BOOK REVIEW – Bruno Manz, A Mind in Prison (Dulles, VA/USA: Brasseys, 2001)

Bruno Manz served as a NCO in the Luftwaffe and an unnamed mountain infantry battalion in Finland and Norway during the Second World War where he fought the Red Army and latterly, the Finnish Army.

A Mind in Prison is his memoir of his childhood, military service and post-war life before he emigrated to the USA in 1957.

It charts how he changed from being a strong and fanatical Nazi to someone who rejected Nazism and was deeply guilty of his racism, belief in Hitler and participation in the War. He frames his narrative as an unlocking of his mind from a Nazi prison to being free.

He believed that all Germans of his age and older ‘who lived in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust’ needed to answer four questions: ‘Where were you? What did you know? What did you do or not do? What have you now to say?’ This is the purpose of his book.[1]

His primary ideological influence was his father who was a rabid anti-Semite.[2] Manz recalled his father’s racism was effective as he was ‘loving and caring’ and said had he been cold and aloof ‘his preaching might not have influenced me as strongly as it did’.[3] The next most important shaper was Hitler whom Manz thought was the ‘coming messiah.’[4]

His political convictions influenced his decision to enlist in the Luftwaffe in 1939 before being conscripted.[5]

His beliefs also shaped his decision to volunteered to serve in the Army in 1943 after the German defeat at Stalingrad. Manz had a comfortable position in a Luftwaffe air base but he ‘did not want to spent this critical phase of the war in relative safety and comfort…[he]…was ready to lay [his]…life on the line’.[6]

Even at the end of the war he was still a fervent Nazi. When the death of Hitler was reported he was ‘devastated’ and his ‘mental pain was so severe that it became physical’. For the next year, he ‘stayed in the valley of despair.’[7]

In 1944, Manz’s friend Roper told him about the Holocaust. However, Manz did not want to believe it and ‘could not muster the courage to face the truth’.[8] After the war, Manz revisits his belief in the Fuhrer collapsed after the Nazi atrocities are made known.[9]

This is an exception account in that it shows how parental, societal and Nazi propaganda influences were incredibly effective in creating an ideological warrior and also how those convictions were destroyed once the truth of the concentration camps was made known. It is written with a stark honesty and is a plea by Manz to be forgiven for his part in the war.[10]



[1] Bruno Manz, A Mind in Prison (Dulles, VA/USA: Brasseys, 2001), p.5.

[2] Ibid., pp.5, 7, 13.

[3] Ibid., p.7.

[4] Ibid., pp.22, 40.

[5] Ibid., pp.84-85.

[6] Ibid., pp.146-147.

[7] Ibid., p.206.

[8] Ibid., pp.170-172.

[9] Ibid, pp.216-236.

[10] Ibid., p.274.