No study of World War II is complete without an understanding of the man most responsible for its origin and its course, Adoph Hitler. "Hitler: A Study in Tyranny" by Alan Bullock is the best source I have found on this topic thus far. This book examines its subject from his inconspicuous Austrian birth to his world changing death in the bunker in Berlin. As indicated by the subtitle, "Hitler" is truly a study, not merely a biography. It tells the story of his life and examines his beliefs, hopes and fears as well as the environments that formed them.
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.
This is a must-read for anybody interested in Hitler and the phenomenon that was the Third Reich. Although now dated, this is still a very detailed, dense and thorough biography of one of history's most fascinating characters.
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.
As a book focused on Hitler, rather than the war, the holocaust, or military strategies/battles, this is a brilliant work. And people should be warned, this is not a World War II book, although much of the detail covered is interesting and informative. The books greatness is the simplicity of objective: looking at Hitler.
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.
Bullock's achievement is one of demystiftying Hitler. One by one, the onion-skin layers of Hitler mythology are stripped away. Simple demonization makes way for an intelligent character study of a massively complex character, and simplistic Neo-Nazi whitewash is debunked. 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.
The original edition of this book was published in 1952,just seven years after Hitler's suicide in the Berlin bunker.What is astonishing is that it has stood the test of time and is still one of the best Hitler biographies around. It is not a history of Nazi Germany,and so some topics that you may have expected to be covered in depth(the Holocaust,for example)are skimmed over in favour of the life and times of Hitler. I would recommend,for new readers,reading the middle chapter first.This is an attempt to sum up his personality-the man,rather than the history maker.It's judgements are so well put("Pity and mercy he regarded as humanitarian claptrap")that it will set you up for the chronological chapters that precede and follow it. Even though there are now veritable libraries of works about both Hitler and the Nazi era published since this(only four years after the Nuremberg trials,remember),Bullock's book holds up remarkably well,except for it's smoewhat slender bibliography. if you want to dig deeper,try the 1970s biography by Joachim Fest,or the 1990s two-volume Ian Kershaw effort.
If you read only one biography on Hitler, then this is the one it should be. 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.
Fascinating, interesting, easy readable even for a non-Englishman like me without prior knowledge of the life of Hitler. Gives credit to the skills of Hitler, but do not glorify the man. Pictures the background on which Hitler rose from bottom to top of the German society.
I purchased the original paper back over 30 years ago....Unfortunately, over the years it has fallen apart. When I saw the latest edition on Amazon I decided to buy it again. Why? Simply, Alan Bullock's book is a classic piece of historical writing. Any one who wishes to read about the causes of the World War Two; Germany and Hitler should read this publication. It is not sensational in any way, simply an accurate account of why and how Hitler came to power.
World War 2 was such a horrific experience, bringing with it an unprecedented series of atrocities, that it is hard to imagine that a book about one of its main perpetrators could be a good read. Yet this really excellent work manages it. The depth of its detail and research is breathtaking, yet the writing presents the material in a highly readable manner. Thoroughly recommended.