Barry Gewen at The New York Times:
Joachim Fest’s fascinating memoir about what it was like to come of age during the years of the Third Reich is unusual because its central character is not the author but the author’s remarkable father. Johannes Fest was the middle-class headmaster of a primary school in suburban Berlin, a pious Catholic and father of five, a cultural conservative who revered Goethe and Kant, and a loyal German patriot — “a dyed-in-the-wool Prussian,” in Fest’s words — the kind of person who might have been expected to become an active supporter of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists. In a foreword by Herbert Arnold (a professor emeritus of German studies at Wesleyan University who has also supplied informative notes throughout the text), the elder Fest is described as “tailor-made for a career” with the Nazis. And yet some quirk in his personality made him a fierce Weimar republican, ready to sacrifice himself, even his family, to principles he knew to be right even as everyone around him was yielding to mass hysteria. “Not I,” a best seller in Germany when it appeared in 2006, the year of the author’s death at age 79, is a memorable tale of lonely courage, stoic endurance, self-imposed hardship and a life lived amid ubiquitous, all-encompassing danger: “Even innocent-sounding remarks could be life-and-death matters.” It reminds us that simple human decency is possible even in the most trying of circumstances.