The S.S. Officer's Armchair

Uncovering the Hidden Life of a Nazi


By Daniel Lee

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Based on documents discovered concealed within a simple chair for seventy years, this gripping investigation into the life of a single S.S. officer during World War Two encapsulates the tragic experience of a generation of Europeans

One night at a dinner party in Florence, historian Daniel Lee was told about a remarkable discovery. An upholsterer in Amsterdam had found a bundle of swastika-covered documents inside the cushion of an armchair he was repairing. They belonged to Dr. Robert Griesinger, a lawyer from Stuttgart, who joined the S.S. and worked at the Reich’s Ministry of Economics and Labor in Nazi-occupied Prague during the war. An expert in the history of the Holocaust, Lee was fascinated to know more about this man–and how his most precious documents ended up hidden inside a chair, hundreds of miles from Prague and Stuttgart.

In The S.S. Officer’s Armchair, Lee weaves detection with biography to tell an astonishing narrative of ambition and intimacy in the Third Reich. He uncovers Griesinger’s American back-story–his father was born in New Orleans and the family had ties to the plantations and music halls of nineteenth century Louisiana. As Lee follows the footsteps of a rank and file Nazi official seventy years later, and chronicles what became of him and his family at the war’s end, Griesinger’s role in Nazi crimes comes into focus. When Lee stumbles on an unforeseen connection between Griesinger and the murder of his own relatives in the Holocaust, he must grapple with potent questions about blame, manipulation, and responsibility.

The S.S. Officer’s Armchair is an enthralling detective story and a reconsideration of daily life in the Third Reich. It provides a window into the lives of Hitler’s millions of nameless followers and into the mechanisms through which ordinary people enacted history’s most extraordinary atrocity.


List of Illustrations and Maps


here Photograph of the armchair (Jana)

here A page from one of Griesinger’s passports (Jutta Mangold)

here Emil Gerstel Catalog, Prague, here (undated, but published after 1927)

here Gisela and Robert in his parents’ house, c. 1937 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Adolf and Wally Griesinger outside the church on the occasion of Albert and Gertraut’s wedding in 1938 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here The Griesinger house on Auf dem Haigst (photo taken c. 1953; Jutta Mangold)

here Adolf Griesinger while a cadet at Lichterfelde c. 1885 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Robert Sr. and Lina Griesinger c. 1905 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here A photograph sent in 1910 by Emil Christ to his aunt, Lina Griesinger, of his father’s new house in New Orleans (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Adolf and Robert Griesinger c. 1908 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here A page from Wally Griesinger’s Child Book that includes a photograph of Wally, Robert, and Albert Griesinger, 1910 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Lina Griesinger (née Johns) in her armchair c. 1915 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Robert Griesinger’s confirmation photograph, 1921 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Robert Griesinger’s Corps portrait, 1925 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here A duel among Suevia Tübingen’s Corps brothers, 1931 (image in Heinz Howaldt, Suevia Tübingen, 1831–1931, vol. 1, Tübingen, 1931)

here Wedding portrait of Gustav Albrecht, fifth Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Margareta Fouché d’Otrante, 1934 (Barbara and Fritz Schlegel)

here The photograph Gisela Grosser submitted to the Main Office for Race and Settlement to secure a marriage license, 1935 (Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Lichterfelde, R 9361 III/58950)

here The photograph Robert Griesinger submitted to the Main Office for Race and Settlement to secure a marriage license, 1935 (Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Lichterfelde, R 9361 III/58950)

here Robert and Gisela’s wedding day lunch, February 11, 1936 (Barbara and Fritz Schlegel)

here Adolf Hitler’s visit to Stuttgart April 1, 1938 (Stadtarchiv Stuttgart, F30300)

here Griesinger holding Jutta in his arms while visiting his parents, c. 1939 (Barbara and Fritz Schlegel)

here Griesinger’s house on Schottstrasse, c. 1936 (Moderne Bauformen, September 1936, p. 499)

here Helene and Fritz Rothschild c. 1930 (Helga, Andrew, and Christine Rothschild)

here Jutta and Joachim at Hohenheim c. 1939 (Jutta Mangold)

here Griesinger in Wehrmacht uniform with one of the horses from the 25th Infantry Division c. 1939 (Jutta Mangold)

here Griesinger in Wehrmacht uniform c. 1939 (Barbara and Fritz Schlegel)

here Gisela’s driving license, 1941 (Peter Jehli)

here Barbara and Jutta at school in Prague, c. 1944 (Barbara and Fritz Schlegel)

here Joachim, Jutta, Gisela, Robert, and Barbara with the family dog in Prague, 1943 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Barbara, Gisela, Jutta, and Joachim, c. 1946 (Jutta Mangold)

here Gisela and Walter on their wedding day, 1946 (Barbara and Fritz Schlegel)

here Barbara, Wally, and Jutta Griesinger in Stuttgart (Jutta Mangold)

here Wally Griesinger with Jutta’s son, Michäel, c. 1963 (Jochen and Irmela Griesinger)

here Nunia and Ryszard Seidenros c. 1933 (Daniel Lee)


here The 25th Infantry Division’s route into France in 1940

here The 25th Motorized Infantry Division’s route into the USSR in 1941

Dramatis Personae

Walter Bertsch—Minister of Economics and Labour in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; responsible for recruiting Griesinger to work for him in Prague

Rudolf Bilfinger—worked with Griesinger as a lawyer at the Stuttgart Gestapo before being posted to the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA)

Karl Hermann Frank—a leading Sudeten Nazi official, who in 1939 became Secretary of State for the Protectorate and was nominally in charge of Bohemia and Moravia after Wilhelm Frick assumed the role of Reich Protector in August 1943

Adolf Griesinger—father of Robert Griesinger, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1871

Albert Griesinger—Robert Griesinger’s younger brother

Gisela Griesinger (née Nottebohm)—Robert Griesinger’s wife, born in Hamburg in 1912

Irmela Griesinger—Jochen Griesinger’s wife

Jochen Griesinger—son of Albert, and nephew of Robert Griesinger

Lina Griesinger (née Johns)—Robert Griesinger’s grandmother, born in New Orleans in 1848

Robert Arnold Griesinger—Lawyer, SS Officer and an official at the Ministry of Economics and Labour in Nazi-occupied Prague

Robert Griesinger, Sr.—Robert Griesinger’s grandfather, born in Stuttgart in 1841

Wally Griesinger (née Passmann)—Robert Griesinger’s mother, born in Duisburg in 1884

Joachim Grosser—Gisela’s son from her first marriage; Robert Griesinger’s stepson

Wilhelm Harster—deputy head of the Stuttgart Gestapo; later served in the Netherlands as head of the Security Police and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD)

Mrs. Helmichova—Czech neighbor of Wally Griesinger, whom Wally sent to Prague after the war to discover Robert’s fate

Alfred Hugenberg—newspaper magnate and leader of the nationalist party, the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP); served in Hitler’s government in 1933

Jana1—the current owner of the armchair in which Griesinger’s papers were discovered

Paul Emile Johns—Lina Griesinger’s father, born in Kraków (Austrian Empire) in 1798 or 1800; later a composer and musician in New Orleans

Jutta Mangold (née Griesinger)—Robert Griesinger’s daughter, born in January 1937

Konstantin von Neurath—Hitler’s first Foreign Minister, and a Corps brother of Robert Griesinger from Suevia Tübingen; appointed by Hitler to be the first Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939

Friedrich Nottebohm—Gisela’s uncle; his experience of internment in the USA during the Second World War later resulted in his case being brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague

Barbara Schlegel (née Griesinger)—Robert Griesinger’s daughter, born in December 1939

Walter Stahlecker—chief of the Stuttgart Gestapo and later head of Einsatzgruppe A; killed in battle with Soviet partisans; funeral held at Prague Castle in March 1942

Ingeborg Venzmer (née Nottebohm)—Gisela’s sister

Veronika1—Jana’s daughter

Hans von Watter—a Corps brother of Robert Griesinger from Suevia Tübingen, who was later County Councillor of Prague


1 Denotes that the name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

Chapter I

A “Real” Nazi

It all started with the armchair. The chair seemed to offer a way into Griesinger’s subjective life, his taste, relationships, and habits, in a way that his papers could not. From Florence, I had sent a photograph of the armchair to experts, hoping they might shed light on its provenance. Each agreed that it was inspired by the German-born cabinet-maker Michael Thonet, who had invented solid-wood bending in the 1840s. Models of Thonet’s steam-bent laminated armchairs were popular among conservative buyers in the 1930s and 1940s, but by the 1960s they had become less fashionable.1

I visited Prague within a few months of first speaking with Jana, the armchair’s current owner, hoping to establish where it had been manufactured and what I could of its intended buyer. Griesinger might have transported it from Germany to Prague, or he might have acquired it in the city, following his arrival. It was also possible that the armchair had been confiscated from the home of a Jewish family in Prague or even in Nazi-occupied western Europe, and later shipped east to make up for the furniture shortage affecting newly arrived Reich employees and their families in recently conquered territories.2

At the library of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague I trawled through hundreds of architectural and home-design magazines from 1930s Czechoslovakia, each showcasing the latest conveniences of modern living, and in the scenes of living rooms and spaces I came across pictures of chairs that appeared identical to Jana’s. The closest match appeared in collections of the Czech-Jewish designer Emil Gerstel, whose furniture company in Prague was taken over by the Germans in 1940. Gerstel’s designs were expensive. The company specialized in historicist furniture, which corresponded to the tastes of its wealthy clients. To purchase a Gerstel design, clients had to visit the Gerstel shop on the bustling Senovážné Square, a historical site in the heart of Prague’s New Town, peppered with tall symmetrical neo-Renaissance buildings with curving roofs. For those unable or without the time to buy an original, an easy solution was to hand. Gerstel’s neo-rococo armchairs were easy to replicate, and imitation designs flooded the Prague market.3

Emil Gerstel Catalog, Prague, here

On a rainy day in May, armed with multiple photographs of the armchair, I arrived in Prague’s Old Town and began to make inquiries. Most of the Gerstel company’s archives were destroyed during the war, and those that survived were lost when private enterprises were later nationalized.4 I walked in and out of a dozen showrooms and ateliers.5 Local chair-makers and furniture-sellers were divided on whether the armchair was an original Gerstel or an imitation. “Every factory in Prague was churning out hundreds of chairs, just like this one,” the owner of one antique shop told me, as she stood in her doorway and examined the photo.

It is easier to purchase an original Gerstel today than it would have been when Griesinger arrived in Prague in 1943. The city’s antique shops are now full of Gerstel pieces, which are neither rare nor particularly valuable. One restorer explained that the style is now considered simply too old-fashioned. In one antique dealer’s shop I found two chairs identical to Griesinger’s. The shop’s owner was selling the pair for Kč 4,500, the equivalent of £150. It felt natural to prod the top of the cushion gently with my fingers to see whether I could detect anything inside. I handed Karel, the shop’s owner, a photo of Griesinger’s armchair and explained that documents from the Nazi era, covered in swastikas, were recently discovered inside the chair’s cushion. I spoke slowly, pausing for effect as I uttered the word “Nazi.” Karel glanced at the photograph and, after taking a puff on his cigarette, shrugged his shoulders and gave it back to me. His reaction turned out to be typical. Unlike the restorer in Amsterdam, none of the people I spoke to in Prague seemed especially surprised by the chair’s use as a hiding place. “This was Communist Czechoslovakia, for God’s sake,” explained one, “people had a reason to hide things; I find items concealed in furniture every day.” Other than banknotes, all the dealers and restorers I spoke to tend to throw out the items they find. One chair-maker said that he finds hidden letters and official documents from the Communist era in at least one in ten couches or armchairs that he restores. He told me he has never read any. It seemed as if a million paths for potential future historical investigations are being scrubbed from the face of the Earth. What thousands of people had hoped to hide from the regime temporarily, Karel and others like him were erasing forever.

From 1948 right up until the fall of Communism, the people of Czechoslovakia lived under constant surveillance by the totalitarian state. The Czechoslovak secret police, the StB (Státní bezpečnost), monitored the population with vigor. By 1989, in addition to its regular staff of 15,000–17,000 employees, the organization had an extra 30,000 informants on file, tasked with denouncing anyone suspected of acting against the regime. In an era marked by tapping devices and fear-mongering, it is hardly surprising that many ordinary citizens chose to conceal anything that could potentially incriminate them and their families.6

While I was in Prague, I also began looking in local archives for evidence of Griesinger’s existence in that city. After a day of endlessly streaming through reels of microfilms at the Czech National Archives, I eventually found a document on Griesinger in a police file. Every newcomer to Prague was requested to register their address and personal information with the authorities. Griesinger’s form disclosed that he first arrived in Prague from Stuttgart in early March 1943, that he was Protestant and that his parents were Adolf and Wally. But Griesinger’s police file also revealed something else: in the documents that he had hidden inside the chair he had concealed an important fact. His wartime passports up to as late as 1944 stated that he was a childless bachelor. But he had married. In his police file in Prague, he confirmed in his own messy handwriting that he had married a woman named Gisela Nottebohm.7 Who was he trying to deceive by withholding this information? Whatever his reasoning, Griesinger’s efforts to mislead his own contemporaries remained effective seventy years later: he had pulled the wool over my eyes all too easily.

Not content to have uncovered only a single document, I headed the next day to the Archive of the Security Services, which I had heard also contained files of Germans who lived in Prague during the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands. I hoped to uncover Griesinger’s name mentioned in something such as a testimony from a former Reich employee, to help me piece together how he spent his days. When I arrived at the archive, located inside a dated Art Deco building with a dark, grubby façade, I handed the cover page of Griesinger’s police file from the National Archives to the archivist on duty. She took off her glasses to read the document, placing them on top of a stack of old books that she had on her wooden desk. She asked me to wait in a room full of filing cabinets which had a subtle, musky smell while she went in search of a file. The large walls of open shelves contained thousands of files with different-colored jackets. When the archivist returned, she handed me a document in which Griesinger’s name appeared on a list of “German Public Employees in Prague.” Only a few details were typed alongside his name: his date and place of birth, his address in Prague and his role as an employee of the German state government ministry in Prague—most of which I already knew from the National Archives and from the documents in the chair. The final detail, however, contained new information. Alongside his vague employment details, I read that Griesinger was in the SS. He was listed as an SS Obersturmführer (senior storm leader).8

The trail of this everyday piece of household furniture had led me to a member of one of the last century’s most sinister organizations: the Schutzstaffel, or SS. Just seeing those two letters next to his name automatically transformed my preconception of Griesinger. The image that I had built up of him was beginning to crack. Until that moment I had thought I was on the hunt for an unremarkable civil servant. I had even momentarily entertained the idea that Griesinger was apolitical. Now it seemed I was on the trail of someone more significant. SS members—recruited only after meeting strict racial, height, and health criteria, and after swearing an oath of allegiance to Hitler—remain associated with the most perverse aspects of the Third Reich. If Griesinger had chosen to join the SS, it was likely that he agreed with the main tenets of Nazi ideology, including, of course, its racism and antisemitism. Griesinger was no longer just the polite, well-educated bureaucrat, dressed smartly in a light-colored suit. Another image, admittedly speculative, began to form in my mind: Griesinger wearing his intimidating SS uniform, beating up terrified Jews on the streets of Stuttgart and Prague. I felt the sheer irony of this SS officer’s most precious documents ending up in the possession of a British Jew.

I had begun this journey to help Jana and her daughter Veronika uncover how Griesinger’s papers ended up inside their family’s armchair. However, the more material I collected on Griesinger from Czech sources, the more my interest in the armchair dwindled. While I still hoped to solve the mystery of Griesinger’s hidden documents, I also wanted to explore more about the SS officer—not only his time in Prague, but who he was at his core, what he had done and why he had done it.

Before Veronika first approached me with Griesinger’s story, I had never studied the SS in any depth. I had always thought that involvement in the organization was a full-time position, one that defined the existence of its members. SS officers, I had believed, wore the black uniform of the organization every day and spent each waking moment terrorizing the local population. Griesinger’s example shows this must not always have been the case. As a lawyer at a government ministry, Griesinger already had a full-time job that had nothing to do with his SS membership. As I delved deeper, I discovered that so too did tens of thousands of doctors, lawyers, and civil servants.

Shortly after learning that Griesinger was in the SS, I traveled to Berlin to see whether I could find his SS dossier. I wasn’t optimistic: two-thirds of the one million SS members’ files were destroyed by Allied bombing during the war. The surviving SS dossiers are held at the Bundesarchiv in the sleepy Berlin suburb of Lichterfelde. As I went into the building I seriously wondered whether my interest in this unknown Nazi was taking up too much of my attention, sending me as it had to another city, one with a less than fifty–fifty chance of having any information. But the possibility of handling Griesinger’s SS dossier was too tantalizing to ignore. In the unlikely event of finding anything, I might have the chance to read his own words, the closest I could come to “meeting” this man, whom I had only known from a passport photo and official documents.

Upon arriving, I discovered to my relief that not only had Griesinger’s SS file survived, but it was available for consultation. The archivists didn’t seem to be in a hurry to fetch the documents from the holdings, but eventually someone handed me the files, on top of which was written: “Dr. Robert Griesinger, SS number: 161,860.” His SS number was etched onto the page in old Gothic handwriting. Griesinger’s immense file contained dozens of letters that he had sent to Berlin, and as I began to read his correspondence from the mid-1930s, I was hearing for the first time his voice in each line. It was a calm and detached voice, devoid of all emotion. After the censor and the SS staff in Berlin, I was probably only the third person to read Griesinger’s words. The letters and reports in the file did not uncover the nature of his role in the SS, as I had hoped they might. It did not expose him as an SS desk killer or a concentration-camp guard. Rather, they were concerned solely with family affairs and his work as a civil servant.

It was not until seeing Griesinger’s SS file that I learned he was a father. A 1941 document contained details of his children. In addition to a stepson, Joachim, the product of his wife Gisela’s first marriage, it mentioned two daughters: Jutta, born in January 1937, and then another daughter, born in December 1939. There was no additional information about Jutta or her younger sister, whose name I later discovered was Barbara.9 If his daughters had managed to survive the war and were still alive, they would be in their seventies. Perhaps they still lived in Stuttgart. The file revealed that in order for their marriage to be approved by the SS, both Gisela and Griesinger needed to produce a family tree to demonstrate Aryan ancestry.

Griesinger’s tree showed that neither of his parents was born in Stuttgart. Wally, his mother, was born in 1884 in Duisburg, a German town twenty-five miles from the Dutch border, where her family had lived for centuries. Griesinger’s father, Adolf, originated from even further afield. Adolf was not born in Germany. He was not even born in Europe. Rather, he was born in 1871 in New Orleans, Louisiana. As I ran my finger up the family tree, I saw that Griesinger’s family, many bearing the names of French noble families, had lived in the American South for generations. His family was not as historically German as I had presumed. Griesinger struggled to complete all the parts of his American family tree. He did not know details of a large number of his American ancestors. He was also without several crucial documents, including his father’s birth certificate and a marriage certificate for his paternal grandparents. His entry into the SS, in the absence of such crucial documents, casts doubt on the reputation of the SS as an organization for the German elite, one that was equipped with a rigorous application process. The authorities apparently took Griesinger at his word when he stated that his ancestors in New Orleans were of desirable racial stock.10

According to Hitler, all good Germans could connect to their country’s glorious past through their ancestors, who once worked the German land. The Nazis went to great lengths to foster a philosophy of Blood and Soil (Blut und Boden), which promoted Germanic ties to the land, at the expense of the “inferior races” such as Jews, Slavs, or Roma, who it was argued had no historical connection. Griesinger’s American background challenges commonly held conceptions of German identity during the Third Reich. Only one strand of his ancestry could speak to this idyllic portrayal of rural life. It was a little odd that I found out all of these intimate details from information obtained for Griesinger’s membership to a violent paramilitary organization. But the Nazi obsession with bloodlines and progeny made the gathering of all types of emotional, sexual, and family details an imperative of SS membership. Despite its repugnant purpose, documentation assembled for the enforcement of racial purity paradoxically resembles other modes of genealogical research. Using it, we can trace the paths of kinship across generations.

Discovering that Griesinger had ancestors born in the United States, and that he was a father, meant that the Berlin archives produced more questions than they answered. They told me nothing about Griesinger’s war, nor could they shed much light on his day-to-day life as an ordinary Nazi in Stuttgart during the Third Reich. For that, I had to go elsewhere.

The Stuttgart that I encountered seventy-five years after the end of the war bore only a partial resemblance to the city in which Griesinger spent his early life. Like so many German cities, Stuttgart was the victim of intense Allied bombing. Fifty-three Allied air raids destroyed almost 60 percent of buildings in Stuttgart, killing 4,562 people. This included a raid on September 12, 1944 by the 101 Squadron of the RAF, in which 957 were killed and 1,600 injured.11 That night, eighteen-year-old Sergeant David Bernett, my grandfather, was a Special Duties Operator on board a Lancaster bomber. My research assistant in Stuttgart paused as we strolled through the city center and looked suddenly uncertain when I divulged this information. “So, you too have relatives who inflicted pain on others,” she said sharply. While, for me, my grandfather’s raid over Stuttgart was only a minor, if necessary detail of his war record, this was not the case for the people of that city who, decades after the end of the war, are still affected by his seven-and-a-half-hour bombing spree. Until then, as a British Jew, I had never expected that somebody might associate me with a wartime tragedy.

When the French liberators arrived in April 1945, the city was covered in 4.9 million cubic meters of rubble.12 Responsibility for rebuilding the city center fell to the city’s mayor, Arnulf Klett. His priority, during his thirty years as mayor, was to rebuild the city’s devastated economy, industry, housing, and transport system as quickly as possible. He paid little attention to architectural detail and ignored calls to restore Stuttgart to its pre-war historical Gothic splendor. Instead, over the ruins of the city, a mishmash of raw concrete eyesores and pedestrian zones sprang up.13

I spent my first few days in Stuttgart combing through various archival repositories scattered across the region, trying to piece Griesinger’s life back together. Fading papers filed away for more than seventy years shed light on his various transfers and promotions at the Württemberg Ministry of the Interior. I found details of Griesinger’s student days, his salary and the positions he occupied within the ministry until the outbreak of war. Above all, the papers presented the image of an earnest and rather unspectacular civil servant, committed to forging a career under the auspices of the new and untested Third Reich. More so than anything else, the local archives revealed Griesinger’s legal training to have been his greatest asset, propelling him into social arenas that might otherwise have been out of reach.


  • "The S.S. Officer's Armchair is an extraordinary book that lingers in the memory long after you've read the final page. I became totally engrossed in Daniel Lee's investigations to discover the story behind long hidden Nazi documents. In uncovering the life of an disconcertingly outwardly ordinary man who became an SS Officer, the atrocity of the Holocaust--and those who supported, facilitated, or chose to ignore what was happening all around them--becomes even more shocking."—The Rt Honorable Baroness Smith of Basildon
  • LitHub, "13 New Books to Look Out For This Week"

    Jewish Journal, "15 Last-Minute Hannukah 2020 Gift Ideas"

  • "In Daniel Lee's The S.S. Officer's Armchair, the story of an utterly obscure and 'ordinary' S.S. officer--recovered through extraordinary research--is embedded in the illuminating context of upper-middle-class German society and family life in the first half of the twentieth century. The result is a fascinating combination of social history, family drama, and ingenious detective work."
    Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham professor of history emeritus, University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill, andauthor of Ordinary Men
  • "Beginning with his discovery of a cache of papers sewed, inexplicably, into an old armchair, Daniel Lee traces the life of an ordinary though far from insignificant Nazi bureaucrat, showing, as his story slides into horror, that there is no such thing as an armchair Nazi. His interviews with the surviving children and grandchildren add a poignant postscript to this powerful investigation of the war between memory and oblivion."—Alice Kaplan,Sterling professor of French at YaleUniversity and author of Looking for the Stranger
  • "Many of the most horrific acts against humanity during the Holocaust were carried out by the untold thousands of low-level, virtually-unknown civil servants, who facilitated the worst deeds of the Nazi enterprise without ever getting their own hands dirty. In this brilliantly researched story of one such 'ordinary Nazi,' Daniel Lee illuminates the whole."—Martha Weinman Lear, author of Heartsounds and Where Did I LeaveMy Glasses?
  • "...[A] fascinating true-life detective story, as the author engagingly chronicles his searches in archives and interviews with elderly survivors."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "...[R]ichly detailed and eloquent... even those well-versed in the history of the Holocaust will learn something new."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Beautiful and gripping, it unfolds like a detective story as an obscured past emerges into the light."—Hadley Freeman, author of House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family
  • "This is a little gem of a book. It is beautifully written and reads as grippingly as a detective story. The story of the quest is fascinating in itself but the result is also a work of serious historical scholarship. Its reconstitution of the life and career of an 'ordinary Nazi' throws revealing light on the workings of the Nazi regime."—Julian Jackson
  • "A fascinating read."—Library Journal
  • "A very well researched publication."—The New York Journal of Books
  • "A welcome addition to German Twentieth Century history."—Seattle Book Review
  • "...[A] captivating portrait of an 'ordinary Nazi'... [and] a compelling account of Lee's sleuthwork, or as he terms it, 'historical detection'... [An] important book."—The American Interest
  • "[A]n intriguing, honest and superbly documented portrait of what could be called an 'unremarkable' SS life."—The Spectator (UK)
  • "[A] compelling story of tracking down the secrets of a 'desk murderer'"—The Guardian (UK)
  • "A page-turning piece of detective work... utterly compelling."—The Jewish Chronicle (UK)
  • "Daniel Lee has carried out some painstaking detective work... Lee’s remarkable book will give its readers food for thought of what has been and what could be."—The Jerusalem Post
  • "The S.S. Officer's Armchair is an engrossing, beautifully written book, embellished with over thirty photographs, two maps, and unusually complete endnotes."—Michigan War Studies Review

On Sale
Jun 16, 2020
Page Count
320 pages
Hachette Books

Daniel Lee

About the Author

DANIEL LEE is a senior lecturer in modern history at Queen Mary, University of London. A specialist in the history of Jews in France and North Africa during the Second World War, he completed his doctorate at the University of Oxford, and is also the author of Pétain’s Jewish Children. As a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, Lee is a regular broadcaster on radio. He lives in north London.

Learn more about this author