How did a bizarre misfit climb from a Viennese dosshouse to leadership of one of Europe's most sophisticated countries? Ian Kershaw explores the world which first thwarted and then nurtured the young Hitler as his seemingly pitiful fantasy of saving Germany attracted more and more support.How did a bizarre misfit climb from a Viennese dosshouse to leadership of one of Europe's most sophisticated countries? Ian Kershaw explores the world which first thwarted and then nurtured the young Hitler as his seemingly pitiful fantasy of saving Germany attracted more and more support.Read Less
In his preface to 'Hitler, 1889-1936': Hubris Kershaw warns us against eschewing analysis (a swipe at John Toland?) but he also warns us against skewed or partial analysis. He recognizes that subjectivity is a slippery slope. Hitler was not, he assures us, only a pliant stooge of German right wing nationalists, nor of the Warrior class, nor of German Industrialists. Nor was he only a manifestation of world Capitalism (a la classic Soviet History), nor only the inevitable result of the Versailles Treaty (though that helped make him). Nor did he triumph by shear force of will. He was not stupid, nor was he a genius. All of these are one-note analyses posited heretofore. Hitler?s Third Reich was the result of a confluence of a number of specific events and historical/cultural trends that could not have happened in a different time and/or place. Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris gathers those trends and weaves them together for us. Kershaw gives just enough of what happened and focuses on how and why.
As gratifying as Kershaw?s book is historically, I found it stylistically wanting. Kershaw is a great historian, but not a great writer. I often found myself getting lost in sentences that were interminable strings of clauses separated by commas, with sets of dashes tossed in on rare occasions failing to relieve the tedium. Apparently Kershaw doesn?t know that the parentheses may be found at the upper right of his keyboard, and that it?s OK to employ a semicolon now and then. Oh, and sometimes two or even three sentences can express a thought more clearly than one gigantic one. This is a book sorely in need of an editor with a goodly handful of red pencils.
However, stylistic concerns are not enough to detract from the value of 'Hitler' as history. If you are going to read only one biography of Hitler (and more than one, at least in a short period, would be enormously depressing) then 'Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris' is it. It is probably the definitive Hitler biography to date.
Mar 6, 2008
This book is exquisitely researched, and a real pleasure for history aficionados. I have read all the major books about Adolf Hitler, and none painted the picture of his early life that this one did. It is not a page-turner, but it certainly needs to be read by anyone who even strives to be a student of the history of the 20th century.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-11-30 We surely need books like Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners that examine German society as a whole in an effort to understand how Hitler came to power and held it for so long. But we also need classic, political biographies that focus on the dictator himself. Kershaw's book, the first volume of a projected two-part biography, pays some attention to how ripe a demoralized Germany was for demagoguery after the Treaty of Versailles, but the author's focus is on Hitler and his political careerŠthe decisions he made as he rose to power and those he made once he attained it. What distinguishes this effort is the extent of documentation as Kershaw, a professor of history at the University of Sheffield, exploits the full Goebbels diaries and texts of early Hitler speeches only recently made accessible. Also notable is the portrait Kershaw draws of Hitler as surprisingly remote from the thuggery, greed and corruption of his followers, high and low, even as he actively encouraged the development of a cult of personality. Kershaw closes with an examination of Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland, a fait accompli made possible by the timidity and disarray of Germany's supine neighbors. Had the French marched, Hitler said later, "we would have had to withdraw... with our tails between our legs." By 1936, Kershaw writes, events had substantiated Hitler's hubris. A "nemesis" (subtitle of the next volume) would in reality not emerge before 1941. Kershaw's massive work (made somewhat too massive by some repetition) is valuable for the rigor with which it portrays Hitler not as some supernatural evil force ejected into history from beyond but as a thoroughly natural figureŠevil, surely, but historically evil. Photos. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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