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This review is from: Hitler (Paperback)
This one-volume biography, abridged from the author's earlier two-volume work, presents a fascinating, detailed and very readable account of Hitler's life, beliefs, political career, personality and ultimate defeat. Although this abridged version does not provide footnotes or other references, it is clear that this is a meticulously researched work, but for all the academic rigour behind it, it reads engagingly and easily. Kershaw sets out to examine how Hitler, an ill-educated, failed artist and rabble-rousing political agitator could rise to a position of such supreme power within Germany, and in doing so and remaining there for more than a decade, how he was able to persuade so many others, in politics, government and general society to support him and his aims. The analysis is complex and compelling; Hitler did not and could not have gained such power and put it to such devastating consequences alone, yet without his undeniable rhetorical talents and ruthless quest for authority and control, coupled with his unshakeable beliefs, the barbarism carried out by the Nazi regime could not have happened. Key to Kershaw's thesis is the notion of 'working towards the Führer' - Hitler was given to making broad, sweeping statements and outlining general plans and objectives frequently with little attention to detail or precise instructions as to how they were to be carried out. This encouraged his many ideological followers in positions of authority within the regime to find ways of putting his general wishes into more precise practices. Yet in doing so, ultimate approval was only possible from Hitler himself, allowing him to distance himself from actions that proved ineffective or unpopular, and in so doing, ensuring his unchallengeable authority. The logic of Kershaw's argument concerning Hitler's unquenchable desire for personal authority and the consequent undermining of any conventional form of government or domestic decision-making process was that it could only end in disaster. The slowly crumbling edifice is brilliantly portrayed as Kershaw recounts how from 1942 onward, Hitler attempted to take more and more personal control of Germany's war efforts, was increasingly contemptuous and distrusting of his military advisors and ultimately came to resent any attempts to question his decision making.
Kershaw's objective style and detailed descriptions allow for a clear presentation of the barbaric, despotic actions of Hitler and his regime without the author needing to sensationalise his text in any way. However, neither does he shy away from condemnation of Hitler and his entourage; the epilogue is a searing analysis of their destructive and inhumane actions and the consequences they brought. This is a splendid work of history and biography.