Young Hitler The making of the Führer

Paul Ham

Book - 2018

A rigorous narrative analysis probes into the childhood, war experiences, and early political career of Adolf Hitler to assess how his defining years affected his rise to power.

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BIOGRAPHY/Hitler, Adolf
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New York : Pegasus Books 2018.
Main Author
Paul Ham (author)
First Pegasus Books hardcover edition
Physical Description
308 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (273-290) and index.
  • Prologue: A little context ...
  • 1. 'At the time I thought everything should be blown up'
  • 2. 'At home I do not remember having heard the word Jew'
  • 3. 'I had honoured my father, but my mother I had loved'
  • 4. 'The whole academy should be dynamited'
  • 5. 'Is this a German?'
  • 6. 'I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven
  • 7. 'I passionately loved soldiering'
  • 8. 'Louvain was a heap of rubble'
  • 9. 'I was right out in front, ahead of everyone'
  • 10. 'You will hear much more about me'
  • 11. 'At last my will was undisputed master'
  • 12. 'For the last time the Lord's grace smiled on His ungrateful children
  • 13. 'Since the day I stood at my mother's grave, I had not wept'
  • 14. 'What was all the pain in my eyes compared to this misery?'
  • 15. 'I could speak!'
  • 16. 'The movement was on the march'
  • 17. 'The world of the woman is the man'
  • 18. 'You must fight with me - or die with me!'
  • 19. 'If fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters had been held under poison gas ...'
  • Epilogue: The making of the Führer
  • Appendix: The German National Socialist '25-point Programme'
  • Notes and References
  • Select Bibliography
  • Acknowledgements
  • Picture Acknowledgements
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* When Germany's List Regiment assaulted Allied positions in October 1914, British bullets killed hundreds of the attackers but somehow missed one combat-intoxicated regiment infantryman: Adolf Hitler. In this probing account of Hitler's early life, Ham identifies the Great War as the crucible forging Hitler's passion for vengeance against those he believed had betrayed the German army, especially the Jews. Scrutinizing many of the same life events examined by Thomas Weber in Becoming Hitler (2017), Ham shares Weber's perspective on a young Hitler deploying fiendish oratory to preach racial hatred while convincing German listeners of his own heroic stature as an evangelist of Aryan superiority. But Ham differs from Weber in regarding WWI as truly decisive in galvanizing the mental outlook of this missionary of ethnic malice. Moreover, Ham concludes that only the traumatizing effects of that war on the German people as a whole can account for their willingness to embrace an uneducated demagogue as their national savior. As he marvels at the impotence of Hitler's critics to stop his ascent, Ham worries about the rise of populist demagogues in the twenty-first-century world, and he summons his readers to the imperative task of fighting their influence. A biographical inquiry of disquieting contemporary relevance.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this serviceable but not comprehensive analysis, journalist and historian Ham argues that Adolf Hitler's experiences in WWI "acted like a forge for his character, hammering his embittered mind into a vengeful political machine." Ham describes Hitler's WWI service as fundamentally different from that of the ordinary soldier: he was a message-runner. It was an elite job-involving periodic episodes of high risk and demanding great alertness and self-reliance, followed by ample time for self-contemplation and self-cultivation-that evaporated with the armistice. Ham presents a post-defeat Hitler devastated and drifting, turning to politics out of opportunism and desperation. In expressing his personal fury and frustration, Ham argues, Hitler found success replicating his wartime experience: calling on the qualities necessary to get a message through and bring back the reply. His situational awareness made him both a loudspeaker and an echo chamber for those Germans dislocated and brutalized by the Great War and its consequences, correspondingly susceptible to a rhetoric of hatred. This is a useful general-audience perspective on Hitler as more drummer than leader. Agent: Helen Edwards, Transworld Publishing. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Independent scholar Ham focuses on Adolf Hitler's formative years, from his life on the margins of Viennese society through the trenches of World War I and into the maelstrom of postwar German politics. In addition to providing a detailed recounting of Hitler's personal history, Ham also places most events and ideologies of the time into their historical context. In the end, Ham argues that Hitler's worldview, ideology, and political style were not created by World War I but were instead "drawn out" by his wartime experiences. The author does not incorporate any new source material, and his assertion that few historians have considered the importance of World War I to Hitler is belied by a number of studies, most significantly Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War and Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, both by Thomas Weber. Furthermore, Ham employs the epilog to link Hitler and Nazism to contemporary political climates in the Western world. While the assertion that Hitler is a model for many alt-right figures may be true, but the linkage to this work's thesis is unclear. Verdict A supplemental purchase for public libraries with large history collections; readers might be better served by either of Weber's works.-Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll. © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Another book on the making of the world's most studied dictator.As former Sunday Times correspondent Ham (Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath, 2014, etc.) notes, the rise of Adolf Hitler from provincial nobody to central figure on the world stage would have been impossible without a chain of extraordinary catastrophes: the collapse of the old European empires, economic depression, and, particularly, the bloodletting of World War I. In that regard, Hitler, already known as a prudish and abstemious young man, was a brave, dutiful soldier who, unlike so many in the trenches, "never abandoned his belief in the sacrifice, for the glory of the German Army and the future of the Reich, a goal for which every man must be willing to give his life." Even so, Ham adds, Hitler was never quite the war hero of later Nazi myth. He did not single-handedly capture a squad of enemy soldiers at the end of a pistol, and neither did he oppose the anti-war left, at least at the beginning of a political career marked by "opportunity, hypocrisy, skill and sheer desperation." In his study of formative politics, Ham ponders why Hitler's anti-Semitism grew to such virulent proportions when, throughout much of his early years, that sentiment was absent. The author's speculations in that regard will be of interest to students of mass psychology as much as history, as are his notes on Hitler's protean ability to be all things to all people and make promises he never intended to keepbut also ones he did. Perhaps the greatest contribution of this book in a time of resurgent nationalism is its quiet reminder that Hitler was an all-too-human product of his time who "personified the feelings of millions, and still does."Ham makes many good points, but while useful and well-executed, this is an ordinary entry in a field dominated by more authoritative books. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.