24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2001
I wanted a book that would give me a brief overview of Hitler's rise to power and fall to defeat while also analysing his motivations. This book answered that need. It's easy to read, well structured and engaging. Haffner discusses the achievements and successes of Hitler with some objectivity. He also explores the reasons behind his military failures. Hitler's victories - bought through the sudden attack - also explain his mistakes - he relied upon unsustainable sudden strikes which led to his armies downfall in the long drawn out war against Russia, America and Britain. The holocaust is dealt with along with Hitler's personality defects. He was a man who loved brute power and war. He could never have been a peace-time leader. It wasn't in his nature. I felt the book went a long way to explaining Hitler but failed to deal enough with the meaning of evil and his popular appeal. Hitler struck a chord with people that seems to still find appeal where there is mass-murder and brutality. The book stimulated thinking on these issues.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2008
This book is an argument - it seeks to explain Hitler's actions, from initial success to final disaster, so as to make even the seemingly inexplicable (some of his military decisions) understandable. The book is absolutely successful in presenting a coherent picture of Hitler, and it does this in a highly readable style.
It does not pretend, like so many biographies, to explain the 'deeper' causes of e.g. Hitler's antisemitism as the product of his childhood - it leaves such interpretations to psychologists. What is does do is put all his major political and military decisions into a coherent framework and interpret these in the light of his world view and ideological motives.
The book is not for Hitler 'beginners', as it deals mostly with major issues, and assumes a reader who is familiar with the historical facts of Third Reich and WW2 history. It does not so much recount those facts as interpret and explain them.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2000
This book says more in a few sentences than most do in several chapters. Haffner gives exactly enough background so you understand his point, but emphasises analysis and understanding rather than narrative (which he assumes you know already). He gets straight to the interesting fundamental questions and his epigrammatic style is illuminating and thought-provoking rather than mere stylism - see the first couple of sentences for one of the best examples. A brilliantly concise book and a model of gripping historical analysis.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2010
Sebastian Haffner manages to summarize Hitler's career in nearly 150 pages, giving his personal view of his successes, failures, crimes and obsessions. Though more a historical essay with plenty of personal opinions by the author (a very shrewd observer on the other hand) than a regular biography or a serious history book, the volume is worth reading as a summary of Hitler's main traits and a thought-provoking book.
Personally, I liked the author's "The German Revolution" better, but his keen analytical powers are present in this short volume as well, though his style is more personal and so more open to criticism.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2000
Haffner has delivered a masterful and intriguing analysis of the actions and motivations of Adoph Hitler, the primary architect of the last sixty years of the 20th Century, who failed nonetheless to build the edifice he had in mind. Better, perhaps, to have entitled (or translated?) this essay "understanding" Hitler rather than the more ambitious concept of the "meaning" of the phenomenon, but I'm splitting hairs. The translation is never obtrusive.
My own previous study of the man is confined to Alan Bullock's early and brilliant biography ("Hitler - A Study In Tyranny"), and general knowledge of the history of the Third Reich and the Second World War. But I found this was more than sufficient to cope with the author's assumptions of knowledge on the reader's behalf, and thoroughly appreciated following his cool-headed lines of argument and analysis.
Haffner breaks his study very effectively under seven headings: Life, Achievements, Successes, Misconceptions, Mistakes, Crimes, and Betrayal. In doing so I believe he turns over several stones hitherto left largely undisturbed.
The most significant example may be the final murderous acts Hitler attempted (with partial success) to inflict upon the German people. Along with his relatively in-depth consideration of the most "conspicous" of Hitler's errors - declaring war on America - , one is left staring at the implication that Hitler's attachment to the German people may have been only a matter of necessity if he was to achieve his blood-thirsty and inexplicable revenge on the Jews. Haffner himself states that Hitler's ambition to rule Europe and his wish to exterminate the Jews "had nothing to do with each other", in fact they "obstructed each other" (p.102). Yet he provides ample evidence throughout his anaylsis that the second objective took first priority. (Perhaps even to the extent that his dictatorship and war-mongering were always consciously the precursor to genocide - a means to achieving a singular end). Haffner also makes us hesitate now to think of Hitler as a 'fascist' and dispels any lingering image of him as a 'statesman', but he does so without sliding into a laborious academic debate on those actual concepts.
Fresh, concise, thought-provoking, and certainly far from the final word on the most influential person of the last century, Haffner has done us all a great service by deepening and widening the historical debate.
on 20 October 2009
The most astounding elucidation of historical events that I have ever read. Sebastian Haffner is a gifted communicator, and presents, with striking clarity, the facts about Hitler's life, his career, and particularly his ideas, whilst at the same time demonstrating the often confused realities beneath the surface. The very stimulating chapters on "Hitler's Successes" and "Hitler's Mistakes" are frequently original in point of view, and memorable. Haffner has an extraordinary economy of style: there is no padding here, he goes for the bullseye, and every time, hits the mark! This remarkable book is in a class of its own, and is essential reading for everyone interested in recent history. Almost impossible to put down.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2012
I was very pleased with the all round service provided by this Amazon authorised book reseller appropriately awarding five stars. The book itself was an excellent and amazingly insightful interpretation and analysis of Hitler and his rise to power and ensuing successes, errors, crimes and ultimate downfall.