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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Hitler (Profiles In Power)
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on 26 November 2015
Ian Kershaw is one of the most widely read and widely respected scholars who have sought to address the age old question of whether Hitler was cause or effect. Would the world have been significantly different if Corporal Adolf Hitler had been killed in the Ypres trenches? Keeping this in mind keeps this biography from being that bane of history books, one damn thing after another. Kershaw listens to other scholars and uses varying approaches to analyse Hitler's role as both a follower and leader of German responses to German military defeat, occupation and economic turmoil. He never sees Hitler as merely a product of his times, nor as an all-powerful martinet, but as a brilliantly opportunistic chancer whose luck finally ran out only when the chaotic regime he had imposed just could not cope with the pressure of war. My only personal disappointment is that the academic debate I expected is missed, lost when the original two volumes became one (I'm told). But this was otherwise a delight. I could hardly put my Kindle down.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 September 2013
I enjoyed reading this book very much, I would have given it four and a half stars if I could.

It is the first book about Hitler I have read, having avoided the subject of the Third Reich, despite a deep interest in history, for many years.

I found it very interesting especially in that Kershaw suggests that while Hitler was a man of many talents, the development of Germany in the twenties and thirties was not, of course, solely down to his influence. Germany, he argues, had an appetite for totalitarian rule and anti-semitism was already highly developed. Having said that, while Kershaw documents prejudice against Jews mainly because of their success in business, he does not offer any in depth analysis of this. Nor for that matter does he offer any history of the Weimar republic, nor of Germany at all except in as much as it relates directly to Hitler. This is not a criticism but it is a limitation. A biographer might reasonably not expect to have to provide any more background than is strictly necessary to tell his tale of a personal development, but if you lack that historical knowledge you will have to go elsewhere to find it.

Kershaw makes it clear from the information he provides that Hitler was a man of profound oratorical gifts, and also a man with supreme political instinct and timing who almost infallibly knew how to ride the waves of feeling in Germany. Perhaps, if you like, he was in tune with the national Zeitgeist. However I felt that Kershaw at times wanted to underplay Hitler's talents and call him lucky, I wasn't sure if he was being strictly honest in doing so, perhaps he was anxious not to be seen to be praising Hitler in any way.

If you are unsure whether to buy this book I urge you to read the reviews on Amazon.com. As if often the case they are far more lucid and well-informed than those on this site in my opinion.
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on 30 October 2014
I first bought this book upon its original hardback release some years ago. I realised it was too big to read in the bath so proceeded to buy the paperback. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this too was simply too hefty to carry around so I eventually bought this book on a third format; the kindle version. By doing so I eventually got around to reading it, some 8 years after I first handed over hard cash for it.

Having finished the book a couple of weeks ago and having had time to reflect upon it, I can honestly say that this was the greatest non fiction book I have ever read. It is the ultimate account of the entire life of the Fuhrer, and although a political biography, it is eminently readable for all, even those who don’t have a history degree like me. I was shocked as to how readable this was to be honest.

The only reason I don’t give this book the full compliment of five stars is due to Mr Kershaw’s jumbled use of syntax and sentence structure. Some passages were difficult to grasp, not due to the content, but due to the sheer length. Having 10-15 commas in one sentence simply makes stopping for a breath impossible.

I would also have liked to have seen more of the ‘man’ rather that just the political figure, but seeing as Hitler failed to keep a diary I can understand how this was never going to be easy. The passages that do deal with this, especially the account of his earlier years, are fascinating, I just wish there was more.

Quite strangely for a 1,100 book, I felt you could really feel the abridgement coming through. I felt like there was so much more I would have liked to have known. Many interesting events were passed by quickly, when I was hungry for more. Interesting to think that I felt this book could have done with another 500 or so pages, but then again, I suppose I could always go for the unabridged original two editions if I wanted more.

Overall, this is an excellent biography and is suitable for all levels of interest. It might seem like a mammoth task to read such a large book, but it is highly readable and well worth the investment.
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on 10 August 2017
If you're picking up this book to discover more about the life, decisions and flaws of one of history's great bogey men, then this is for you. It's readable - although the style is a bit meandering and overly complicated at time - and informative, although it relies heavily on the Goebbels diaries.
What you won't get is much in the way of a new perspective on Hitler - why he was to feted and why Germans wanted WW2 with such fervour. History is written by the victors and, while the Nazis and Hitler are justifiably reviled, casting them as one-dimensional bogeymen, as this book does, feels like a cop out.
Amongst the plethora of Hitler biographies, this is a good one, but you may still be left wondering whether a good vs evil assessment of WW2 really tells the full story.
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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 24 October 2016
I think this book is a masterpiece! Anyone interested in WW2 and Hitler's third reich should read this. Ian Kershaw makes the whole reading experience enjoyable as it flows so well. The amount of research that has gone into this book is awesome - one of the best books I have read for the sheer scale of it, the clever way it is crafted and the powerful impact it leaves on the mind to think it really wasn't that long ago!
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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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