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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading on the Third Reich, 13 Dec 2001
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Michael Burleigh's recent work "The Third Reich - A New History" was widely praised for its novel explanation of Nazism in the context of religion. Anyone who has read Joachim Fest's excellent book however will, among other things, know that this particular analysis was hardly new or innovative.
In form, The Face of the Third Reich is a psychological profile of both individual Nazi leaders and various sections of German society at the time. Through this approach though, the main causes of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis are explained.
Among other things, Fest lucidly illustrates the essential nihilism of the Nazi movement, whose ideology as such was based on the acquisition of power as as end rather than a means.
The vacuous adoration of and devotion to Hitler was in itself a cornerstone of Nazi philosophy, the Fuhrer cult providing the basis for Fest's religious analogies. He also discusses how initially vague assertions of Aryan superiority and Semitic evil were later focused after the seizure of power and developed and expanded on by Himmler and the SS.
The portraits of the main personalities are fascinating. Fest is invariably amazed by how such unremarkable individuals were able to attain such immense power and commit such extravagent atrocities. He shows how almost all were linked by a moral corruption and a cynical lust for power. The chapter on Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz is particularly arresting. Reading this, one is reminded of Orwell's 1984 and the ability of man to subjugate himself to authority and in turn to deceive himself into committing the most unfathomable crimes.
Fest is one of the foremost German authorities on Nazism and the book throughout is filled with an intellectual disgust and contempt of the regime. For anyone trying to make sense of that period, this book must be read.
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The Face of the Third Reich
The Face of the Third Reich by Joachim C. Fest (Paperback - April 1979)
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