Love and Terror in the Third Reich: A Tale of Broken Integrity

By Peter Matheson and Heinke Sommer-Matheson

A set of love letters written between a couple living in Nazi Germany, with present-day analysis and reflection.

ISBN: 9780227177464


What was it like to fall in love in Hitler’s Germany? As the war tore them apart, how did young couples keep love vibrant, care for their children, and relate to the war? The earthy letters of Ernst and Lilo Sommer depict in unforgettable poignancy the collision of their personal dreams with the political and military realities of the Third Reich. They provide a vivid window into the lives of ordinary people in the midst of horrific conflict.

Seventy years later their daughter, Heinke, reflects on this tragedy, while Peter Matheson provides a historical perspective. The encounter between past and present generations provides glimpses of a bygone age, and raises urgent questions for the future.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 175
Illustrations 16 b&w

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Peter Matheson is a church historian and Emeritus Professor at Knox Theological College, Dunedin, New Zealand. His previous publications include The Third Reich and the Christian Churches, a documentary account of Christian resistance and complicity during the Nazi era.

Heinke Sommer-Matheson has taught in Germany, Scotland, and New Zealand.


Foreword by William F. Storrar

1. Childhood, Youth, Marriage
2. The False Sense of Peace
3. Why Hitler? Why National Socialism?

The Photos

4. Russia
5. The Last Days
6. Thee Special Significance of Letters


Afterword: A Personal Pilgrimage
Appendix: Family Tree


Endorsements and Reviews

This is a quite remarkable book. Intimate letters demonstrate how an idealistic young couple fell under the spell of Hitler’s vision for Germany. Letters never intended for the public eye, lovingly presented by the couple’s daughter, and set in context by their historian son-in-law, narrate the terrible reality of the Nazi era. The German tragedy comes unbearably into focus.
John Miller, Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly in 2001-2002

Love and Terror in the Third Reich confronts us with a world at once utterly familiar – the ‘golden’ little toddler, clapping her hands – yet at the same time, brutally alien – the Jews rounded up and shot. We read it and we fall in love with a young couple, living out their courtship, their marriage, the birth of children and their separation against the unfolding horror of the rise and fall of the Third Reich. As an Australian Minister whose own work is lived out on stolen land while refugee children are locked up in camps for years, I know only too well how easy it is to let the great banality of evil sooth me into submission. This book is a timely reminder to pay attention to the powers that be.
Alexandra Sangster