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Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War [Hardcover]

Thomas Weber
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

16 Sep 2010
Hitler claimed that his years as a soldier in the First World War were the most formative years of his life. However, for the six decades since his death in the ruins of Berlin, Hitler's time as a soldier on the Western Front has, remarkably, remained a blank spot. Until now, all that we knew about Hitler's life in these years and the regiment in which he served came from his own account in Mein Kampf and the equally mythical accounts of his comrades. Hitler's First War for the first time looks at what really happened to Private Hitler and the men of the Bavarian List Regiment of which he was a member. It is a radical revision of the period of Hitler's life that is said to have made him. Through the stories of the veterans of the regiment - an officer who became Hitler's personal adjutant in the 1930s but then offered himself to British intelligence, a soldier-turned-Concentration Camp Commander, Jewish veterans who fell victim to the Holocaust, or of veterans who simply returned to their lives in Bavaria - Thomas Weber presents a Private Hitler very different from the one portrayed in his own mythical account. Instead, we find a Hitler who was shunned by the frontline soldiers of his regiment as a 'rear area pig' and who was still unsure of his political ideology even at the end of the war in 1918. In looking at the post-war lives of Hitler's fellow veterans back in Bavaria, Thomas Weber also challenges the commonly accepted notion that the First World War was somehow a 'seminal catastrophe' in twentieth century German history and even questions just how deep-seated Nazi ideology really was in its home state.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (16 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199233209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199233205
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A triumph of original research....He fundamentally alters our understanding of one of the most studied figures of the 20th century. --Norman Stone, Wall Street Journal, 30 October 2010

About the Author


Thomas Weber is Lecturer in Modern European, International, and Global Political History at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. His first book, The Lodz Ghetto Album, won the Infinity Award of the International Center of Photography and the Golden Light Award. His second book, Our Friend "TheEnemy," won the Duc d'Arenberg History Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
It's hard to know what to make of this book. It is based on what was clearly an exhaustive examination of all available primary sources, including some newly discovered ones. It makes the central case (Hitler was a slightly pathetic misfit who lacked any clear sense of himself until after the Great War, the common historical view that WW1 preconditioned his subsequent ascent is thus wrong) clearly enough. The narrative aspect hums along nicely more often than not, as and when the author lets it.

And yet it fails to convince. Perhaps it's just me, but I got the impression throughout that the author was always primarily looking for ways in which to be at odds with accepted conclusions about "Private Hitler". This gives the book a forced, contrived feel, which a number of otherwise interesting and seemingly credible arguments fall victim to. Overelaboration abounds and creates a permanent air of the smirking know-it-all. This may be unfair of me, may indeed be an unintended consequence of the other main gripe I have about this book: it's technical mediocrity.

Other reviews have commented on the regular typos and grammatical errors, beyond that it is also a book in dire need of a competent editor. Someone with some sensibility of cadence, rythm and focus. The story is constantly interrupted by what initially appear to be quick asides, adding dashes of detail to reinforce a point, but which turn out to be churning, multi-page tangents full of statistics and factual detail that ram said point home with ill-considered force. The author lacks judgement of when a point has been satisfactorily made and substantiated. Or perhaps has the adademic's lack of trust in his readers' ability to grasp the point. Beyond that, the writing needs a lot of tidying.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New German research breaks new ground 13 May 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Following Brigitte Hamann's fairly recent book Hitler's Vienna, Weber tells the story of Hitler's war years (1914-18) and has discovered a large archive of regimental records that were mixed in with divisional records in the German military archives. He uses soldier's letters and orders to paint a detailed picture of Hitler's life as a 'runner' in the List Regiment from Munich.

Weber paints Hitler as a warped and deceitful character who was not a natural product of his society, for example stressing that was not a front-soldier as he later claimed (though he concedes that he did see action early in the war) and suggesting that his attitude to his officers was ingratiating, hence his winning of the iron cross. He invents the disparaging moniker 'Private Hitler' on the grounds that his rank was not equivalent to the British corporal, downplays the amount he read and stresses negative views of runners by regimental comrades. As far as Weber reveals his agenda other than as a pure academic and chronicler, it is to reinstate a broadly paternalist German political class by distancing them from Hitler's campaign against Weimar Germany.

Weber claims that Hitler's views changed rapidly in Munich after the war rather than resulting from the brutality of war roughening pre-war ideological tendencies, but this is at odds with several plausible primary witnesses, such as Hitler's sometime friends August Kubizek and Ernst Hanfstaengel, as well as with the admittedly mythic 'Mein Kampf' itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT SUCH A HIDDEN AGENDA 9 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback
Too much personal revenge from the author on behalf of his family. Boring, overlong and, for me anyway, a complete waste of money. So sad because I was REALLY looking forward to reading this.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Moreover 20 Sep 2011
Format:Hardcover
There is a good book waiting to be written about the subject matter, regretfully this is not it. If I never see again the words 'moreover', 'furthermore' and 'in other words', often used several times in a single paragraph, then I will die a happy man.

The fundamental thrust of this book is not to detail Hitlers wartime service, rather to justify the authors preconception that this service was not the formative source of Hitlers world view. The fact that he was 'only' a regimental message runner and not a front line soldier is held to negate four years active wartime service, making him a coward and the author frequently ridicules him for this. His move to regimental runner from front line soldier is passed off in a single paragraph and the reason for this role change is not explained. Did Hitler ask for this ? Was he deemed too good to be cannon fodder ? Did he have friends in high places ? We will never know.

The research for the book is tremendous, I just feel the author should have left it at that and passed his work on to a more experienced writer to complete.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TWO BOOKS IN ONE 21 Feb 2011
By THOMAS
Format:Hardcover
This is really two books welded into one and would have been better being either a HORNE/BEEVOR popular history or a master's dissertation for university students.
Professor Weber's very detailed research and well divided book is marred for the reader by the shadow of previous historians on the subject of Hitler's life.In our earlier reading of Bullock,Schirer and Kershaw,the debates of historians were reserved for the footnotes or appendices.
The same could apply to the disection of the memories and accounts of Hitler's war contemporaries.I found this too wordy for the amateur reader.
To finish I would also liked to have seen some military maps of Flanders and Nord/Pas de Calais to back up the excellent photographs.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Private Hitler exposed
This is one of the most interesting books that I have ever read about Adolf Hitler, and I have read a great many. Read more
Published 1 month ago by ADAM
5.0 out of 5 stars first purchased book for kindle
very interesting. thoroughly enjoying it, makes it so much easier reading it with a kindle, goodby to the library so much more convenient
Published 6 months ago by glynne marjorie sandy
1.0 out of 5 stars A farce
I have read the majority of biographies on Adolf Hitler and confess he is a great interest for me. Read more
Published 14 months ago by J. Walton
5.0 out of 5 stars well researched book
Hitlers experiences during world war one have often been a matter of argument. Many authors have given support to the nazis version or to the versions published by hitlers enemies. Read more
Published 16 months ago by C. Nielsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the low ratings
I am at a loss to explain the low ratings awarded this book. I have just re-read it 18 months after purchasing it, and although having less impact the second time around, it is... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Mr Shand-Handy
2.0 out of 5 stars too much pages for very little
This book is a partial failure or at less, not for the common reader, perhaps yes for specialists in the figure of Hitler. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Carlos Vazquez Quintana
1.0 out of 5 stars PURE HATE-PROPAGANDA MASQUERADING AS HISTORY
Weber's ultimate conclusion is that Hitler's was above all a 'coward' during his 4 and a half years taking part in the First World War. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2012 by Calgacus
2.0 out of 5 stars Big Book, Short Conclusion
There was an undoubted amount of research and effort put into this book, and the conclusion was interesting - that the First World War did not shape Hitler's ideological outlook. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2011 by Carrington
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