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Hitler: A Short Biography Hardcover – 15 Mar 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (15 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007413491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007413492
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.1 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘In the best short biography of Adolf Hitler for three decades, A. N. Wilson goes straight to the essentials to explain what made the Fuhrer the phenomenon he was. His conclusions make fascinating, if occasionally uncomfortable, reading even two-thirds of a century after Hitler’s death.’
—Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War

‘A. N. Wilson is a born biographer and has an eye for the telling detail. In a book written with verve, insight, and imagination, he gives us a fresh look at Hitler. The story he tells is bound to interest and surprise even those who think they already know and understand this most curious historical figure, one who against all odds rose to become leader of Germany and then promptly brought about the greatest catastrophe in European history.’
—Robert Gellately, author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe

‘brilliantly dissecting Hitler…. a stimulating triumph of the mind’ Sunday Express

‘brims with the author’s customary zip and zing’ The Spectator

‘Wilson…brings a witty, novelist’s insight into what made Hitler tick. He seems to understand Hitler’s character in a way many historians never could.’ Mail on Sunday

About the Author

A. N. Wilson was born in Staffordshire and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is a prolific and award-winning biographer and celebrated novelist. His most recent novel, Winnie and Wolf, was longlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By rolf@crowther-clayton.com on 9 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book may be a helpful introduction for those who know nothing of the subject, but it is not entirely objective nor factually reliable. For example, he describes many dog-lovers as people who are incapable of showing affection to human beings, and calls Alsations smelly near-cousins of the wolf ; both comments are somewhat tendentious and probably tell us more about A N Wilson than about Hitler.

He also says that most scientists believe a version of crude Darwinism, which is completely untrue. He repeats tittle-tattle without giving any reference (for example the alleged but unsupported story that Leni Riefenstahl offered to sleep with Hitler), and the old but unsupported story that Hitler "refused" to shake hands with Jesse Owens, the winner of 4 gold medals. There is no evidence that he "refused" although it is true he did not shake hands with Owens, as he did not with many other Gold Medal winners. The Queen did not shake hands with Mo Farah when he won his gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics (so she must be racist as well!) When asked about this Owens pointed out that the President of the USA also did not shake his hand when he returned to America. Interestingly, for an age when colour-prejudice was common, Owens was great favourite with the German crowd who chanted "Jesse, Jesse" when he appeared on the track. Hitler avoided the finals which involved Owens because it was well known that he had a good chance of winning. In the long-jump in which he won a gold medal, Owens said that he was given friendly and helpful advice by the German competitor Luz Long who did shake Owen's hand after being pushed by him into second place.

He also says that the Germans voted for Hitler which is a bit misleading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
The life of the most reviled man in history is always a tricky subject. Not the perspective (which is universally one of the utmost horror) but the manner of its telling. I think because AN Wilson has written "A Short Biography" of Adolf Hitler, that most will look upon this modest, and yes short, 190-page book as inconsequential as such a study of this person must require far more pages to be worth the reading. After all, how to compress the man who arguably shaped the modern world into its current incarnation, into such a relatively short book compared to say, Ian Kershaw's "Hubris" and "Nemesis" books totalling 2100 pages?

Wilson does this by covering the facts in a swift, concise fashion without too much detail or extensive background minutiae than is absolutely necessary. He doesn't miss out anything important but nor does he go into enormous detail which isn't to say that you come away with an incomplete idea of the man but that this book presents an informative biography of Hitler that will appeal to the non-academic and casual student of history for whom someone like Kershaw is intimidating to pick up.

What's interesting about this biography is that Wilson has a biased opinion of Hitler; like all of us he is disgusted with the Nazi regime and Hitler as a person, but unlike other biographers who adopt a neutral, just-the-facts-stance, Wilson frequently editorialises upon the events of Hitler's life as they unfold. He berates the young Hitler for his foolishness and laziness in squandering his family's money in pursuing a fruitless art career and not attempting any form of work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Palmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
As short as Wilson's 'Short Biography' of 'the ultimate horror-tyrant' is, his overall position could more or less be summed up in the brief quote I've used above, taken from the end of this slim book. At another point, when he's discussing the 'what ifs', regarding attempts on Hitler's life, Wilson tries to make a distinction between history and parlour games. Rather ironically, I think this book almost amounts to history as parlour game.

A. N. Wilson has written regularly for the Daily Mail, a paper that was keen on Hitler back in the '30s, and remains to this day a repository of reactionary right-wing views, and his several calumnies against the BBC's natural history unit once even lead to an out of court settlement, in which The Independent was forced to admit that his allegations (in respect of one particular programme and his views about how it was made) had no factual basis. He's also well-known for his on/off love-affair with the Christian religion, and a somewhat more consistent line in vaguely anti-Enlightenment and anti-scientific posturing. Knowing all of this, and having recently read the abridged single-volume edition of Kershaw's justly lauded epic, Hitler, I recently came across this attractively presented little hardback dirt cheap, and thought 'why not?'

Whilst it confirmed many of my misgivings about Wilson, I have to confess that I did enjoy reading it. In fact I enjoyed reading it very much. It could very plausibly be argued that Wilson simply tossed this brief and flimsy affair off in a cynical bid to add to his income by covering a topic that's guaranteed to continue attracting readers as long as there are any in the world.
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