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4.2 out of 5 stars
Hitler
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2011
Ian Kershaw's monumental biography of Adolf Hitler, more than a thousand pages long (previously published as two volumes). It is obviously a very long read, but it is a fascinating story, never boring.

Reading it, what I find most incredible about Hitler's life is how someone who came out of World War I without seemingly any future prospects could become in a few years time one of the most important men of the 20th century, the man responsible for millions of dead in history's bloodiest war. The day Hitler turned 30 years old, April the 20th, 1919, Hitler must have felt an abject failure: his beloved Germany had recently lost the war, Munich was in the hands of the communist Bavarian Soviet Republic (though it seems that Hitler quietly supported the Soviet republic at the time, out of opportunism more than out of belief), if he was going to be discharged soon from the demobilizing army, as it seemed likely, he seemingly had no prospect of any civilian job. Looking at the past, he could have seen how he had failed as an artist, have few friends for the last years, was never able to have a girlfriend. Despite all this, in a few months his life would be changed when as an army spy he joined the little known NSDAP. In a few years time, he would become a national figure, the unquestionable leader of Germany's extreme nationalists. In fourteen years, he would become the leader of Germany.

The book has some good material on Hitler's childhood in conservative, provincial Austria. It is interesting to read how much his mother Klara spoiled him. As a young man, Hitler was lazy and bohemian, never having a regular job. He thought he was a great artist, so he felt crushed when the Art Academy in Vienna rejected twice his application. He was bossy and manipulative toward his few friends. Before he turned 19 both his parents were dead, and he lived in abject poverty in Vienna as a struggling artist in the years just before World War I.

I find it profitable to compare this book with another recent two volume biography of the other great tyrant of the 20th century, Joseph Stalin, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Both were originally underestimated, and turned out to be far smarter than what their political opponents thought. Stalin was probably more evil and cruel than Hitler (Stalin rejoiced in sending to their death former friends and comrades in a way than Hitler didn't) but I think Hitler was probably the crazier, less adjusted guy. Before entering politics, Hitler was a complete outcast from society, socially and emotionally, in a way than Stalin (who in his young years, as a top Bolshevik bandit in the Caucasus was always able to have many friends and female lovers) never was. Interestingly, according to some of their close followers, both seem to have lost the last piece of their humanity in the early 1930s when women very close to them committed suicide in mysterious circumstances (Hitler's niece Geli Raubal in 1931 and Stalin's wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva in 1932).
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196 of 203 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2008
Just a brief note: Many of the reviews found on this page are for the book 'Hubris' also by Ian Kershaw which charts the earlier parts of Hitler's life. This book is an unabridged volume containing both 'Hubris' and its follow-up 'Nemesis' and hence covers the whole of Hitler's life. Also, the 'Look Inside' feature offered actually shows you the inside of a totally different book on Hitler. Just thought you should know.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2009
Even though this is the shortened version of Ian Kershaw's biography on Adolf Hitler I think he does a very good job in covering the life of his subject. If you are looking for all the notes and the extensive bibliography then you should read the two-volume biography - Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis - published in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
If you have previously read the two-volume original you may miss one or the other detail or illustrative example in this "shortened" version but I personally don't think this diminishes this book in any way.

I shall spare you a summary of the subject matter because it would be impossible to do so in any meaningful way. You better read this book yourself. It's all there.

Two things I find incredible about the subject matter though. It is amazing that someone can come out of nowhere and take over a state and then single-mindedly turn the whole world upside down. The other aspect I found amazing is the "working towards the Führer" concept where Hitler's underlings implemented policy according to what they perceived to be the Führer's wishes. This worked perfectly - except in the case of Rudolf Hess who misread the Führer's wishes - and allowed Hitler to pursue his leisure activities.

What I found amusing - although I am not sure if this is the right word to use here - is that Ian Kershaw's publication of the two-volume biography received a rather warm reception in Germany. When William L. Shirer published his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich back in 1962 he was much criticised in Germany and denounced as a German-hater by German Chancellor Adenauer. It would appear that the Germans have since then come to recognise that the Third Reich by itself was an evil matter and not the people who wrote and write about it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2011
This was a hugely informative and enjoyable read which told me all that I needed to know about this immensely important individual.

The length of this book (approx. 1000 pages) may be off-putting for some readers, and obviously if you're looking for a brief summary of Hitler's life, then this isn't for you. Despite the enormity of the subject and level of detail given, it wasn't too tough a read, with each chapter broken up into sections to make for easy stopping points. Whilst this is an abridged version of Kershaw's original two-volume work, it was more than enough for me (Readers that want the complete experience can always buy the two-volume version instead).

The new preface explains the author's intentions for this book very well, and I would say that both Hitler's rise to power and his subsequent use of power are masterfully written about. Some parts (the dense politics of his rise to power, for example) were inevitably still complicated to understand, but there were plenty of other monumental moments, such as how close Hitler came to being shot at a protest, to keep reader interest up throughout.

A very rewarding reading experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2011
Ian Kershaw is a genius, and this book truly emphasizes that point.

This book is one of the finest pieces of history I have ever read on the Third Reich. It is exciting, thrilling and mesmerising whilst keeping that quintessential eloquence that Kershaw maintains in all of his work.

The book dives deeper into the realms of the third Reich than the title suggests. Kershaw paints a perfect picture of Hitler which surpasses all other books on the matter.

Kershaw almost never succumbs to the modern habit of getting bogged down in superficial issues, such as Hitler favourite tie etc.; nor does he become in-foiled with raging tirades against the genocides that the Nazi have become so famous for.

Kershaw leaves no stone unturned whilst deferring away from historical digression. This work of history is royalty, and has set the benchmark for all other authors to reach.

Therefore, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to any one willing to be taken on an amazing tour through the third Reich. and with each page Kershaw ensures the journey is a luxurious one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2013
While the content is extremely interesting, I found the style of writing made very many passages difficult to follow. Mr. Kershaw seems obsessed with cramming as many clauses and asides as he is able into any particular sentence. The result is that, by the end of the sentence, the reader is likely to have lost its thread.
Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2013
For a topic that is so sensitive it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle it with care. I believe after reading this that Kershaw is the man for the job. While some exploration of Hitlers persona is covered, as the author himself points out there is dubious merit in exploring the psyche of a man who perhaps would have just been an eccentric nobody had the unique combination of conditions and extraordinary turn of events not been the way they were. You get a sense that the rise of Hitler was the result of a chain of unforeseen, almost random occurrences such as the Reichstag fire and the death of Hindenberg (or rather the timing of the death of Hindenberg) and that there were many opportunities for history to have taken an entirely difference course.
The book also describes a lot of the decision-making made by Hitler during battle campaigns. The book can be quite technical at times but it does well at giving you the facts and providing analysis in a way that is clear and more or less in chronological order without quite getting to the point of being overwhelmed. For people who like to read decent history books this book will tick all the boxes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2014
I first bought this book upon its original hardback release some years ago. I realised it was too big to read in the bath so proceeded to buy the paperback. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this too was simply too hefty to carry around so I eventually bought this book on a third format; the kindle version. By doing so I eventually got around to reading it, some 8 years after I first handed over hard cash for it.

Having finished the book a couple of weeks ago and having had time to reflect upon it, I can honestly say that this was the greatest non fiction book I have ever read. It is the ultimate account of the entire life of the Fuhrer, and although a political biography, it is eminently readable for all, even those who don’t have a history degree like me. I was shocked as to how readable this was to be honest.

The only reason I don’t give this book the full compliment of five stars is due to Mr Kershaw’s jumbled use of syntax and sentence structure. Some passages were difficult to grasp, not due to the content, but due to the sheer length. Having 10-15 commas in one sentence simply makes stopping for a breath impossible.

I would also have liked to have seen more of the ‘man’ rather that just the political figure, but seeing as Hitler failed to keep a diary I can understand how this was never going to be easy. The passages that do deal with this, especially the account of his earlier years, are fascinating, I just wish there was more.

Quite strangely for a 1,100 book, I felt you could really feel the abridgement coming through. I felt like there was so much more I would have liked to have known. Many interesting events were passed by quickly, when I was hungry for more. Interesting to think that I felt this book could have done with another 500 or so pages, but then again, I suppose I could always go for the unabridged original two editions if I wanted more.

Overall, this is an excellent biography and is suitable for all levels of interest. It might seem like a mammoth task to read such a large book, but it is highly readable and well worth the investment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hitler is perhaps the most significant figure of the 20th century, simply for the impact and lasting effects of his existence. Would the world today be the same place, for better or worse, if not for Hitler? It's an impossible question to answer, but it's hard to think of another public figure who had the same devastating impact on world events.

And yet the man himself is so little known and so little understood. I cannot say I really had any better idea of who he really was or why he did things he did after reading this book, but that's not criticism of the author. Hitler was such a private person that even those who knew him best scarcely knew him at all, and certainly by the later years of his life it's questionable as to whether there really was any personality left to him outside of the the Führer.

This is, however, a fascinating depiction of how one man could end up believing his own propaganda, how Hitler really did believe that Providence was protecting him, that he had some kind of messianic mission to save Germany, and how in the end, he would rather see Germany fall into destruction than back down or admit defeat, how he finally came to believe that the German people were not worthy of him, not worthy of saving.

One note: this is the abridged paperback version of Kershaw's biography that was previously published in two volumes, Hubris and Nemesis. There seems to be some confusion on this page as to which review is for which!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2013
This book represent comprehensive and fascinating overview of Hitler's life starting from lazy and failed artist in Vienna to the Chancellor of Germany that steered the whole world into one of history's bloodiest wars ever fought.

One of the book's most important aspects is the fact that it is all the time informative but in same time so easy to read.

Author never denies Hitler's undoubted evilness but considers thought-provoking discussions especially involving those that helped Hitler into power and allowed him to stay there. He made great research and put all of it in this book which much more than Hitler's biography describing 50 years in which Hitler lived.

Reader is presented to psychological frame of the successful politician, great psychologist and tyrant which developed through his whole life and display of all events which led to the Second World War. There are particular moments when the book is frightening describing Hitler's Nazi Germany during the war and many situations in which history could went into some other direction.

Kershaw's book is an excellent read from start to finish.
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