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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)
About the Author
Brigitte Hamann is a Ph.D. and specialist in 19th and 20th-century history, specifically of Austrian history. She is the author of many books in German, some of which have been translated into English, including The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Bertha von Suttner. A Life for Peace.
Top Customer Reviews
Dr Hamman successfully teases out the various half truths and mythologies concerning young Hitler's sojourn in Vienna and gives a more plausible account of his unorthodox schooling and ideological development. The testimony of various character witnesses are examined to give a more nuanced portrait of the young Hitler and the process whereby this diabolical genius was able to exploit the insecurities and fear engendered by by war and social breakdown.
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.
She starts with a long chapter on Hitler's background in provincial Linz. Moving to Vienna, Hamann describes the galleries and operas he attended and the multilingual parliamentary debates that infuriated him. She tells the stories of the politicians Georg Schönerer, leader of the minority Pan-German party and Christian Socialist Karl Lueger whom Hitler sought to emulate. She tells us of his life in the rented rooms and hostels where he stayed; about the ambitions of the trade unionists and lives of the Czech and Jewish communities. This colours in the sketches Hitler gave in Mein Kampf and his friend August Kubizek in The Young Hitler I Knew, from which she draws.
She also speculates on what he read, probably including Houston Stewart Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Gustav Le Bon's Psychology of Crowds and perhaps Nietzsche, though she is sceptical of Kubizek on this latter. Perhaps the replacement of physical by social anthropology in our culture has made the influence of Chamberlain hard for us to grasp. My feeling is that she underestimates the influence of Vienna on Hitler. Quibbles and second-guessing apart though, this is an exhaustive, well-written and absorbing book on its subject.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Dreadful: frequent grammar/spelling and punctuation errors make the book almost unreadable.Published 13 months ago by Fay Sake
Having just re-read this book, I thought it might be timely to provide my own review. As an avid student of National Socialism, I found this book to be absolutely fascinating,... Read morePublished on 12 Feb. 2015 by Mr. Rdl Carrick
Most interesting book about the period and the man. An insight into a world largely forgotten. I would read over and over again.Published on 28 Dec. 2012 by MWVT
Until this book was written hitlers first 25 years were, with few exceptions such as ian kershaw, often given little attention. Fortunately this book solves this problem. Read morePublished on 21 July 2012 by C. Nielsen
Hamann's "Hitler's Vienna" is a first class piece of innovative research and should be read together with Schorske's " Fin de siecle Vienna" and David Clay Large " Hitler's Munich... Read morePublished on 21 April 2012 by C. J. Terry