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Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil Paperback – 17 Jul 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press Inc; Updated edition (17 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306823187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306823183
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Debates concerning the historical and moral significance of Adolf Hitler have gone on since the beginning of his rise to power in Germany. In the decades after his bunker suicide, those debates elevated to arguments over the very nature and existence of evil. An integral part of the arguments has been the ongoing attempt to understand the why of Hitler. In this engaging work of literary journalism, Ron Rosenbaum travels the world to converse with some of the historians, philosophers, filmmakers, and others who have attempted to make sense of Hitler's actions, to find a root cause for the Holocaust.

Rosenbaum methodically examines the evidence for and against all the major hypotheses concerning the origin of Hitler's character. He sifts through all the rumours--including his alleged Jewish ancestry and what biographer Alan Bullock refers to as "the one-ball business"--and the attempts to derive some psychological cause from them. Various Hitlers emerge: Hitler as con-man and brutal gangster, Hitler the unspeakable pervert, Hitler the ladies' man and Hitler as modernist artist working in the medium of evil. But Rosenbaum's portrayals of those who would define Hitler are as fascinating as the shifting perspectives on the Führer. Here we see the brave journalists of the Munich Post who attempted to reveal Hitler's evil to the world as early as the 1920s. We witness Shoah, director Claude Lanzmann's imperious attempts to stifle analysis of Hitler and the Holocaust, branding such historical inquiries as "obscene." We see the effects, on a frazzled Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, of the controversy surrounding the publication of his Hitler's Willing Executioners. We see the interior crises of Hitler apologist David Irving and philosopher-novelist George Steiner, among others, as they struggle with the ramifications of their work and thought. And, best of all, we have Rosenbaum to serve as an informed, intimate, and on occasion witty guide. In White Noise Don DeLillo depicted the satirical academic discipline of "Hitler studies;" Ron Rosenbaum breathes a life into the field that no fiction can match. --Ron Hogan , Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A "New York Times" Bestseller "Brilliant...restlessly probing and deeply intelligent"--"Time" "A remarkable journey by one of the most original journalists and writers of our time"--David Remnick, author of "Lenin's Tomb" "Fascinating...A provocative work of cultural history that is as compelling as it is thoughtful, as readable as it is smart.... Mr. Rosenbaum has made an important contribution to our understanding not just of Hitler, but of the cultural processes by which we try to come to terms with history as well.... He has written an exciting, lucid book informed by old-fashioned moral rigor and common sense."--Michiko Kakutani, "New York Times" "Glistens with insight and intelligence and shimmers with originality."--Gabriel Schoenfeld, "Commentary" "Cultural criticism served up as riveting narrative history...with words and ideas that surprise, amuse, and even elevate the reader."--Marc Fisher, "Washington Post" "A work of importance and fascination"--George Steiner, "The Observer" (UK) "Intriguing, thought provoking, and intelligent"--Ian Kershaw, author of "Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris," in "The Guardian" (UK) "Financial Times"""Explaining Hitler" [is] a work of almost uncanny percipience and stamina."

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cowley on 10 May 2011
Format: Paperback
This book addresses interpretations of Hitler based on evaluations of the surviving evidence of his private life. However, it soon takes as its subject, not Hitler himself, but the arguably more interesting question of why the people who write about him find him interesting. It contains chapters based on original interviews with Claude Lanzmann (the French-Jewish author of the documentary Shoah) and David Irving, the derided author of Hitler's War. There is a very interesting interview with a New York philosopher Berel Lang, who suggests that Hitler was "evil" in the sense of wishing to do wrong and suggests also that the secrecy surrounding the Final Solution is evidence for this. There may be an element of truth in this with regard to Nietzsche or social darwinist influences, though I was not wholly persuaded.

The book is thus an stimulating review of an interesting literature, though it does not address more recent views of European history, such as Ernst Nolte or Alexander Solzhenitzyn's. Instead, the book is written from an American standpoint in which identity politics is to the fore, but for those of us working through the implications of 'holocaust' propaganda and history it will be grist to our mill
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Donal A. O'Neill on 24 Mar 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to imagine a more important subject for a psychological/historical study. However, despite the title, which promises much, this is essentially a very journalistic-type survey some of the various theories to explain Hitler's Anti-Semitism. Though the views of several eminent historians such as Trevor Rover and Alan Bullock are dealt with, the main emphasis is on more bizarre explanations and theories, especially those which are sexually-oriented. None of the theories discussed deal to any significant extent with the intellectual and political climates in Germany and Austro-Hungary that might have influenced Hitler's development prior to 1919, nor indeed of how his war experiences could have affected him. The primary focus is on Hitler's Anti-Semitism, and other aspects of his character and thinking, are not explored. One is still left wondering, for example, how the social misfit who never appeared to have either the aptitude nor desire to rise beyond Corporal while serving, apparently meritoriously, on the Western front was suddenly transformed, within months of the war's end, into a leader who could attract the support and devotion of men who had been his social, educational and military superiors. Ludendorff may have been a reluctant associate of Hitler in the 1923 Munich Putsch, as the recent Ian Kershaw biography ("Hitler: Hubris 1889 - 1936") reminded us, but the ex-Field Marshal and de-facto dictator was nevertheless prepared to link his fortunes to that of his ex-subordinate. Other strange aspects, such as Hitler's apparently sudden acquisition of oratorical skills and of his understanding of how to manipulate both crowds and individuals are also not touched upon.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Julian Gardiner on 12 Jan 2002
Format: Paperback
How did Hitler come to be such an evil person? Ron Rosenbaum explores the different ways that people have attempted to answer this question over the past 80 years. Was Hitler abused as a child? Was he insane? Was his hatred of the Jews fuelled by a fear that he might himself be of Jewish descent? Some of those whom Rosenbaum consults on these questions are sure they have the answers; others believe that it is impossible to answer the question of how Hitler came to be so evil, or even that it is wrong to try and answer it because any explanation may be seen as some kind of an excuse for Hitler's actions. By exploring so many different views of Hitler, Rosenbaum produces a far more compelling and intriguing work than if he had simply presented his own opinions in a straightforward biography. This a truly remarkable and profoundly intelligent book, even if, in the end, it raises more questions than it answers.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By richard.firbank@tesco.com on 5 Jan 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book on explaining Hitler looks at the very foundations of Hitler ideas. Rosenbaum looks at ideas about what could have made Hitler so evil. Some of his ideas are quite brilliant and he leads the reader down an area of study only to allow the reader to draw his/her own conclusions. Rosenbaum takes the reader to Hitlers birth place as well as following the idea of Hitler himslf being related to the Jewish people. Historically if the reason 'why'? Hitler did what he did interests you then please look no further.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Orwell on 27 Dec 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is incredibly well written. The author avoids drab and droll dribbling of facts coupled with bourgeois intellectual prose, as suffered by many other books containing the subject matter of Hitler.

The best part of this book is that rather than being hit constantly with the author's own views he presents those of other contemporaries in a fair and adequately hard hitting manner.

Highly recommended for anybody interested in learning about what motivated a man to commit such atrocities. Fascinating insight boosted with a great way of presenting information.
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