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on 7 September 2010
This book is a serious, academic study. Deeply researched and extremely thorough, it is not an 'easy read'. Footnotes abound and there are acronyms and initials everywhere; thankfully indexed at the back. This book requires that the reader either has very secure knowledge surrounding the Third Reich, or is prepared to stop regularly to read around the subject elsewhere in order to get 'up to speed' with the content. Entertainment it is not. Instead it is packed with detail, sublimely argued and will leave most readers with a changed and informed vision regarding Hitler. Reading this book may well adjust how you view present day politicians and the media too.
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on 29 April 2005
This fascinating study gives a whole new slant to what happened in Germany between 1933 and 1945. The Germans, angry and hurt after the defeat of the Great War, bothered by unemployment, dissatisfied with party politics, fearful of Bolshevism and seeking a strong leader who would be above politics and who would restore Germany's rightful greatness, found him in the apparently unlikely person of an embittered, Jew- and Communist-hating, Austrian ex-corporal incapable of normal human warmth. The creation of the mythical Hitler to fulfil expectations, often standing the facts of Hitler's actual person on their head, was a masterpiece of Goebbels's propaganda (Goebbels personally regarded the creation of the Fuehrer Myth as his greatest achievement). As a result, Hitler's personal popularity was almost universal, even among sections of the population who detested Nazism itself. He was given the benefit of the doubt every time. "If only the Fuehrer knew," people would say, after the latest bout of Nazi excesses.
However, the Hitler Myth carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. For one thing, Hitler came to believe it himself, and as a result became ever more divorced from ever more uncomfortable reality. Moreover, its prolongation required a continual stream of triumphs and successes, and when they faltered in the early 1940s (beginning with the Stalingrad catastrophe), so did it. However, it maintained a considerable hold right to the very end, even in the face of impending disaster. Professor Kershaw teases out the details of a complex story in a scholarly yet highly readable and informative way, and ends with an excellent concluding review chapter. The book was written in 1987, before the fall of the Wall, the subsequent reunification of Germany and the upsurge of extremist right-wing sentiment as a result of high unemployment, poor economic performance and dissatisfaction with the current government - now, where have we heard this before? It would be hard to improve on Professor Kershaw's masterly final paragraph as a commentary on modern-day affairs - and not only those of Germany:
"Old myths are however replaced by new as the combination of modern technology and advanced marketing techniques produce ever more elaborate and sophisticated examples of political image building around minority personality cults, even in western democracies, aimed at obfuscating reality among the ignorant and gullible. The price for abdicating democratic responsibilities and placing uncritical trust in the 'firm leadership' of seemingly well-intentioned political authority was paid dearly by Germans between 1933 and 1945. Even if a collapse into new forms of fascism is inherently unlikely in any western democracy, the massive extension of the power of the modern State over its citizens is in itself more than sufficient cause to develop the highest level possible of educated cynicism and critical awareness as the only protection against the marketed images of present-day and future claimants to political 'leadership'".
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on 22 February 2009
I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. It wasn't too long compared to Kershaw's other books (I'm not implying they're bad though), the different points were well explained but to the point and I just generally thought it was an interesting read for such a thought provoking subject.
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on 22 January 2003
The "myth" which Prof Kershaw exposes as a naked, squirming lie is the belief that hitler was above political intrigue and corruption, and was an innocent duped by self-serving, greedy, conniving underlings. This myth was very popular in Nazi Germany, where there was a general desire for a strong, single leader to clear away the messy, bickering mess that Weimar democracy had proved to be. The naive faith in the führer can still be seen on the faces of his former devotees in TV documentaries such as "The Nazis - A Warning From History".
The book is a detailed, broad examination of the social values and motives of the vast majority of Germans and austrians in those years, from the early thirties right up to the final collapse and Soviet invasion of 1945. It reveals the self-delusion that otherwise intelligent, rational people will employ to deny that they are supporters - whether active or passive - of a criminal state bent on mass murder and the enslavement of nations in their name.
Although the title might be misunderstood as an apologia for Hitler, perhaps seeming to be a defence of Hitler against anti-nazi, anti-aryan propaganda lies, this is to be welcomed. If even one confused potential nazi-supporter reads this and has their opinions overturned by Ian Kershaw's overwhelming evidence and arguments, the world will be a better, safer place.
A great book.
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on 16 April 2008
A remarkable book , you will never view Hitler's Germany in the same light again.
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on 28 March 2016
Easy to follow while being full of a detailed analysis of every point made. I used it for additional research during my AS study of World War Two, and it greatly added to my existing knowledge of events, as well as giving a different perspective of events. I also used it for my EPQ on Hitler, explaining his rule. This greatly helped explaining and giving evidence for the Hitler Myth, in addition to all those involved.
A great read for wanting to understand more about Nazi Germany, but equally as detailed for academic use.
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on 10 July 2016
Absolutely outstanding - far easier to read than I expected. Compelling and extremely pertinent to today's European crisis and slow swing to the right. The Nazis really invented modern political propaganda and must have had the satanic rights to their use in slowly but very slowly and carefully re-shaping Germanic thinking.
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on 6 September 2000
Kershaw is the best and he reminds us of this again as he takes us through the propaganda machine that was so important in Hitlers rise to power and the face of the Third Reich.
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on 23 January 2013
This has been useful to my daughter who is studying A2 History at College. She has learned a lot from it.
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on 26 May 2014
A good review of the reality of Nazi Germany's perception of their leader.
An incisive insight in to the chaos that was Nazi Germany however with the amazingly successful propaganda machine of Goebels.
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