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The 'Hitler Myth': Image and Reality in the Third Reich [Paperback]

Ian Kershaw
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Sep 2001
Few twentieth-century political leaders enjoyed greated popularity among their own people than Hitler in the 1930s and 1940s. This remarkable study of the myth that sustained one of the most notorious dictators, and delves into Hitler's extraordinarily powerful hold over the German people. In this 'major contribution to the study of the Third Reich' (Times Literary Supplement), Ian Kershaw argues that it lay not so much in Hitler's personality or his bizarre Nazi ideology, as in the social and political values of the people themselves. In charting the creation, rise, and fall of the `Hitler Myth', he demonstrates the importance of the manufactured 'Führer cult' to the attainment of Nazi political ends, and how the Nazis used the new techniques of propaganda to exploit and build on the beliefs, phobias, and prejudices of the day.

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The 'Hitler Myth': Image and Reality in the Third Reich + The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation + The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation: 11
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (27 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802064
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Ian Kershaw was Professor of Modern History at the University of Sheffield from 1989 - 2008, and is one of the world's leading authorities on Hitler. His books include The 'Hitler Myth', his two volume Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, and Fateful Choices. He was knighted in 2002.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Before writing Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris the first volume of his substantial biography of Adolf Hitler, Ian Kershaw focused on the popular appeal of the Nazi dictator in The Hitler Myth. Arguing that "the sources of Hitler's appeal must be sought...in those who adored him, rather than in the leader himself," Kershaw shows how Hitler's public image welded together antagonistic forces within the Nazi state, mobilised the nation for war, and contributed to the ethos that animated systematic and genocidal violence.

Responding to historians who maintain that Hitler's personality or ideological fixations accounted for his broad acceptance, Kershaw argues that, in the early 1930s a sizeable plurality of Germans hungered for an omnipotent Führer to stand above the political disharmonies of the Weimar state. Later, foriegn policy and military victories attracted many more to the Hitler legend. However, victories were the price for popularity; and Hitler became more and more bloodthirsty as both his image and regime foundered under the blows of the Allied powers. The Hitler myth, then--a cultural phenomenon the Reich Minister Joeseph Goebbels claimed as his greatest propaganda triumph--became a fundamental cause for the collapse of the Nazi State.

Kershaw's authoritative history of political culture in Hitler's Germany forcefully demonstrates that the Führer's popularity rested less on "bizarre and arcane precepts of Nazi ideology, than on social and political values...recognisable in many societies other than the Third Reich." In our present political environment, which repeatedly features outcries for "leadership" from pundits and public servants alike, the disturbing lessons of The Hitler Myth are an urgent warning. --James Highfill --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The strength of Kershaw's study is that he moves beyond a description of the construction of the 'Hitler myth' to analyze its strength and resiliency."--The Richmond Times-Dispatch

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'HEROIC' leadership was a significant element in the ideas of the nationalist and volkisch Right long before Hitler's spectacular rise to prominence. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A demanding read 7 Sep 2010
By R. Hart
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a serious, academic study. Deeply researched and extremely thorough, it is not an 'easy read'. Footnotes abound and there are acronyms and initials everywhere; thankfully indexed at the back. This book requires that the reader either has very secure knowledge surrounding the Third Reich, or is prepared to stop regularly to read around the subject elsewhere in order to get 'up to speed' with the content. Entertainment it is not. Instead it is packed with detail, sublimely argued and will leave most readers with a changed and informed vision regarding Hitler. Reading this book may well adjust how you view present day politicians and the media too.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelatory read 29 April 2005
By Teemacs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This fascinating study gives a whole new slant to what happened in Germany between 1933 and 1945. The Germans, angry and hurt after the defeat of the Great War, bothered by unemployment, dissatisfied with party politics, fearful of Bolshevism and seeking a strong leader who would be above politics and who would restore Germany's rightful greatness, found him in the apparently unlikely person of an embittered, Jew- and Communist-hating, Austrian ex-corporal incapable of normal human warmth. The creation of the mythical Hitler to fulfil expectations, often standing the facts of Hitler's actual person on their head, was a masterpiece of Goebbels's propaganda (Goebbels personally regarded the creation of the Fuehrer Myth as his greatest achievement). As a result, Hitler's personal popularity was almost universal, even among sections of the population who detested Nazism itself. He was given the benefit of the doubt every time. "If only the Fuehrer knew," people would say, after the latest bout of Nazi excesses.
However, the Hitler Myth carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. For one thing, Hitler came to believe it himself, and as a result became ever more divorced from ever more uncomfortable reality. Moreover, its prolongation required a continual stream of triumphs and successes, and when they faltered in the early 1940s (beginning with the Stalingrad catastrophe), so did it. However, it maintained a considerable hold right to the very end, even in the face of impending disaster. Professor Kershaw teases out the details of a complex story in a scholarly yet highly readable and informative way, and ends with an excellent concluding review chapter.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 22 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. It wasn't too long compared to Kershaw's other books (I'm not implying they're bad though), the different points were well explained but to the point and I just generally thought it was an interesting read for such a thought provoking subject.
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
The "myth" which Prof Kershaw exposes as a naked, squirming lie is the belief that hitler was above political intrigue and corruption, and was an innocent duped by self-serving, greedy, conniving underlings. This myth was very popular in Nazi Germany, where there was a general desire for a strong, single leader to clear away the messy, bickering mess that Weimar democracy had proved to be. The naive faith in the führer can still be seen on the faces of his former devotees in TV documentaries such as "The Nazis - A Warning From History".
The book is a detailed, broad examination of the social values and motives of the vast majority of Germans and austrians in those years, from the early thirties right up to the final collapse and Soviet invasion of 1945. It reveals the self-delusion that otherwise intelligent, rational people will employ to deny that they are supporters - whether active or passive - of a criminal state bent on mass murder and the enslavement of nations in their name.
Although the title might be misunderstood as an apologia for Hitler, perhaps seeming to be a defence of Hitler against anti-nazi, anti-aryan propaganda lies, this is to be welcomed. If even one confused potential nazi-supporter reads this and has their opinions overturned by Ian Kershaw's overwhelming evidence and arguments, the world will be a better, safer place.
A great book.
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