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Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship Hardcover – 6 May 1999
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fascinating and impressive (George Steiner, TLS)
Hitler's Vienna is the authoritative biography of Adolf Hitler's early life until his departure from Austria as a 24-year-old. It is also the cultural history of Vienna as Hitler encountered it during his formative years: the Vienna of immigrants, the unemployed, and the homeless, and also of German Nationalism and anti-Semitism. Brigitte Hamann examines for the first time the few accounts of eyewitnesses and the many legends of Hitler's early years, bringing to light newly discovered letters and facts about his close contact with Jewish friends and benefactors. She also analyses the influence of the politicians who determined Hitler's political path: Georg von Schonerer, the 'Fuhrer of the German people', the folk tribune and mayor Dr Karl Lueger, the German radical Karl Hermann Wolf, and the All-German Workersleader Franz Stein - all four full of hatred, and adversaries of the Jews and of international social democracy. No one has produced such an extensive and well-founded picture of the climate and milieu in which Hitler's character and ideas matured.Hitler's Vienna demonstrates, using a wealth of individual examples, that central elements in Hitler's world-view were acquired during this formative period in Vienna. See all Product description
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The idea that Hitler didn't know the Holocaust was happening is given great credence here. The other alternative is the book is designed to deflate the power of Hitlerism by showing the Messiah of the Germans to be not the saturated with hate character we have been tough that he was.
Overall a very fascinating read. The blurbs are right in depicting the soak pit of Vienna at the time but they do not tel you that the young Adolf Hitler was strangely detached from all that.
Klara Hitler, his mum, stole the show. This historian, a women, which must count for something, paints a picture of a kind Klara and where male authors focus of the boorish Alois Hitler, Hamann dedicated many ages on this lady. She must have been a great character, Hiters mum, who struggled as a widow and to succumb to bastard cancer!
As synchronicity would have it, after becoming attached to her character and reading of her struggle with the cancer, and my relief that she is now at rest, some 110 years later, after I finish Hitler's Vienna, her grave was dug up by a bulldozer!
How the media and the world cheered at Klara not actually being laid to rest after all!
Who dares raise a smile after reading the struggle of Klara in this excellent history lesson?
Men have become brutish beasts and lost their reason (I am not sure about the women)!
My only real problem with this book is that it seems to either have been translated or written by someone who is not, I would guess, a native English speaker. I don't know if Hamann translated the book from her original in German or she wrote directly into English, but the language and grammar is slightly awkward and can make it difficult to read in some places. And a small pet peeve I have are the few editorial mistakes. She repeatedly refers to Emperor Joseph II as Franz Joseph II which makes no sense at all, considering that the famous Franz Joseph who came later was not Franz Joseph III! Plus, the Emperor Joseph II had many names, but none were Franz. This is common knowledge and very careless editing.
She also mistakenly writes toward the end of the book that the Austrians were the victors in the Battle of Koniggratz, when it is well-known the Prussians were. Again, it is a fairly well-known bit of information to make such a casual mistake.
All in all, however, I think this book is worth reading and definitely gives us greater insight into one of the most evil men in the history of the world.
It gradually starts to refer to political events at the time, and suddenly the political events seem to make more appearances in the book than what Hitler did himself (with the exception of reading newspapers). Although that is possibly because Hitler's life was without much variation in Vienna, after all she does give detailed account from his roommates and other sources, it could also be because, as stated in the book, the lack of witnesses. It is a great book for both studying Vienna in the 1900s-1910s, also showing how Hitler's ideology may have been shaped in Vienna. She really does use some great sources.
Hamann really questions her sources well, unfortunately the 'conclusion' (final section) seemed a bit short and rushed for me, although that is just me being picky (I'm used to history books with long-winded conclusions that take up to a whole chapter).
Postscript: I also read Kubizek's biography on Hitler before this which had a lot about Hitler's activities, and not much on politics. This might be why I see Hamann's book this way.