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I Was Hitler's Pilot: The Memoirs of Hans Baur Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps this version has fallen victim to the censorship of Political Correctness but the original first edition is a far better read and I regularly see it on Amazon for less than the current list price of this edition which to my mind is an inferior product.
Best to stick with the original and best 1st edition.
The small things like the original having a nice quality paper and a ribbon book mark. The price difference is more than offset by the superior product your buying.
Hitler At My Side
That said, it is not without value, shedding some light on events like the death of Fritz Todt, which is sometimes held to be a case of sabotage. Baur, rather more convincingly suggests it was an accident, albeit rather an odd and unlucky one. There are also some interesting glimpses of what life was for one of Hitlers retinue, with vignettes of various prominent figures in the regime.
The Baur portrayed here emerges as an odd and contradictory figure: obviously a man of considerable intelligence and skill (how else could he have been such a notable pilot?), but also, if we are to go by this book, a strangely unobservant and naive figure, seemingly blind to the nature of the master and the government that he served.
All things considered, this is not a particularly satisfying or well written book, but it does shed some light on a few odd topics not much covered by other works, and this is where its appeal lies. After all, how many other books are there by former Condor pilots?
The book has some fascinating insights,not only about Hitler but also after Baur was wounded and captured by the Russians.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Following the overthrow of Nazi Germany Baur was taken captive by the Russians and keep as a prisoner of war for approximately ten years. He was repeatedly tortured by the Russians regarding information he may have had regarding whether or not Hitler died in his bunker.
Baur does provide us with a viewpoint of Hitler towards others that is different than what we have been accustomed to read. I found the book to be an okay read and if you are really into reading about Nazi Germany then this book will give you a viewpoint from one of Hitler's intimate friends.
There is relatively little political or grand-strategic military matter in here. Baur's viewpoint is primarily an intimate, low-level one, which eschews the big picture for a small but detailed drawing of what one man perceived with his own eyes and ears. He goes about his task by means of anecdotes -- Sometimes humorous, sometime very serious, always interesting. There is no effort at deep analysis, and only a rather weak overall synthesis; the facts are generally given by themselves, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions. This mode of presentation, though a trifle disorganized, is surprisingly successful: A wealth of little windows into life at the Führer Headquarters, naturally with a large amount of attention devoted to the famously infamous dictator himself. Baur presents him largely as an individual rather than the dark messiah of Germany, as a man he knew, liked and even admired, and helps us understand why he -- And so many others -- did so.
Hitler, as Baur knew him, was no capricious Caligula; our author records no acts of personal cruelty from him, but many of spontaneous kindness. He was, as best as anyone could tell Baur, entirely faithful to his Eva, though he did not lack opportunities for casual affairs. Nor was he stupid; on the contrary, Baur shows a learned and articulate man who could argue intelligently with professors and generals as well as workers and soldiers. His sense for music is vividly illustrated by the following incident, which greatly impressed our chronicler:
"One evening ... Dr Hanfstaengl came in and told him that he had now finished a march 'The German Föhn' which he had been composing, and was ready to play it for him. With Hitler's agreement, therefore, Hanfstaengl sat down at the grand piano and played us his march ... Hitler, who had listened very carefully, asked Hanfstangl to play it again. Then Hitler whistled the whole thing through from beginning to end, pointing out this and that to Hanfstaengl, telling him where he would like it altered, and so on." (pp. 48-9)
Needless to say, this is a very rare degree of talent. Hitler, a musical prodigy? Not what we might expect to hear, but several other witnesses also tell of similar incidents, so I am prepared to believe Baur. Such startling impressions are among the chief points of interest in his book, as they enhance our understanding of the greatest and darkest of the enigmas of the Third Reich: Hitler himself. (Not that Baur's own story is not interesting in its own right, of course.)
In the end, with Berlin being blown to pieces around them by the Soviet artillery, Hitler somewhat emotionally released his chief pilot from his service; shortly thereafter he committed suicide. Baur then attempted to flee, but was injured and caught by the victorious Russians. Then followed long years of brutal captivity: Because he was a valuable source of intelligence on Hitler, the author was relentlessly interrogated, and tortured by the commissars when he did not say what they wanted to hear. His sufferings were such that he tried to take his own life; when he refused to eat, he was force-fed in a nightmarish manner. These chapters, obviously enough, are not for the faint of heart.
Eventually his captors tired of him, and he was released from his special prison to an "ordinary" gulag for German POWs. There he remained until 1955, when changing political conditions allowed him to go home at last, and tell a fantastic story which might easily never have been told.
* * * * *
In the end, this is an excellent item in the somewhat expansive library of memoirs by old Hitler associates. Its main flaw is that the publisher cut most of what Baur originally intended to tell the world; this edition comprises about a third of Baur's original manuscript. It strains the imagination to suppose that the rest was all repetition and filler, so undoubtedly much was lost before seeing print. But what remains is mostly first-rate material. Enjoy!
(For the best memoir of all by a Hitler associate, see also "The Hitler I Knew" by the dictator's press chief, Doctor Otto Dietrich, recently reissued by Skyhorse Publishing. This brilliant book provides precisely the integrated overall portrait of Hitler which Baur's priceless but disjointed anecdotes alone cannot.)
My only disappointment is that this book could have been twice as long as I'm sure that there was more than enough room for further facts, insights, and details of Baurs life from his first flight with the Fuhrer until the end of his captivity. It would also be interesting to know about his life and impressions of his country in postwar Germany.
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