Hitler's War Hardcover – 1 Jun 1977
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However, there are some flaws.
Many people have mentioned the holocaust. I think it's difficult to believe that Hitler didn't endorse it, or that he didn't know about it... There are many alternative explanations to the documents he cites in favor of his view. To his credit, he even mentions at least one of them that contradict his views (Himmler's note in December 1941 regarding his talk to Hitler, "als Partisanen auszurotten"), but then dismisses it in a way that's not totally convincing to me. However, the holocaust is not a very central topic to this book, and even though his views on this regard are not totally convincing (to say the least), they are far short of outright holocaust-denial. Actually, in this book, he doesn't even deny any part of the mainstream consensus, except for Hitler's personal role.
Now because, as John Keegan once put it, this is "the autobiography Hitler never wrote", the book has some other flaws as well. As already apparent in his treatment of the holocaust, where Irving felt Hitler was whiter than previously thought, his lieutenants had to be painted a wee bit darker. The same is true of Hitler's conduct of the war, and whereas the holocaust is just a minor part of the book, the same thing cannot be said of the conduct of the war. So, we find a genius Hitler inventing the best possible operational plans for the Wehrmacht, only to be obstructed by his more incompetent generals... Although at least in some cases this seems to be somewhat substantiated (e.g. in all likelihood Hitler was right in December 1941 at the time of the Haltebefehl and his generals were wrong), but many times over it is not. The French campaign is a case in point. As Bundeswehr Colonel Karl-Heinz Frieser has shown in his book The Blitzkrieg Legend: The Campaign in the West, 1940, it was not Hitler but von Manstein and Guderian who authored the operational plan, Hitler didn't even understand it right until it was executed, and he even shows how and why Hitler deceived himself (and some historians) to the contrary. Irving also seems quite ready to believe betrayal - what Hitler also believed or at least adopted - as an explanation for all failures after or before the July 20 plot, when in fact it's very hard to believe that betrayal played any part in the setbacks on the Eastern Front, and it probably played little part on the Western Front. Field Marshal von Kluge might have had some contacts with the plotters, but that's not the reason for his failure in August 1944...
I strongly propose that anyone reading this should also read other accounts on the war and Hitler.
Now after so many flaws, it still has some strengths to commend it. There is a reason why mainstream historians still cite him... because it's still a good and original book. (I originally gave it 4 stars, but now changed to 3... the problems are too numerous.)
I also strongly believe history (and scholarship in general) benefits from somewhat extreme views. While Irving's view regarding the holocaust (which is, to repeat, just a minor point in this book) is very very unlikely, it is at least a kind of devil's advocate view, which is stimulating and sometimes even useful, at the very least so that the arguments against it could be elaborated by others.
Another, perhaps THE major strength of the book is the insight into the personality, aims, plans and methods of Hitler. Look around the world NOW and you'll see echoes of many of his war-time strategies (Israel v Palestine, USA v ...). There is nothing new under the sun. This book should be mandatory reading before one becomes an adult.
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A few people say that David Irving's works are inaccurate and that he isn't...Read more
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