Free to Obey

Johann Chapoutot


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Europa Compass
27 April 2023
ISBN: 9781787704459
128 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Steven Rendall

What if the rules of modern management were written during the Third Reich?

“Chapoutot is one of the most gifted European historians of his generation.”
—Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny

“A brilliant, stereotype defying study.”
Les Temps

“Johann Chapoutot is one of the great historians of Nazism. Time and again, his work has shown that the Third Reich was not an accidental aberration of history.”
France Culture

“A fascinating essay about the second life of Reinhard Höhn—from one of the Third Reich’s most brilliant legal minds to the founder of Germany’s leading post-war business school.”
Le Figaro Magazine

SS Commander Reinhard Höhn was one of Nazi Germany’s most brilliant legal minds, an archetype of the fervid technocrats that built the Third Reich. Gone into hiding after 1945, he survived unscathed and re-emerged in the 1950s as the founder of a management school.

His story wouldn’t be too different from that of other prominent Nazis, if not for the fact that the great majority of Germany’s post-war business leaders were educated at his school. Is this a coincidence? Or is there a link between the forms of organization of Nazism and the principles of corporate management?

At the core of Höhn’s vision was the concept of freedom, as freedom to obey orders from above—to carry out one’s mission no matter the cost.