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Hitler: A Study in Tyranny Paperback – 29 Nov 1990
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About the Author
Alan Bullock, Baron Bullock, was born in 1914. He studied at Oxford University and served as a research assistant to Winston Churchill while writing his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. He was a history fellow at New College, Oxford, helped found St Catherine's College, Oxford, and was Vice-Chancellor for the university. A renowned modern historian, Bullock was made a life peer in 1976. He died in 2004.
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First published in 1952 and revised in 1962 with the benefit of information that came to hand in the intervening period. A biography written whilst the events were still fresh and from sources that lived during the era, but with the later revisions enough time had lapsed to ensure that nearly all the relevant information was available. A biography that is unlikely to be excelled this far removed from the events.
Growing up in the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hitler became a German nationalist who resented the upstart Czechs and other races who were demanding their place in the Hapsburg sun. We read of the indifferent student who lived the vagabond life of an unsuccessful artist in Vienna before becoming a Bavarian sergeant who was shot and gassed in World War I. It was out of the disillusionment with the post-war world and Germany's place in it that Hitler found a purpose and a cause to devote his life to. This Hitler the politician and author would attract collaborators who would be his liege men for life before drawing a major world power into his grasp.
On these pages the reader becomes acquainted with the Beer Hall Putsch, his involvement with political movements, his rise in those organizations and the milieu in which he worked his way to supreme power. Here we meet the magnificent politician who could outmaneuver his domestic rivals and outguess his generals in predicting the reactions of foreign leaders to his aggressive advances. In the Rhineland, Austria, the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia Hitler knew that Britain and France would not march. In these bloodless victories he laid the groundwork for his ultimate goals outlined in his book, "Mein Kampf": all German people united in one Reich with Lebensraum, living space for all. Hitler saw the role of Eastern Europeans as that of workers for their German masters. Ultimately the confidence built up over years of conquest would be his undoing when his luck ran out in the snows of Russia and the forests of the Ardennes.
The Hitler who emerges is a man with a vision, a plan to achieve it and the energy and talent to almost bring it about. His dreams and his hatreds are depicted as true beliefs, not mere political opportunism. He is seen as a man who went into politics to do something, more than to be somebody.
The world in which Hitler lived is a different one from that which we know. He lived in a world in which a public speaker could openly speak of an ethnic group as a problem without veiling it in coded language and in which a demagogue could openly denigrate democracy rather than redefine it in his image.
The book is well written and skillfully utilizes a wide range of sources. One thing I particularly like about this work is that it permits the reader to sample selections from Mein Kampf without the need to plod through the whole book. Before reading this book I knew a lot about World War II, but now I also understand a lot more about its paramount villain. "Hitler" is indispensible to any serious study of World War II.
Bullock delivers a cradle to bunker biography of Hitler, examining his childhood, rise to power, the apex of his acheivements, ending with his suicide in the bunker in Berlin, his power evaporated, reduced back to the rabble-rouser of Bavarian politics in the early 1920's. Especiall intetesting was the section examining hitler the man - his likes, dislikes, relationships with other people, and his opinions ranging from Christianity, to history to architecture. One gets the impression of a Hitler obsessed with his own propaganda and portrayal of himself as the man delivered by providence (as he saw it) to save Germany, indeed the world, from Jewish Bolshevism. One complaint is that no illustrations are provided, although some strategical maps and a genealogy of Hitler's family is provided.
This is a first-rate work of scholarship which I would recommend to anyone.
I would say that Bullock's divisions within the book are excellent, and I found these particularly useful as a starter. I enjoyed picking up the 'story' from the Czech debacle and read the book from there. I then went back to the post war years, and recently started at the start. I found this method quite useful.
This is a brilliant balance between general interest and specialist. I have found the book to be fair, considered and, at points, even sympathetic. And it is this fairness that makes Hitler so compelling, as you come to see his ugliness. You certainly grow to appreciate his genius and leadership pre-war, and then the disintegration during the war; his vacillating and tempers, his insights and determination.
I commend this book as it seeks not to tub-thump and get all jingoistic; it is a detailed, portrayal of one man and his influence on others, and history.
Hitler was a political genius who skillfully outwitted the powers of Europe, and on the other hand, a moral and intellectual cretin who needlessly drove his country and most of Europe to destruction through his ugly egotism and strident nationalism. In The Holocaust Hitler prepetrated a crime unparalleled in history, and yet, until the end continued to believe that he had been wronged and that history would vindicate him.
Bullock brings out these contradictions in a detailed and intelligent biography, which takes us from the beer-halls of Munich, to a shallow grave at the Fuhrerbunker in exquisite detail. A meisterwerk.
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