • 8th edition: Der Verrat. 1918/1919 – als Deutschland wurde, wie es ist. Berlin, Verlag 1900, 1995, ISBN   3-930278-00-6
  • 9th edition: Der Verrat. Berlin, Verlag 1900, 2000, ISBN   3-930278-00-6
  • 10th edition: Der Verrat. Deutschland 1918/1919. Berlin, Verlag 1900, 2002, ISBN   3-930278-00-6
  • 11th edition: Die deutsche Revolution – 1918/19. Kindler, 2002, ISBN   3-463-40423-0
  • 12th edition: Die deutsche Revolution – 1918/19. rororo Taschenbücher, 2004, ISBN   3-499-61622-X
  • 13th edition: Die deutsche Revolution – 1918/19. Anaconda Verlag, 2008, ISBN   3-86647-268-4



  1. Neil Ascherson (14 January 1999). "Sebastian Haffner obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  2. Afterword by Oliver Pretzel in Defying Hitler (2002).
  3. Orwell, George (2010) The Orwell Diaries. Penguin UK At Google Books. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  4. "Defying Hitler" by Sebastian Haffner – Archived 2011-07-01 at the Wayback Machine

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