Most helpful positive review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good, but could have been better
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.