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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 September 2013
The quote at the top of this review is actually a truncated observation Kershaw makes regarding the battle on the Eastern front, between Russia and the Third Reich. Whilst Mao's China and Stalin's Russia can also boast death tolls that defy comprehension, yet still WWII - Hitler's war - remains in a league of its own. Compressing the two-volume Hubris and Nemesis into a single book, in large part by stripping out the 'scholarly apparatus' (footnotes, etc.), this nonetheless remains a chunky tome, the main body of the text just shy of 1,000 pages. In addition to the 969 pages of text there are 80 pages of black and white photos, and ten pages of fairly basic maps.

This is a fascinating, gripping, and compelling account centred on the man whose life story is the focal point in the unfolding of one of the twentieth century's greatest traumas. Hitler's early unfocused slacker lifestyle was brought sharply into focus during WWI, which brought him focus, a role and position in society, and his first sense of self-esteem, having previously been something of a loner and failure as an artist in Vienna. His sense of injustice at the outcome of WWI became a monomania which he combined with a particularly virulent strain of antisemitism (both of these things seemingly commonplaces in German culture at the time), forming his lifelong creed: never again, Hitler swore, would Germany suffer the shame it did in 1918. And the alleged enemy, international Jewry - be it capitalist or Bolshevist (for many, but perhaps none more so than Hitler, the Jews were an all-purpose bogeyman) - would be made to pay.

Kershaw covers the whole story admirably. But one of the parts that's most fascinating is Adolf's rise from art-school reject to beer hall demagogue, and then ultimately Führer. Early on in that 'resistible rise', during Hitler's interment after his failed putsch (Munich, 1923), he wrote Mein Kampf, in which he laid out the manifesto he would later implement, seeking 'lebensraum' (living space) for Germany in 'the East', the east chiefly being Russia. During this erratic and uncertain ascent a dynamic set in which, prior to 1941, seemed to some to cast Adolf as an infallible leader of indomitable will, but after that point rapidly overreached and unravelled, revealing itself to contain the seeds of its own destruction.

One of Kershaw's chief contributions to the massive literature on all things Third Reich-ian appears to be the 'working towards the Führer' idea. I don't know if this is an original idea of his or not, and it does seem like just the kind of term to arise in academia (Kershaw's a professional academic as well as author). I must admit such phrases often irk me somewhat, but it has to be conceded that it fits the bill here admirably. Kershaw is also very strong on the notion that Hitler achieved his form of leadership only by dissolving norms of government, such that the whole system inevitably evolved into a complete mess, the only common thread in the chaos being the clarity of 'working towards the Führer'.

I do have a few gripes: given the massive range of sources available, Kershaw's repeated recourse to Goebbel's diaries was at times so frequent as to be a little annoying. Also, in some areas - e.g. air warfare - he occasionally appears to be happy trotting out familiar clichés (which a book like Overy's Bombing War elucidates more accurately). But all things considered this is undoubtedly an excellent rendering of a hugely important and massively fascinating if dark chapter of our recent history. I once visited a concentration camp in Germany, and it was extremely sobering to stand on the very ground where unspeakable and barely believable barbarism occurred (and the camp I visited was only a 'transit' and not a 'death' camp), so close to home both in time and space.

One can only hope we might learn something from history.
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on 12 December 2014
Kershaw presents the most detailed, telling and insightful biography of the world's most notorious dictator I have ever read. If you really want to understand Hitler - from his childhood to his dictatorship - THIS is the book to read.
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on 22 June 2016
I'm struggling with some of the negative reviews I've seen. If you want an academic who has clearly devoted the better part of his life to immersing himself in the history of Hitler and the third reich and then relays that knowledge back to people in a clear, engrossing style then you can't get better than this. I'd go as far as to say that this is the best historical biography I have read. A must buy for anyone with a passion for History.
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on 21 November 2014
The writing in this book is very straight forward and draws you into the mind of the man that became the lynch pin to all that changed the history of the 20th century. From the way he was manipulated in the early years and yet at the same time, manipulated those around him, with his delivery and rhetoric. All of which set everything in place for the perfect storm that was to follow his early successes.
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on 24 September 2014
Probably the best biography you will ever read about this man. Very well researched and a great read from start to finish. It gives insights into Hitler and the Third Reich that the most avid of documentary watchers would never know. A must read for anyone interested in the history of World War 2.
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on 16 December 2012
Great book, well writen (of course it is, its by Sir Ian Kershaw!!) Quite a thick book, however is packed full of facts and information about the famous dictator, previously unknown before!
Would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about Hitler or on WW2!
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on 26 May 2016
A bit repetitive nut still a riveting and authoritative read
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on 30 November 2014
Clear concise description of the historical context in which Hitler found himself. An interesting and informative insight into Hitler's character and the personality cult that developed around him.
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on 23 April 2015
Absolutely breathtaking, very well written and coherent.
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on 5 October 2013
Obviously it is a rather long book, but it provides such an amazing insight into both the period and the individual being discussed. Personally, I found Kershaw's writing style very easy to follow, and found the book to be quite the page-turner. It appears to be such a well researched book, so provides not only a discussion of Hitler's life, for example, but also vast degrees of information around the context of the time. I would definately recommend it for anyone interested in the area - a superb read!
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