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on 19 September 2007
Brigitte Hamann's fascinating trawl through the maelstrom of Viennese political life in the early 20th century sets the scene for the emergence of a new form of virulent racial politics. It's quite astonishing to discover just how overt the racial and ethnic hostilities were during this period of central european history - the perfect forcing ground for aspiring political animals learning the power of rhetoric to manipulate and control the newly enfranchised masses. Hitler couldn't have had a better schooling in the art of demagoguery and political thuggery.

Dr Hamman successfully teases out the various half truths and mythologies concerning young Hitler's sojourn in Vienna and gives a more plausible account of his unorthodox schooling and ideological development. The testimony of various character witnesses are examined to give a more nuanced portrait of the young Hitler and the process whereby this diabolical genius was able to exploit the insecurities and fear engendered by by war and social breakdown.
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on 28 October 2013
The book starts off talking about Hitler in his last days, and how he reflected upon his youth. Next it starts with Hitler as a child, there are marvelous facts in here. Honestly, this is one of the most detailed and accurate (note the 'accurate') nooks on Hitler's upbringing that you can find in the English language.

It gradually starts to refer to political events at the time, and suddenly the political events seem to make more appearances in the book than what Hitler did himself (with the exception of reading newspapers). Although that is possibly because Hitler's life was without much variation in Vienna, after all she does give detailed account from his roommates and other sources, it could also be because, as stated in the book, the lack of witnesses. It is a great book for both studying Vienna in the 1900s-1910s, also showing how Hitler's ideology may have been shaped in Vienna. She really does use some great sources.

Hamann really questions her sources well, unfortunately the 'conclusion' (final section) seemed a bit short and rushed for me, although that is just me being picky (I'm used to history books with long-winded conclusions that take up to a whole chapter).

Postscript: I also read Kubizek's biography on Hitler before this which had a lot about Hitler's activities, and not much on politics. This might be why I see Hamann's book this way.
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on 23 July 2011
Understandably, Brigitte Hamann likes Vienna more than Hitler. She shows us around the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with great authority and is a Sherlock Holmes for tracking down remnants of Hitler's stay there prior to his move to Munich.

She starts with a long chapter on Hitler's background in provincial Linz. Moving to Vienna, Hamann describes the galleries and operas he attended and the multilingual parliamentary debates that infuriated him. She tells the stories of the politicians Georg Schönerer, leader of the minority Pan-German party and Christian Socialist Karl Lueger whom Hitler sought to emulate. She tells us of his life in the rented rooms and hostels where he stayed; about the ambitions of the trade unionists and lives of the Czech and Jewish communities. This colours in the sketches Hitler gave in Mein Kampf and his friend August Kubizek in The Young Hitler I Knew, from which she draws.

She also speculates on what he read, probably including Houston Stewart Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Gustav Le Bon's Psychology of Crowds and perhaps Nietzsche, though she is sceptical of Kubizek on this latter. Perhaps the replacement of physical by social anthropology in our culture has made the influence of Chamberlain hard for us to grasp. My feeling is that she underestimates the influence of Vienna on Hitler. Quibbles and second-guessing apart though, this is an exhaustive, well-written and absorbing book on its subject.
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on 11 June 2014
This is a very interesting look at Hitler during his years in Vienna, which clearly had a considerable impact on his later views. Interesting, though, that his rabid anti-semitism seems to have developed only later. The sources for all this, however, are somewhat questionable, as the author admits herself, yet I think she's done a fairly decent job working through them and taking that which is most credible. She also takes pains to clarify some of the more common rumors and misconceptions about Hitler's origins, youth and developing hatred of Jews.

My only real problem with this book is that it seems to either have been translated or written by someone who is not, I would guess, a native English speaker. I don't know if Hamann translated the book from her original in German or she wrote directly into English, but the language and grammar is slightly awkward and can make it difficult to read in some places. And a small pet peeve I have are the few editorial mistakes. She repeatedly refers to Emperor Joseph II as Franz Joseph II which makes no sense at all, considering that the famous Franz Joseph who came later was not Franz Joseph III! Plus, the Emperor Joseph II had many names, but none were Franz. This is common knowledge and very careless editing.
She also mistakenly writes toward the end of the book that the Austrians were the victors in the Battle of Koniggratz, when it is well-known the Prussians were. Again, it is a fairly well-known bit of information to make such a casual mistake.

All in all, however, I think this book is worth reading and definitely gives us greater insight into one of the most evil men in the history of the world.
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on 21 July 2012
Until this book was written hitlers first 25 years were, with few exceptions such as ian kershaw, often given little attention. Fortunately this book solves this problem. Hamann has researched the subject in great detail and gives an in depth thorough account of hitlers life from 1889 to 1914. His family is described in great detail and so are the various homes in which he lived. In addition a good and detailed description is given of daily life as a whole in the towns and cities in which Hitler lived. There is also an excellent description of the events, politicians and movements which may have made an impact on Hitler in these years.
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on 28 December 2012
Most interesting book about the period and the man. An insight into a world largely forgotten. I would read over and over again.
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on 12 February 2015
Having just re-read this book, I thought it might be timely to provide my own review. As an avid student of National Socialism, I found this book to be absolutely fascinating, providing me with many previously unknown facts about young Hitler. Most interesting were the details of the virulently Nationalistic and anti-semitic luminaries of the age, who clearly had so much influence on Hitler the politician. Together with Kershaw's biography, this is the best book I have read on Adolf Hitler. If you already have a deep understanding of the period, then each page is a goldmine of relevant and pertinent facts. Outstanding!
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on 21 April 2012
Hamann's "Hitler's Vienna" is a first class piece of innovative research and should be read together with Schorske's " Fin de siecle Vienna" and David Clay Large " Hitler's Munich ". It discovers the likely roots of Hitler's invocation of a strange new language of resentment and hate.
A very well worthwhile cultural analysis which leads on to further-reaching research, highlighting the roles of the neglected 19/ 2oth C European feuilleton in politics and, as it happens, literature.
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on 15 August 2010
Excellent story of AH before he starts the rise to prominence. To be blunt he still comes across a "nutter" but I am impressed with the research that clearly went into this book.
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on 18 May 2016
Dreadful: frequent grammar/spelling and punctuation errors make the book almost unreadable.
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