Hitler, 1889-1936 Hubris

Ian Kershaw

Book - 1999

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BIOGRAPHY/Hitler, Adolf
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New York : Norton 1999.
1st American ed
Physical Description
xxx, 845 p., [32] p. of plates : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Ian Kershaw (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

/*Starred Review*/ Despite numerous interpretations, a horrible ineffability surrounds Hitler and his motivations. To be sure, historians have pinned down the Hitlerian personality, its cold contempt for any human value, its closemindedness, its demonic hatreds; but explaining how he came by his attitudes (and appraising the genuineness of his belief in them) is a controversial exercise. The Hitler of History by John Lukacs , a survey of historiographical disputes, hedged its conclusions in anticipation of Kershaw's biography. Although no biography may ever be definitive (thanks to Hitler's secretiveness), Kershaw's approaches that status. Obfuscation about his life began once Hitler became a beer-hall demagogue--his viscious memoir, though revealing, concealed more about his youth. Kershaw's reconstruction of this period effectively handles the biased or faulty source material. But the events that pulled Hitler to prominence and power seem so improbable, even in Kershaw's exhaustively documented but compellingly readable narrative, that Hitler's self-image as a great national savior establishes itself as an explanatory mechanism for his releasing himself--chillingly avowed in his 1934 speech justifying the murder of hundreds of political opponents--from the bindings of law or ordinary morality. The consequences of such an amoral figure at large await Kershaw's second volume, subtitled Nemesis and slated for 2000 publication. Hubris joins--might even supplant--works by Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock as first-rate biographies of Hitler. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The first of two volumes from a British biographer. Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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 career?the 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 figure?evil, surely, but historically evil. Photos. (Jan.)

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Traces Hitler's rise from a shelter for needy children in Austria to dictatorship over Germany and the beginning of his persecution of the Jews

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The first in a two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler written by an English historian traces Hitler's rise from a shelter for needy children in Austria to dictatorship over Germany and the beginning of his persecution of the Jews. 15,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Hailed as the most compelling biography of the German dictator yet written, Ian Kershaw's Hitler brings us closer than ever before to the heart of its subject's immense darkness.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From his illegitimate birth in a small Austrian village to his fiery death in a bunker under the Reich chancellery in Berlin, Adolf Hitler left a murky trail, strewn with contradictory tales and overgrown with self-created myths. One truth prevails: the sheer scale of the evils that he unleashed on the world has made him a demonic figure without equal in this century. Ian Kershaw's Hitler brings us closer than ever before to the character of the bizarre misfit in his thirty-year ascent from a Viennese shelter for the indigent to uncontested rule over the German nation that had tried and rejected democracy in the crippling aftermath of World War I. With extraordinary vividness, Kershaw recreates the settings that made Hitler's rise possible: the virulent anti-Semitism of prewar Vienna, the crucible of a war with immense casualties, the toxic nationalism that gripped Bavaria in the 1920s, the undermining of the Weimar Republic by extremists of the Right and the Left, the hysteria that accompanied Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 and then mounted in brutal attacks by his storm troopers on Jews and others condemned as enemies of the Aryan race. In an account drawing on many previously untapped sources, Hitler metamorphoses from an obscure fantasist, a "drummer" sounding an insistent beat of hatred in Munich beer halls, to the instigator of an infamous failed putsch and, ultimately, to the leadership of a ragtag alliance of right-wing parties fused into a movement that enthralled the German people.This volume, the first of two, ends with the promulgation of the infamous Nuremberg laws that pushed German Jews to the outer fringes of society, and with the march of the German army into the Rhineland, Hitler's initial move toward the abyss of war.