on 12 February 2001
I wanted a book that would give me a brief overview of Hitler's rise to power and fall to defeat while also analysing his motivations. This book answered that need. It's easy to read, well structured and engaging. Haffner discusses the achievements and successes of Hitler with some objectivity. He also explores the reasons behind his military failures. Hitler's victories - bought through the sudden attack - also explain his mistakes - he relied upon unsustainable sudden strikes which led to his armies downfall in the long drawn out war against Russia, America and Britain. The holocaust is dealt with along with Hitler's personality defects. He was a man who loved brute power and war. He could never have been a peace-time leader. It wasn't in his nature. I felt the book went a long way to explaining Hitler but failed to deal enough with the meaning of evil and his popular appeal. Hitler struck a chord with people that seems to still find appeal where there is mass-murder and brutality. The book stimulated thinking on these issues.
on 31 March 2000
This book says more in a few sentences than most do in several chapters. Haffner gives exactly enough background so you understand his point, but emphasises analysis and understanding rather than narrative (which he assumes you know already). He gets straight to the interesting fundamental questions and his epigrammatic style is illuminating and thought-provoking rather than mere stylism - see the first couple of sentences for one of the best examples. A brilliantly concise book and a model of gripping historical analysis.
on 3 September 2008
This book is an argument - it seeks to explain Hitler's actions, from initial success to final disaster, so as to make even the seemingly inexplicable (some of his military decisions) understandable. The book is absolutely successful in presenting a coherent picture of Hitler, and it does this in a highly readable style.
It does not pretend, like so many biographies, to explain the 'deeper' causes of e.g. Hitler's antisemitism as the product of his childhood - it leaves such interpretations to psychologists. What is does do is put all his major political and military decisions into a coherent framework and interpret these in the light of his world view and ideological motives.
The book is not for Hitler 'beginners', as it deals mostly with major issues, and assumes a reader who is familiar with the historical facts of Third Reich and WW2 history. It does not so much recount those facts as interpret and explain them.
on 14 March 2010
Sebastian Haffner manages to summarize Hitler's career in nearly 150 pages, giving his personal view of his successes, failures, crimes and obsessions. Though more a historical essay with plenty of personal opinions by the author (a very shrewd observer on the other hand) than a regular biography or a serious history book, the volume is worth reading as a summary of Hitler's main traits and a thought-provoking book.
Personally, I liked the author's "The German Revolution" better, but his keen analytical powers are present in this short volume as well, though his style is more personal and so more open to criticism.
on 9 July 2000
Haffner has delivered a masterful and intriguing analysis of the actions and motivations of Adoph Hitler, the primary architect of the last sixty years of the 20th Century, who failed nonetheless to build the edifice he had in mind. Better, perhaps, to have entitled (or translated?) this essay "understanding" Hitler rather than the more ambitious concept of the "meaning" of the phenomenon, but I'm splitting hairs. The translation is never obtrusive.
My own previous study of the man is confined to Alan Bullock's early and brilliant biography ("Hitler - A Study In Tyranny"), and general knowledge of the history of the Third Reich and the Second World War. But I found this was more than sufficient to cope with the author's assumptions of knowledge on the reader's behalf, and thoroughly appreciated following his cool-headed lines of argument and analysis.
Haffner breaks his study very effectively under seven headings: Life, Achievements, Successes, Misconceptions, Mistakes, Crimes, and Betrayal. In doing so I believe he turns over several stones hitherto left largely undisturbed.
The most significant example may be the final murderous acts Hitler attempted (with partial success) to inflict upon the German people. Along with his relatively in-depth consideration of the most "conspicous" of Hitler's errors - declaring war on America - , one is left staring at the implication that Hitler's attachment to the German people may have been only a matter of necessity if he was to achieve his blood-thirsty and inexplicable revenge on the Jews. Haffner himself states that Hitler's ambition to rule Europe and his wish to exterminate the Jews "had nothing to do with each other", in fact they "obstructed each other" (p.102). Yet he provides ample evidence throughout his anaylsis that the second objective took first priority. (Perhaps even to the extent that his dictatorship and war-mongering were always consciously the precursor to genocide - a means to achieving a singular end). Haffner also makes us hesitate now to think of Hitler as a 'fascist' and dispels any lingering image of him as a 'statesman', but he does so without sliding into a laborious academic debate on those actual concepts.
Fresh, concise, thought-provoking, and certainly far from the final word on the most influential person of the last century, Haffner has done us all a great service by deepening and widening the historical debate.
on 4 April 2016
A very valuable book indeed. Especially for anyone who now wants to go beyond the historical facts, or Hitler's dreadful crimes, to
ask the question of HOW did it happen, how COULD it have happened. For decades I have been puzzled by the complete
inconsistencies in the Hitler story, how a complete nonentity could suddenly discover a talent that brought him to absolute power,
then victory after victory despite the reservations of the army experts, then defeat after defeat, and finally disaster. Haffner describes the
process brillianly, a wonderful readable analysis: Hitler's early life, his achievements, successes, misconceptions, mistakes, crimes and
finally his great betrayal of the German people.
How could such a man, with hate radiating in his every speech seduce a highly civilised country? How could he enchant an entire country
and inspire such loyalty almost up to his death? Because he gave (at first) SPIRIT to a demoralised Germany, he put people back to work,
he gave them a charismatic, energetic leader ... his performances simply blew them away! Look at any of the photographs - they adored
him! "Without a vision the people perish" - he gave them that vision. And then he went bad, felt the German people hadn't fought hard
enough, had let him down, deserved to perish with him - it's all a bit reminiscent of certain gurus. As says Haffner, within the highly gifted
politician always lurked the mass murderer - he wanted to turn Germany into a sort of stud farm "and in the end Hitler acted like a bad-
tempered and disappointed stud owner who has his best horse whipped to death because it proved unable to win the Derby".
Let us not forget that the whole zeitgeist was different in the 20's & 30's. Many English admired him at first! If you read Conan Doyle &
H G Wells, both respected authors even now, you will be horrified at their racist attitudes. Hitler was not seen as so utterly evil in the 30's!
He could be said to be merely an exaggeration of the thought processes of those in power in Europe. Myself, I woke up at the age of 60,
and stunned myself with "my God I was brought up as a fascist"! My family's racist attitudes, my loathsome authoritarian public school,
(= private, elite school for you non-English...), the attitudes of the English ruling class, the heartlessness, the despising of "losers". So, hm, could a Hitler arise again? I fear the answer is obvious, unless we watch CAREFULLY. Be vigilant, defend your freedom - or lose it! Look since at Stalin, Pol Pot, Rwanda, N Korea, Ceasescu et al! No I fear WW2 did not make us humans much better! And for those who doubt Hitler's extreme popularity at first with the German people, consider that he only needed one tenth of the secret police that the grey "German Democratic Republic" that succeeded him in the East needed! The siren call is ever there of simple solutions (which all turn out are worse than the problem).
This reviewer's final question to my readers is this: what would have been the story if Hitler had been squashed by a bus in (a) 1933, (b) 1939
and (c) assassinated by the inefficient Stauffenberg in 1944? Because it was ALL Hitler, no-one else. He carried it all. Goering, his heir, was so totally different, more human, lacked the racism, loved the good things of life, was a gentleman; England could have done business with him perhaps. So can anyone answer my abc conjecture for me!?
on 9 February 2016
Albeit a forensic examination of horrific personal traits, obscene aims and even worse actions and outcomes, it is extremely well written, presented and argued.
My interest comes from a fascination with seeking reasons why some individuals create extensive harm for so many others, usually completely innocent of any wrong-doing on their part.
I annotate as I work my way through each text. With this one, I had an increasing feeling that it reminded me of more recent actions.
Going back over my mark ups, I found a worrying similarity to the aims and attitudes of Conservative politicians over the last 30 years. This seems to have increased greatly since May 2015, particularly in relation to the treatment of the disabled, disadvantaged, elderly, and vulnerable.
In addition is the apparent aim of subduing the input or criticism from citizens with the undermining of the FOI and Human Rights Acts, the political control and privatisation of the BBC, and the second attempt to ban charities commenting on policy proposals which they see as being harmful to those they work to support.
That is not to say that I imply the reintroduction of concentration camps (albeit that it was us, the Brits, who first introduced them as a means of controlling the Boers in 1900 during the Boer War), but the reaction to UKIP proposals can be seen as an emphasis on blame, creating hatred and scapegoating. I would not want to go beyond that, but I do defend my comments on the basis of honest opinion arising from evidence to date.
on 10 August 2012
I was very pleased with the all round service provided by this Amazon authorised book reseller appropriately awarding five stars. The book itself was an excellent and amazingly insightful interpretation and analysis of Hitler and his rise to power and ensuing successes, errors, crimes and ultimate downfall.
on 20 October 2009
The most astounding elucidation of historical events that I have ever read. Sebastian Haffner is a gifted communicator, and presents, with striking clarity, the facts about Hitler's life, his career, and particularly his ideas, whilst at the same time demonstrating the often confused realities beneath the surface. The very stimulating chapters on "Hitler's Successes" and "Hitler's Mistakes" are frequently original in point of view, and memorable. Haffner has an extraordinary economy of style: there is no padding here, he goes for the bullseye, and every time, hits the mark! This remarkable book is in a class of its own, and is essential reading for everyone interested in recent history. Almost impossible to put down.
on 25 February 2016
Prompt delivery. Item as described. Deal with confidence.