Top critical review
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Good on the facts, but over-analyzed
on 21 October 2004
Joachim Fest has written a very solid account of what happened in Hitler's bunker. He has reviewed the other books on the subject, and in this book, has summarized what they seem to agree on and also discusses the points that the historians argue about. And the sharp focus, only on what happened in Hitler's bunker those last weeks in march 1945, makes this book, although only 180 pages long, able to go into some detail about what actually happened. This I think Fest manages do to very expertly, with good discussions about we know for a fact and what we probably will never know for sure (e.g. if Hitler shot himself or got somebony else to do it). Most of this part of the book is already reasonably well know -- Fest doesn's unearth any "new facts" -- but the discussion is very well managed, not boring in detail, but still in depth. And if you're new to this subject, you'll probably learn some interesting facts, e.g. that Hitler married Eva Braun the day before they committed suicide together, so that she actually died as Eva Hitler.
Fest also manages to underbuild well the reason for picking out only the personal aspect of the story -- about Hitler's last days, not about the fall for Das Dritte Reich. It was not something I had thought that much about, but Fest shows very convincingly how the person Hitler was so closely related to the political entity, that it was impossible to image a contiued Nazi-Germany without Hitler, and this makes Hitler's personal fate so interesting. It is one of those moments where world events are clearly traceable to individual persons.
So Fest makes a good point when he underlines how closely Hitler the person is intertwined with the nationalsosialistic state, but I think the "reflecting" chapters, where he attempts to explain the phenomenon Hitler, are over the top. They are to psychologizing, read to much into Hitler's psychological traits and are hampered with over-generalizations about "the pre-civilized state of evil" and other quasi-philosphy.
In summary I think the actual history-bit of this book is very good, but since Fest has decided to make every other chapter either a history- or an analyzing chapter, and the analyzing chapters generally are not that good, I don't thinkt this book as a whole deserves a very good rating. It is easy to read, and the story it tells is fascinating, but it could have been even better. So buy for the history chapters, or if you're into history as psychological analysis.