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4.2 out of 5 stars39
4.2 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2013
I bought this book because I am interested in opinion dynamics: how and why opinions in a group of people change over time. I wanted to better understand how and why the evil extremism of Nazism became so widely accepted in the German people, having started out as a tiny minority party, and how the Nazi's grip on their people was maintained until the end. The book definitely focuses on those topics.

It is written in a very readable style, in support of a TV series that I have not seen. The book works very well as a stand-alone text; I didn't feel the need to watch the TV series after I had read this.

I learnt a lot from this book, but there are several respects in which I really wish it had gone into more depth.

Several other reviewers here on Amazon have noted the author's repeated invocation of Hitler's "charisma" as an explanation for how he rose to power and maintained his grip on the people around him -- yet exactly what the nature of that charisma actually involved is not explored in much depth. Repeatedly we're told, often in verbatim quotes from eye-witnesses, that Hitler had a genius for understanding and manipulating mass psychology, but the nature of his skills in this regard are never really explored, and nor is there any decent discussion of how he acquired them. Also, much of the contemporaneous witness testimony (quotes, diary entries, etc) given in this book seems to indicate a population that in the aftermath of WWI were eagerly awaiting a saviour, a people desperate to follow a leader with a vision, however warped that vision was: the witnesses speak of "loving" Hitler from the early days, of reaching quasi-religious states of ecstasy when they heard him speak, and seemingly instantly expressing degrees of commitment and loyalty that are pretty-much unheard of nowadays. Hitler may have great intuition when it came to crowd psychology, but the crowds he was speaking to seem to have been remarkably pliable, and I feel that is an aspect of the story that's sorely underexplored in this book.

Hitler's rise to power within the Nazi party is documented in the early chapters, but the increase over this period in the popularity of the Nazi party itself among the general population is discussed in only the briefest terms (at location 1080 in the Kindle edition) -- the rise in the Nazi party's share of the vote from 2.6% to 18.3% in 1930 is a 700% increase in their vote count, taking them to the second-largest party in the Reichstag, but how or why this was achieved is hardly analysed at all.

Finally, when I got to the end of the book, I suddenly realised that the D-Day landings and the Allies' invasion from the west are not mentioned at all -- late in the book there are some tangential mentions of the advance of allied troops, and the devastating bombing raids on Dresden and Wurzburg, but really all the focus in the narrative here is on the eastern front, the disastrous campaign against the Soviets. That's not necessarily a complaint; maybe that's an accurate reflection of where the Nazi leaders' concentration lay.

Despite these comments (intended as constructive criticism) this is the first book I've read on this topic and I thought it well worth the money.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2014
The rise of Nazism told through the device of the unknown Austrian Corporal's progress from demobbed soldier to Chancellor and Head of State.
Never quite fully explains why Hitler managed to influence people ranging from the aristocratic Goering to the déclassé Himmler and the more left wing Strasser.
Deals well with the unravelling of the personal system of government. After adding Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht to his official positions he inevitably became identified with defeat in the East. As the author points out this severely weakened and eventually all but destroyed the element of charisma yet young Hitler Jugend still manned barricades against the might of the Red Army.
That being said throws an interesting light on a well told if still a shocking period.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2012
I thought this book was excellent. It was not extremely long like other Hitler books, but still long enough that it gives an accurate potrayal of Hitlers life. One of the questions I have always wondered is how a man with such warped views such as Hitler could convince an entire nation to get behind him. This book in my opinion answers this question quite well, with various theories as to why Hitler came to power. Well witten and very informative.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2012
This is a very readable portrait of Hitler which can be digested in a few hours. There are times when you might feel the word "charisma" is being shoe-horned into the text to maintain a theme rather than becoming just another biography, but on the whole it works - even if there are occasionally some sweeping conclusions on which bits of some people's testimony we can take at face-value, and which bits we can't.

But Rees has succeeded in writing a book that moves along at a good pace, and he rightly devotes more time to Hitler's rise to power than the 1942-5 era - it's more interesting to learn how such an unpromising individual could somehow emerge as a leader, not just of an extremist movement but of a whole country, persuading large numbers of highly intelligent and seemingly rational people to follow him in blind faith. As Rees observes, Hitler hypnotised no-one. And how he retained power when things went against him is also explored - essentially fear, and a feeling from people that they were already in too deep, are Rees' main conclusions.

Rees doesn't deviate from the familiar view that Hitler's rise was largely a product of political and economic circumstance, but he draws a very effective picture of the dictator's special ability to tell the people what they wanted to hear and to connect with crowds, even though he was often useless in smaller groups, struggled to form relationships and had no debating skill whatsoever. At the same time, he pulls together the narrative threads around this confusing and contradictory character - setting Hitler's charisma against different events as they occurred, and also making observations about his leadership style (and how it differed from the likes of Stalin and Mussolini).

Hitler still emerges as the same appalling character, no matter which angle you view him from. But Rees helps our understanding of how such a man could have succeeded, and that's a useful and thought provoking service for us all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2013
The book did not really provide any new insights to Hitler's character with the exception of the dark charisma hypothesis splattered throughout the book . Not convinced by the author's proposition but nevertheless I am glad I read it.

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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2012
This is a really wonderful book. It provides an overview of Hitler's dark reign and focuses on his ability to influence and appeal to people. We see a leader who was highly effective primarily because he was in the right place at the right time. After years of recession, spiralling inflation and ineffective government; Hitler seemed to provide the people with what they most craved: a strong man ready to accept responsibility and restore order and respect-few Germans cared precisely how.

Those who have read Rees other books or watched his excellent documentaries, will be familiar with his easy going style. This book is a good introduction to Rees work and provides an excellent analysis of the dictator's pursuasive powers, even for those who have read many books on the Third Reich.

5 Stars!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2012
The well written book explores the reasons why a sophisticated and intelligent nation of people could so easily follow a man like Hitler. The book is structured round the concept of Hitler's "Charisma", explaining that the concept is value free, and it explains all the dimensions of his charisma.

The book moves from the, felt to be, unfair settlement after the first world war, to the final days in the bunker. At all times the pace and style of the book is enthralling and I really understood how the German nation were persuaded blindly to follow a despot.

Lawrence Rees writes fluently and in a style that makes the book compelling for anyone with an interest in the topic. He has included excellent research references and the index is comprehensive.

A thoroughly good account , and well written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2013
Everyone knows about the actions of Hitler and his Nazi party and how it pushed the world to war. What has always fascinated me is why did the German people follow him so enthusiastically right to the end.
Its clear from the book that he had no superior intellect, never debated or sought advice from others.

Laurence Rees book goes some way to explaining Hitlers power over others and the hold he had over most of the German people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2013
Having seen the TV series I was delighted to find the book so much more realistic
It is a chill warning to future generations
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on 12 December 2014
Polished writing but hardly original. I am 7% into 'William L Shirer's: The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich' when I saw this book and got seduced not only to buy it but to start to read in preference. Oh dear, if I were asked to describe plagerism then how could I resist using this as an example. If you are familiar with visual terminology then this book by Rees is an over compressed jpeg destroying all the detail, colour and texture of the narative, a re-hash of others lengthy investigations especially the fine work of Shirer which would be the equivalent to a RAW image, containing a wealth of detail and interest. In fact ideal for researching a polished book relating to The Charisma of Adolf Hitler on. Be back at the end! No need I dumped it and Amazon Kindle kindly refunded me.
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