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Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris (Penguin Press history) Paperback – 2 Sep 1999
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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 Amazon.com. As if often the case they are far more lucid and well-informed than those on this site in my opinion.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great biography, sometimes strays too far from the man (monster) and more in to WW2 as a whole but an excellent and fascinating read, probably more a 4.5Published 6 months ago by Holty
I think this book is a masterpiece! Anyone interested in WW2 and Hitler's third reich should read this. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ladyg
I'm struggling with some of the negative reviews I've seen. If you want an academic who has clearly devoted the better part of his life to immersing himself in the history of... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Soupnut
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