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Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris (Penguin Press history) Paperback – 2 Sep 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (2 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140288988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140288988
  • Product Dimensions: 25.3 x 5.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 569,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Is there anything fresh to be said about Hitler? He is an icon, maybe the icon, of the 20th century. He was a failed artist with Wagnerian fantasies, a slob who could not get up in the morning, but he exposed the frailties of modern civilisation in a way that should still make us giddy. How? Was it his doing, or German society's? Professor Ian Kershaw has produced a work of definitive scholarship that will be the standard for years to come. It was badly needed; since Alan Bullock's 1952 classic Hitler: A Study in Tyranny and Joachim Fest's Hitler (originally published in 1973) there has been much valuable research, all of which Kershaw seems to have read (there are 200 pages of notes). Add to this the media (and, by extension, public) fascination with the nature of evil, and a resurgent interest in right-wing groups, and this book becomes long overdue. Kershaw deals rigorously with the bones of his subject's life. He has no truck with psychological padding, and calmly demolishes most of the quasi-facts that have sprung up--if in doubt, he allows space within the chronology. His description of the path to the Chancellorship, which was always more messy than messianic, is painful to behold but gripping to follow, and concludes in 1936 with Hitler at the height of his "Hubris". This is an important study of the character of power, as clearly written as it is intellectually engaging. --David Vincent


Supersedes all previous accounts. It is the sort of masterly biography that only a first-rate historian can write (David Cannadine Observer Books of the Year)

The Hitler biography for the 21st century ... cool, judicious, factually reliable and intelligently argued ... Kershaw triumphantly succeeds in showing that Hitler's rise to supreme power depended not just on his own talents, nor on the nature of German society, but on the interaction of the two (Richard Evans Sunday Telegraph)

One of the major historical biographies of our times ... Kershaw has written a dazzlingly lucid interpretation of the central dynamics of the Nazi regime which draws on a wide new range of sources and expertly manages a huge cast of accomplices ... a riveting read (Jackie Wullschlager Financial Times, Best Biographies of the Year)

His analysis of Hitler's extraordinary character has the fascination of a novel, but he places his struggle and rise in the context of meticulously researched history ... Deeply disturbing. Unforgettable (A.N. Wilson Daily Mail)

A sane, erudite, moral and intellectually honest biography of the 20th century's most destructive politician. Every page is focused on the historical question we would prefer to forget: how did it happen? (Ruth Scurr The Times)

This new biography is of profound importance and will ... quickly establish itself as the standard work on Hitler and his regime (Thomas Childers Boston Globe) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book on the basis of a number of strong reviews, but found it quite unsatisfactory. I was probably after the wrong thing here, as I was hoping to get some kind of insight into how Hitler developed into the person he was, maybe the psychology behind him, but I did not feel there was much of that present. There was quite a bit of emphasis on how Hitler was very much part of the way German culture was developing in that era, and how the Third Reich and the Nazi phenomenon was the product of the many influential people at the time, and not just driven by one man. the main thing that put me off the book was that the writing style is one of a number of historical essays looking at particular themes. It assume that the reader already has a good background knowledge of topic. If you do not then you will either find yourself quite lost in places or spending a lot of time looking things up on the net to fill in the gaps. I found myself doing the latter, and consequently found reading this book took a lot of effort.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ian Kershaw is one of the most widely read and widely respected scholars who have sought to address the age old question of whether Hitler was cause or effect. Would the world have been significantly different if Corporal Adolf Hitler had been killed in the Ypres trenches? Keeping this in mind keeps this biography from being that bane of history books, one damn thing after another. Kershaw listens to other scholars and uses varying approaches to analyse Hitler's role as both a follower and leader of German responses to German military defeat, occupation and economic turmoil. He never sees Hitler as merely a product of his times, nor as an all-powerful martinet, but as a brilliantly opportunistic chancer whose luck finally ran out only when the chaotic regime he had imposed just could not cope with the pressure of war. My only personal disappointment is that the academic debate I expected is missed, lost when the original two volumes became one (I'm told). But this was otherwise a delight. I could hardly put my Kindle down.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book very much, I would have given it four and a half stars if I could.

It is the first book about Hitler I have read, having avoided the subject of the Third Reich, despite a deep interest in history, for many years.

I found it very interesting especially in that Kershaw suggests that while Hitler was a man of many talents, the development of Germany in the twenties and thirties was not, of course, solely down to his influence. Germany, he argues, had an appetite for totalitarian rule and anti-semitism was already highly developed. Having said that, while Kershaw documents prejudice against Jews mainly because of their success in business, he does not offer any in depth analysis of this. Nor for that matter does he offer any history of the Weimar republic, nor of Germany at all except in as much as it relates directly to Hitler. This is not a criticism but it is a limitation. A biographer might reasonably not expect to have to provide any more background than is strictly necessary to tell his tale of a personal development, but if you lack that historical knowledge you will have to go elsewhere to find it.

Kershaw makes it clear from the information he provides that Hitler was a man of profound oratorical gifts, and also a man with supreme political instinct and timing who almost infallibly knew how to ride the waves of feeling in Germany. Perhaps, if you like, he was in tune with the national Zeitgeist. However I felt that Kershaw at times wanted to underplay Hitler's talents and call him lucky, I wasn't sure if he was being strictly honest in doing so, perhaps he was anxious not to be seen to be praising Hitler in any way.

If you are unsure whether to buy this book I urge you to read the reviews on As if often the case they are far more lucid and well-informed than those on this site in my opinion.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first bought this book upon its original hardback release some years ago. I realised it was too big to read in the bath so proceeded to buy the paperback. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this too was simply too hefty to carry around so I eventually bought this book on a third format; the kindle version. By doing so I eventually got around to reading it, some 8 years after I first handed over hard cash for it.

Having finished the book a couple of weeks ago and having had time to reflect upon it, I can honestly say that this was the greatest non fiction book I have ever read. It is the ultimate account of the entire life of the Fuhrer, and although a political biography, it is eminently readable for all, even those who don’t have a history degree like me. I was shocked as to how readable this was to be honest.

The only reason I don’t give this book the full compliment of five stars is due to Mr Kershaw’s jumbled use of syntax and sentence structure. Some passages were difficult to grasp, not due to the content, but due to the sheer length. Having 10-15 commas in one sentence simply makes stopping for a breath impossible.

I would also have liked to have seen more of the ‘man’ rather that just the political figure, but seeing as Hitler failed to keep a diary I can understand how this was never going to be easy. The passages that do deal with this, especially the account of his earlier years, are fascinating, I just wish there was more.

Quite strangely for a 1,100 book, I felt you could really feel the abridgement coming through. I felt like there was so much more I would have liked to have known. Many interesting events were passed by quickly, when I was hungry for more.
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