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“Magisterial . . . anyone who wishes to understand the Third Reich must read Kershaw.”—Niall Ferguson “The Hitler biography of the twenty-first century” (Richard J. Evans), Ian Kershaw’s Hitler is a one-volume masterpiece that will become the standard work. From Hitler’s origins as a failed artist in fin-de-siècle Vienna to the terrifying last days in his Berlin bunker, Ker “Magisterial . . . anyone who wishes to understand the Third Reich must read Kershaw.”—Niall Ferguson “The Hitler biography of the twenty-first century” (Richard J. Evans), Ian Kershaw’s Hitler is a one-volume masterpiece that will become the standard work. From Hitler’s origins as a failed artist in fin-de-siècle Vienna to the terrifying last days in his Berlin bunker, Kershaw’s richly illustrated biography is a mesmerizing portrait of how Hitler attained, exercised, and retained power. Drawing on previously untapped sources, such as Goebbels’s diaries, Kershaw addresses the crucial questions about the unique nature of Nazi radicalism, about the Holocaust, and about the poisoned European world that allowed Hitler to operate so effectively.


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“Magisterial . . . anyone who wishes to understand the Third Reich must read Kershaw.”—Niall Ferguson “The Hitler biography of the twenty-first century” (Richard J. Evans), Ian Kershaw’s Hitler is a one-volume masterpiece that will become the standard work. From Hitler’s origins as a failed artist in fin-de-siècle Vienna to the terrifying last days in his Berlin bunker, Ker “Magisterial . . . anyone who wishes to understand the Third Reich must read Kershaw.”—Niall Ferguson “The Hitler biography of the twenty-first century” (Richard J. Evans), Ian Kershaw’s Hitler is a one-volume masterpiece that will become the standard work. From Hitler’s origins as a failed artist in fin-de-siècle Vienna to the terrifying last days in his Berlin bunker, Kershaw’s richly illustrated biography is a mesmerizing portrait of how Hitler attained, exercised, and retained power. Drawing on previously untapped sources, such as Goebbels’s diaries, Kershaw addresses the crucial questions about the unique nature of Nazi radicalism, about the Holocaust, and about the poisoned European world that allowed Hitler to operate so effectively.

30 review for Hitler: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I'm not sure where to start with reviewing this book. Considering it is a condensed version of Kershaw's two part biography Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, it remains incredibly detailed, well structured, and without significant omission. Having had some personal experience of historical research, on a vastly smaller scale, I can only imagine the time and effort it must have taken to complete a work of this type and I am entirely unsurprised to discover that he was knight I'm not sure where to start with reviewing this book. Considering it is a condensed version of Kershaw's two part biography Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, it remains incredibly detailed, well structured, and without significant omission. Having had some personal experience of historical research, on a vastly smaller scale, I can only imagine the time and effort it must have taken to complete a work of this type and I am entirely unsurprised to discover that he was knighted for services to history. Kershaw never shies away from the complexity of Hitler's character or the means by which he, and his paladins, achieved and retained power. The author's argument isn't sensationalist, it's evaluative and critical. The Hitler in this book is human, evil only in his immorality or wickedness, not as part of some greater, more nebulous sense of him as the Devil incarnate. As a man, Hitler is made accountable for his thoughts, choices, and actions, as are those within his ruling elite, and all others who formed part of the massive political movement of Nazism/National Socialism. For, while Kershaw sees Hitler's way of thinking as a singularly important factor in the expression of fascism in Germany, he makes very clear that Hitler was far from alone in his outlook, and did not even hold the most extremist views. Anti-Semitism, for example, was deeply rooted in the European consciousness, with violent manifestations centuries before Nazism. Hitler is portrayed very much as a man of his time, significantly moulded by contemporary political, cultural, and economic conditions. This is an important factor in the ongoing nature of his popularity, right up until the massive devastation and failures of WWII started to erode both his authority and appeal, when he had no more victories or answers to offer. The Final Solution, developed over time and with the assistance and input of his advisors, was the most brutal endnote to a savage, murderous system that began in Hitler's early drive for power. This is a fascinating and important book; the investigation and analysis of such complicated political machinations and mistakes, the end result of which was millions of deaths, must surely hold some lessons for modern society. For me, how incremental changes in politics, policy, attitudes, and behaviour served to justify and allow the mass extermination of people. One last note: I listened to the Audible version, which was expertly read by Damian Lynch.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    My thoughts on completion are to be found below. Thoughts having completed about ¼ of the book: Did anyone else pick up the audible.co.uk daily deal Hitler on November 14th, 2016? I was hesitant; it is so darn long (44 hours). Would it be dry? Would it be boring? But it only cost £2.99!! It is long, yes, but not dry or boring. I am reading it now in December 2016. I do NOT understand everything, but enough to hang on and learn more. When I get lost in the acronyms or who is who (and later code nam My thoughts on completion are to be found below. Thoughts having completed about ¼ of the book: Did anyone else pick up the audible.co.uk daily deal Hitler on November 14th, 2016? I was hesitant; it is so darn long (44 hours). Would it be dry? Would it be boring? But it only cost £2.99!! It is long, yes, but not dry or boring. I am reading it now in December 2016. I do NOT understand everything, but enough to hang on and learn more. When I get lost in the acronyms or who is who (and later code names) I do get a bit upset, but generally that isn't so often. So far I am thinking this is not a waste of time and am glad I am reading it. It is definitely good; you don't have to be an expert to read this. It is clear, most of the time. I like very much that the author explains to the reader why, when given contradictory explanations, one is most probably more correct than another. Unbiased and thorough. I am learning a lot. The author has in this book put together his two earlier books Hitler, Vol 1: 1889-1936 Hubris and Hitler, Vol 2: 1936-1945 Nemesis. In the introduction he speaks of the changes made. Basically he is removing copious notes and has shortened a little bit on the general societal situation. He assures that the book is otherwise the same. I am happy that it is the author who has had control of the changes made. He emphasizes that the original two volumes will stay in print so the notes are accessible there. At this point, I certainly don't need the notes and find the information on the situation in Germany not only sufficiently but very well described. ********************** Thoughts on completion: I am glad I read/listened to this book. I learned a lot. If you are like me and have read tons and tons of historical fiction on the Second World War, well sooner or later you want to delve deeper. Non-fiction lures. First I read biographies of holocaust victims, then resistance fighters, then about specific battle arenas and assassination plots. Now a biography of the man who caused it all simply has to be read too; to do so becomes a given. This is an excellent book to choose. It focuses on the man and those immediately around him. You do NOT have to be an expert to read this. There is no denying that the more you know the easier it is to follow, but you have to start somewhere. You simply can't learn everything about the war with one book! And how can one not read about this war?! It has shaped the world we live in and the people we live with today. As the title so accurately indicates, this book focuses on Hitler. You see the war through his eyes. It starts with his youth. Did he study? Was he influenced by particular teachers? What subjects caught his interest? History, Norse pagan beliefs, renowned German leaders, art, architecture and music influenced him. Over and over his thoughts return to Frederick the Great, Wagner and Valhalla and of course the Jews. What were his relationships with his parents like? To understand him one must be aware of what shaped him. Both how his different policies developed and his career path toward becoming chancellor is followed. The war years focus on his intentions, goals, plans and control. Other books present Allied Forces and Japan’s war aims. The book is based on thorough and careful study of source material. The author rarely proposes psychological analyses; instead he presents the facts and leaves it to the reader to draw conclusions. There are many quotes, from speeches, from letters and from what those closest to Hitler have said. I value these quotes. His decisions, actions and choices are minutely documented, from his early enthused, captivating rhetoric and military successes through the last days in the bunker when he and his newly wed wife took their lives. Goebbels, along with his wife and six children, chose to remain with him and to die with him. He said he would never capitulate, and he never did. His steadfastness must be acknowledged. The words and actions of Göring, Himmler, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Heinz Guderian, Martin Borrmann, Rudolf Hess, Karl Dönitz, Albert Speer and many other close accomplices are well documented. What is told about them is equally fascinating, mind-boggling and gripping! Rudolf Hess’ flight to Britain takes the cake. Always the events related are tied closely to Hitler; the book does not go off on long tangents. Claus von Stauffenberg’s assassination plots of 1944 are meticulously documented; other assassination attempts are mentioned but with less detail. I find it hard to truly comprehend Hitler’s all-engulfing hatred of Jews. I was looking to understand where this hatred came from and how it arose. To get a handle on this it helps to hear his words, not just his most well-known and infamous speeches. The quotes were thus important to me. I'll be honest and state I still don't completely understand the source of his hatred. That his years in Vienna shaped him is clear, but in his youth he dealt with the Jews, he did business with them and the family doctor was Jewish! That the Jews were an easy scapegoat is too simple an explanation for me. His hatred of Jews, although the norm in those times, goes further and has a virulence that touches on insanity as do the ties he drew between Bolshevism and Jewry and his megalomania. Yet the author states that no psychotic disorder can explain his behavior. Really? Neither do I truly understand where his Pan-Germanism came from. Questions remain. Understanding World War Two must be tackled through book after book after book. Not any one is sufficient, but this should be one of those you do read. A bit more on the women in his life could have been added. I never came to understand the emotional bond between Hitler and Eva Braun. The audiobook is very well narrated by Damian Lynch. Most is read at a speed that allows one to absorb the facts, but occasionally he gets captured up in the excitement and read too fast. His German pronunciation is excellent, as well as his French. When an American speaks you smile; the contrast between American and British intonations will do that to you. The English here is predominantly British, but not exaggeratedly so. I cannot judge the pronunciation of Russian words. Reading with correct pronunciation both helps and confuses if you are not well acquainted with the languages. I was occasionally stumped when Lynch quickly spit out German names. Usually they are repeated several times and you can eventually figure out how to spell them, if you take notes as I do. I liked both the written text and the narration very much, so I’m giving both four stars. I learned tons. You do not learn much if an author bores you to tears.

  3. 4 out of 5

    AC

    (Actually I read the full two-volume edition, not this abridgment.) There is a tendency to treat this book as if it were simply the latest encyclopedia article (albeit a long one) on Hitler, rather than as what it is -- viz., part of a long, historiographical polemic on the nature of Nazism and its relation to German history. It is necessary in reading this, in other words, to properly contextualize Kershaw's positions vis-a-vis other scholars. So, to contextualize: Ian Kershaw (http://en.wikipedia (Actually I read the full two-volume edition, not this abridgment.) There is a tendency to treat this book as if it were simply the latest encyclopedia article (albeit a long one) on Hitler, rather than as what it is -- viz., part of a long, historiographical polemic on the nature of Nazism and its relation to German history. It is necessary in reading this, in other words, to properly contextualize Kershaw's positions vis-a-vis other scholars. So, to contextualize: Ian Kershaw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Kershaw) was a student (and a disciple) of... Martin Broszat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_B... (Polycracy; 'weak' dictatorship; multiple power centers) Hans Mommsen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Mom... (Another important and influential student of Broszat; cp Wolfgang Mommsen, Hans' twin brother) Karl Dietrich Bracher, by contrast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Die... (Nazism is not unique, but a species of Totalitarianism) On this concept of Totalitarianism, favored by conservatives, which subsumes Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia as species of the genus 'Totalitarianism', familiar to most from the work of Arendt and Michael Burleigh, see: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Joachim Fest, on the other hand, a staunchly anti-Nazi conservative Catholic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_... (Emphasized Monocracy; Hitler's 'strong' dictatorship - absolute autocracy) One of the virtues of Kershaw's work is his thorough mastery of the German scholarship -- something which very few English-speaking students of the period (Richard Evans being a notable exception) can claim..., I would guess. Richard J. Evans comes out of a very different tradition, and one to which I am, frankly, more sympathetic than to Broszat's and Kershaw's: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_... These Wiki articles seem to me to be quite good, and can profitably be reviewed before simply plunging into another of these hugely long books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Sometimes when I spend too much time reading on the minutiae of the Third Reich, it starts to look strange in my head--like when you look too long at your own hand or ponder the spelling of your own name too long and it begins to seems weird and unreal. I'm not saying that I doubt the facts of the era any more than I doubt my own name or the existence of my hands, just that those facts begin to feel surreal and unbelievable despite their familiarity. This book does nothing to alleviate that feel Sometimes when I spend too much time reading on the minutiae of the Third Reich, it starts to look strange in my head--like when you look too long at your own hand or ponder the spelling of your own name too long and it begins to seems weird and unreal. I'm not saying that I doubt the facts of the era any more than I doubt my own name or the existence of my hands, just that those facts begin to feel surreal and unbelievable despite their familiarity. This book does nothing to alleviate that feeling. Since it is a biography rather than a history, it makes no attempt to explain what the German people were thinking. You might hope it would explain what Hitler was thinking, but instead he is revealed (or not) as an opaque, unknowable person. This is the history of an individual rather than a psychological portrait. I've mostly read about the pre-war period and the war itself in separate accounts, so one benefit of this book is that it presents the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the run-up to the Nazi period, and the Second World War as a single narrative, giving me a better sense of proportion of how long the liminal period of Nazism was in contrast to the hasty, lurching, disastrous progress of the war after the first winter in the USSR. Kershaw presents one aspect of Hitler's influence differently than I've seen elsewhere. Instead of suggesting that the German people were blindly following orders, or even that they were willingly following orders, Kershaw presents Hitler as relatively uninvolved in the details of the Final Solution. Instead, he shows Hitler as intimating, somewhat vaguely, what he wanted done while his followers were "working towards the Führer." Hitler was an erratic, capricious manager--really, the worst boss ever--endlessly interfering with the military in contrast to a cavalier indifference to the effects of his policies on the German public that he was purportedly defending, let alone any other civilians. His underlings, in this view, were the ones who took Hitler's exterminationist zeal and turned it into an actual program of genocide. I found the "working towards the Führer" concept persuasive because it does not rely on the idea that millions of people could be somehow persuaded to do something they knew was wrong, nor on the idea that Hitler personally directed every detail of the Holocaust. Instead, it attributes the Holocaust to a combination of mass hysteria or enthusiasm, attaching itself to the idolized person of Hitler and seeking to please him. In the disorganized world of the Third Reich, Hitler was the only source of authority, so individuals and departments competed for his approval, which resulted in constantly escalating radicalization. I should mention that this volume, an abridgement of Kershaw's two-volume biography, seems shoddily put together to me, as though it were the work of an able and fluent writer, slapped together and published without enough editing. Figures appear without being introduced; the narrative might switch from talking about the German Workers Party to the DAP without any explanation. If you are familiar with the period and/or speak German, you can ride this out, but this book does not recommend itself as an introduction to the period.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I raced through the 1030 page behemoth that is Hitler (2009) by Ian Kershaw. It's fascinating. I'd not read a biography of Hitler for many a year and, whilst no expert, cannot imagine anyone else has produced such a compelling account. In the introduction Ian Kershaw explains that this is a slightly abridged version of two earlier books (Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis), minus the numerous and lengthy annotations. It's very readable and feels extremely even handed. With sk I raced through the 1030 page behemoth that is Hitler (2009) by Ian Kershaw. It's fascinating. I'd not read a biography of Hitler for many a year and, whilst no expert, cannot imagine anyone else has produced such a compelling account. In the introduction Ian Kershaw explains that this is a slightly abridged version of two earlier books (Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis), minus the numerous and lengthy annotations. It's very readable and feels extremely even handed. With skill and vividness, and drawing on a wide range of sources, Ian Kershaw has recreated the world which first thwarted and then nurtured the young Hitler. It's a compelling cautionary account of how a lazy, embittered, failed Austrian art student rose to completely control all aspects of life in what was a modern and civilised democratic country and, in the process, destroy the lives of millions of people. What emerges is a paranoid, boring, deluded individual with no empathy or compassion, and a reservoir of hatred for Jews and Bolshoviks who he blamed for all the world's ills. That he achieved so much is something we would all do well to study and understand. 5/5

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ram

    Naturally, it is not easy to review a book like this. The main question that I have concerning WW2 is "How could the whole chain of events happen?" This question can be broken up into many other more specific questions: How could a weird social outcast, unsophisticated autodidact, a man with no education, a man with no organizational skills, a basically lazy mediocre person , like Hitler, even become a candidate for taking power over Germany? How could he, in such a short time gain absolute power ove Naturally, it is not easy to review a book like this. The main question that I have concerning WW2 is "How could the whole chain of events happen?" This question can be broken up into many other more specific questions: How could a weird social outcast, unsophisticated autodidact, a man with no education, a man with no organizational skills, a basically lazy mediocre person , like Hitler, even become a candidate for taking power over Germany? How could he, in such a short time gain absolute power over Germany? Was he a product of the time and situation, or did he create the situation? Could this happen in another place or time? Could this happen today and if it could where? And many more. You will not be surprised to hear that the book does not have a clear answer to any of the questions, and is still a brilliant book. In a chronological order, the author takes us through most of the known facts about Hitler, from his childhood to the last days in the bunker in Berlin. Together with this, we get the relevant parts of the history of Germany, specifically, WW2. As I cannot cover any substantial part of this book in a short (or long) review, I will not try (this can be found in other reviews or in many places on the web). The book is worth the (long) effort and mostly is an interesting read. There where parts that I got the picture and skipped, especially when presenting Hitler's speeches or monologues where he repeated the basic idea's that he presented in the past. One issue that did impress me, and can be found in most of the parts of the book that deal with the events after he came to power, was that Hitler had no interest in managing or organizing or anything related to this. He had general ideas and beliefs which he stated in his speeches or monologues (and in Mein Kampf). His subordinates (i.e. practically every person of power in Germany), guessed what he wanted, made plans and brought them to his approval. This was called 'working towards the Führer', and anyone in Nazi Germany knew that they should invent regulations, laws and actions with the one purpose of translating Hitler's ideas into actions. This caused the whole regime to choose the more radical approach in every issue, and had a serious effect on the fate of the Jews.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    A long, slow read, but well worth the effort. I read this after finishing Richard J. Evans three volume history of the Third Reich. Basically, what I have learned from these two authors is that everything I thought I knew about Hitler was pretty much wrong. We live in a world where people seek simple solutions to complex problems, and there is nothing simple about the methods whereby Hitler rose to power. He and his minions maintained control over Germany for twelve years by being absolutely rut A long, slow read, but well worth the effort. I read this after finishing Richard J. Evans three volume history of the Third Reich. Basically, what I have learned from these two authors is that everything I thought I knew about Hitler was pretty much wrong. We live in a world where people seek simple solutions to complex problems, and there is nothing simple about the methods whereby Hitler rose to power. He and his minions maintained control over Germany for twelve years by being absolutely ruthless, by their willingness to lie to other governments, and by their callous unconcern for any and all people who came under their sway. Hitler's crusade against the Jews began early on, and was the hallmark of his tyranny. Although there is no one point in time where we can say, "This is the day when Hitler began hating the Jews," his noxious attitude was rooted in his experiences in WWI, and probably in his childhood as well. Kershaw goes into great detail about how the idea of the Final Solution developed over time, and, interestingly, how Hitler sought to distance himself from the actual mechanics of the Holocaust. Kershaw's biography is valuable for several reasons. He supplies the big picture, the historical panoramic sweep of events, while also bringing in the smallest details that add depth to a good biography. Without succumbing to mundane superficial analysis, he also speculates on Hitler's psychology in ways that leave the reader free to draw his or her own conclusions. It also cannot be overemphasized that Hitler could have never succeeded in going to the extremes that he did on his own. Without Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and oh, so many others, the Third Reich would never have gotten off the ground. I am going to be thinking about this book for a very long time. What better compliment can any author receive from a reader? Very highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    You've read all these facts about Adolf Hitler before and there may be more analysed speeches than anecdotes about his favorite foods, but few authors could've melted 30.000 books on the subject(by the Library of Congress index) into one size. The amount of integrated German-language scholarship, indispensible to the subject, is equally staggering. It doubles as an eagle-eye view of WWII, alltough it casts about less as fortunes turn at Stalingrad and retreats into a fantasy world that shrinks t You've read all these facts about Adolf Hitler before and there may be more analysed speeches than anecdotes about his favorite foods, but few authors could've melted 30.000 books on the subject(by the Library of Congress index) into one size. The amount of integrated German-language scholarship, indispensible to the subject, is equally staggering. It doubles as an eagle-eye view of WWII, alltough it casts about less as fortunes turn at Stalingrad and retreats into a fantasy world that shrinks to a bunker. In terms of psychoanalysis, the main points are there: the fixed personality of a gambler who interprets luck as providence when his uncanny ability to manipulate people or audacious tactics come up short. A mysantropic who, as the apocalyptic consequences of his failiures came home to roost, wanted to annihilate his entire country and people with him. Did Hitler have a historical mission? Yes. In retrospect. As the ultimate "it can happen [here] again [now]. To be read without chewing every phrase.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rose Boehm

    This will be a pivotal book for me. So far it keeps me enthralled. For so many years now I have put my German-ness into a big box and sat on it. Except for once (in my first book I relate the German story as seen from a child's POV) I never truly examined what happened in Nazi Germany. I felt like a kid who'd rather avoid the place where the ghosts dwell at night, whistling in the dark. So, watch this space. I am gobbling it up right now. Shall tell you what I found when I finish. So far it's the This will be a pivotal book for me. So far it keeps me enthralled. For so many years now I have put my German-ness into a big box and sat on it. Except for once (in my first book I relate the German story as seen from a child's POV) I never truly examined what happened in Nazi Germany. I felt like a kid who'd rather avoid the place where the ghosts dwell at night, whistling in the dark. So, watch this space. I am gobbling it up right now. Shall tell you what I found when I finish. So far it's the story of a likely lad who, because the circumstances were right, and he had nothing better to do, stepped into politics and became who he became. Fascinating. That's how far I got in my 'critique' after the first few chapters. I have finished now. And this is what I have to say: Hitler It’s a book about ‘how and why a mediocre and sometimes outright incompetent ex beer-hall demagogue, who had been allowed to believe through many (un)fortunate circumstances to believe in his own propaganda, could make others believe in it too’. I can’t judge Kershaw’s research, have to accept it since I am in no position to check back all his bibliography, neither am I so inclined. This, therefore, cannot be a ‘critique’, Kershaw is a historian, not a writer, and I have been examining the land of my fathers for the last few weeks, not his writing skills. So let’s just sum up what Kershaw’s extensive and neutral research tells us. I made a list of the main bullet points of this calamity in our recent history: • Hitler (and his cronies) were not only violently racist, but they recognized the propaganda value of antisemitism in a Germany which had only recently ‘lost’ their Emperor, were used to a ‘strong lead’, were only tentatively and incompetently trying out a republic (which only sometimes resembled a democracy), a country with hyperinflation, joblessness, and lost national self-esteem (after WWI, Germany was on its knees, had lost its colonies and its industrial heartland, and – if that wasn’t enough – the great depression rippled from the US into all corners of the globe, and Germany was one of the most vulnerable economies at the time). • In Central Europe antisemitism was always just below the surface, and Hitler exploited this latent racism with lies upon lies, stirring and encouraging the vilest emotions. Lies repeated often enough soon become accepted truths. • Indeed, anybody – had they had the leisure and the will to find out more – could have ‘known’. However, Kershaw tells us that discussions of the extreme solutions planned regarding the ‘Jewish question’ took place in private, when he was among his inner circle. Publicly Hitler did not speak of the fate of the Jews except in the most general terms. • The vilest and profoundly inhuman acts were committed in his name (Hitler kept a relatively lose reign; apart from being basically lazy and undereducated he was no organizer). He just told his cronies his thoughts apparently in long and boring monologues, while they did the rest by 'working towards the Führer'. The Nazi leadership also publicly kept shtumm, believing that the German people were not ready for the gross inhumanity of the extermination of the Jews. However, all vital measures both in military and domestic affairs needed his authorization. • Especially as far as the war was concerned, Hitler was temperamentally disposed to take every risk. Not ‘artistic genius’ (Speer) but a gambler with the gambler’s instinct when playing for high stakes with a good hand against weak opponents. Once the gamble had failed and he was playing a losing hand in a long drawn-out match with the odds increasingly stacked against him, this instinct lost its effectiveness. • He could never pitch himself against reality because only positive messages were acceptable. • Neither was he a ‘demonic genius’, just a mediocre mind who believed what he himself had said about himself, and he was slowly believed to be exactly that (and more) by others, especially by his sycophants. • This extreme form of personalized rule had seriously eroded the more formal and regular structure of government and military commend which are essential in modern states. • The war and his insistence to have ALL powers, soon also the supreme command of the army (since he didn’t trust his field marshals or generals who occasionally tried to point out that militarily he was making grave mistakes) would have overstretched even more gifted individuals than Hitler. • Hitler’s triumphs in foreign policy in the 30s and then as war leader until 1941 had not arisen from his ‘artistic genius’ but in the main from his unerring skill in exploiting the weaknesses and divisions of his opponents and through the timing of action carried out at breakneck speed. Hitler, in Kershaw’s words, was a ‘beer-hall demagogue and racist bigot, a narcissistic megalomaniac and self-styled national savior, who was allowed to acquire and exercise power in a modern, economically advanced and cultured land known for its philosophers and poets and was absolutely decisive in the terrible unfolding of events in those fateful 12 years.’ Hitler was the main author of a war which left over 50 million dead and millions more grieving their lost ones and trying to put their shattered lives together again. And let us not forget to end on saying, that he encountered wide-ranging complicity at all levels of German (and non-German) society. This was an enlightening, but horrifying and depressing read, especially for someone who was, until recently, trying to avoid ‘knowing’, yet finally having to confront the sins of her fathers. And the most scary thing of all is the realization that in theory--given similar circumstances, bad luck and another king of spin with a golden tongue--it could happen anywhere.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Artiom Karsiuk

    Well, who'd have thunk it? It turns out that Hitler was merely a misunderstood soul and his pure intentions were simply misinterpreted: he actually loved puppies, painting double rainbows and riding ponies. *Psych!* Nah... he was a delusional megalomaniac and a genocidal racist bigot. As with any political biography, I had no business reading this book [because my knowledge of history and politics is laughable], but I am Russian and live in a post-Soviet state, so the name "Hitler" carries a lot Well, who'd have thunk it? It turns out that Hitler was merely a misunderstood soul and his pure intentions were simply misinterpreted: he actually loved puppies, painting double rainbows and riding ponies. *Psych!* Nah... he was a delusional megalomaniac and a genocidal racist bigot. As with any political biography, I had no business reading this book [because my knowledge of history and politics is laughable], but I am Russian and live in a post-Soviet state, so the name "Hitler" carries a lot of meaning and weight in my family and social circles. And I don't like to express my opinions on any subjects that I am ignorant of. Basically, all my life (like many of you, probably) I heard that Adolf Hitler was the most evil man in the history of humanity. Often, his name is used as an extreme insult - more so than "Satan". By reading this book, I just wanted to know how many of the horrors attributed to him were true. All of them. I should feel pretty stupid that I needed to read a brick-thick book to come to the obvious conclusion that Adolf Hitler was a despicable abomination of a human being, but I don't feel that my time was wasted. It was fascinating to follow his unlikely rise to supreme dictatorship. Fascinating, because common sense fails to explain how he could have reached this level of power: the guy was ill-educated; displayed a poor work ethic (a nice way to say "was lazy"); as a youth had no clear vision of his future or what he wanted to do in life; had little to no money; no political connections and, at the start of his political career, many considered him to be nothing more but a loudmouth. Yet, by a fatal combination of perfect timing and a substantial amount of luck, he was able to use his charisma and demagogy, by appealing to the fears and prejudices of the lower classes, to become almost a demigod. In fact, he legitimately enjoyed such a level or public support and "stardom", that it wouldn't be absolutely ludicrous to imagine, that if hypothetically he were to somehow die in 1939 (before starting World War II and The Holocaust*), then today people would most likely be regarding him as a great leader and symbol of post-WWI German revival. How crazy is that? Hitler would probably have been a German hero like Bismarck or Frederick the Great. Here's a sample of Führer's level of celebrity in those pre-war days - he was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 1938. Of course, later that Person of the Year went on to be resposible for the death of well over 50 million people. (view spoiler)[*No doubt, Hitler had already committed numerous and various crimes even before WWII, but history is littered with examples where "Great" historic figures had their sins/crimes covered up, forgiven or forgotten. He would have become just one of them. (hide spoiler)] But I digress. Back to the book! A brilliant piece of work by Sir Ian Kershaw. The amount of detail is mind-boggling, because the pages are full of dates, even down to the precise hours and minutes of some events. Also, it makes extensive use of Joseph Goebbels personal diaries that make for an excellent source of information and loads of insights. However, what I appreciated most about this book is that the author provided his commentary throughout the chapters: for me that was very helpful and supplied context along with expert analysis. In other words, Mr. Kershaw "chewed up" the more difficult parts of the book for me. Hitler's biography, his life-story, is full of important lessons for us youngsters who are going to "run shit" in the future. These are only a few things I took away from this book: 1. In the hands of a charismatic orator, demagogy can be used as a powerful tool to undermine democracy. Hitler appealed to mass ignorance and swayed public opinion to gain overwhelming support and influence. 2. Never EVER underestimate "clowns". Even though somebody may look harmless, ridiculous and full of 'hot air' or preposterous ideas, doesn't mean you can discount him or overlook him. If that clown can get millions of people behind him, his crazy ideas can one day become terrifying reality. 3. Blind faith, conviction and unshakable belief in your own bullshit can go a long way. Hitler, without a shadow of a doubt, believed that he was "the chosen one" led by Providence - down to his last day on Earth. That kind of lunacy made him uninhibited by fear or doubt in his decisions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adriana

    After months of being immersed in the life of a man thought of by many as the purest example of evil, today I can finally say: IT’S OVER!!!! But don’t get the wrong impression: My sense of release comes not from closing a horrible book, but from ending a fantastic biography about a terrible subject. If you ever want to read a thoroughly researched account of Hitler’s life and not feel like you’ve just found the perfect cure for insomnia, this is the book for you. This is the edited version of th After months of being immersed in the life of a man thought of by many as the purest example of evil, today I can finally say: IT’S OVER!!!! But don’t get the wrong impression: My sense of release comes not from closing a horrible book, but from ending a fantastic biography about a terrible subject. If you ever want to read a thoroughly researched account of Hitler’s life and not feel like you’ve just found the perfect cure for insomnia, this is the book for you. This is the edited version of the author’s original two-volume biography, which I expect to own sometime in the future. (and read, perhaps) The biggest accomplishment of this book, apart from the exhaustive research done to write it, is the presentation of Hitler as a real human being. Unlike popular opinion and several dubious History Channel documentaries, Hitler wasn’t the antichrist or a heartless monster set on invoking demons from other dimensions, nor did he fantasize daily with the destruction of the human race like a real-life Dr. Doom. No. He was a man who loved his mother dearly, liked animals, was a vegetarian, and felt in every cell of his being that Germany deserved better. Of course, “better” in his vocabulary meant complete domination over Europe and the eradication of what he saw as the agents of Germany’s defeat on World War I (that is, Jews and bolshevism), but better all the same. The man liked music, had a true passion for architecture, and was nice to children. Hitler was also lazy and narcissistic. His pride made him think of himself as entitled to the best life could offer, and was devastated when the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna didn’t accept him in his drawing class. He had little talent or patience for daily work, and spent much of his time as Fuhrer before the war watching movies, attending to concerts, and sleeping. Not the first picture that comes to mind when talking about the “prince of darkness” huh? That attempt to humanize a man that so many of us are accustomed to seeing as the devil incarnated made me feel even worse about the insensitivity he displayed to millions of victims, (foreign and German) and reminded me of many other leaders that, in order to fulfill their goals, sacrifice the lives of many without blinking an eye (Stalin, anyone?). It also allowed Kershaw to examine the role of many other Nazi members (like Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann, Ribbentrop, and many more) in what ended up being Germany´s ultimate defeat. In their drive to increase their power and influence and “work towards the Fuhrer” they had a heavy hand in plenty of the horrors committed by the Third Reich, even if later most of the survivors tried to attribute to Hitler superpowers and think of themselves as mindless (and blameless) drones. That’s other important point made by Kershaw: Even if without Hitler there would have been no war, or at least not one like the world was witness to, he wasn’t alone or the only responsible party in this whole business. Anti-Semitism wasn’t Hitler’s invention, nor was he the only one who blamed every German misery on the Jewish people. He was a powerful orator, but that alone didn’t put him at the top. His position as Fuhrer required the help of a lot of people, and even the silence of millions of citizens that, tired of being humiliated and maintained in a permanent state of poverty, didn’t see anything wrong with Hitler’s ideas or actions until bombs started to fall on their own houses. And speaking about bombs, Kershaw doesn’t ignore the fact that allied troops bombed indiscriminately many German cities, killing thousands of civilians in the process. The many violations committed by soviet soldiers to women and children are also mentioned, contributing to a construction of the war that puts blame on all sides for many injustices and unnecessary deaths, although it only dwells on those long enough to present their impact (or lack of) on Hitler. I think my heart broke a little every time I read about a new death, specially knowing that they were the consequence of a leader’s pride and unlimited ambition. There is so much more in this biography that I would like to write about, (like Hitler’s mounting paranoia, his relationship to women and with Jews before his involvement in politics, the “final solution” development, from shipment to Madagascar to total annihilation, etc.) but it’s better if you do the deed and read the book. Even knowing how everything ends, the part of this biography that deals with the war reads like a thriller, and it’s everything but boring. That’s a really good point when referring to a subject that could be as dry as sandpaper right?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Two disclaimers: A. Long book, long review. B. Admiration of the capabilities/skill of people involved does not equal support for their evil policies. Richard Evans' byline of this tome being the Hitler biography of the 21st century is not off at all. This book sat on my shelf for some years; I was and am hesitant about spending that much time "inside" someone's head like Hitler. It's the same reason I've never read 'Mein Kampf'. That being said, for some reason towards the end of last year I fel Two disclaimers: A. Long book, long review. B. Admiration of the capabilities/skill of people involved does not equal support for their evil policies. Richard Evans' byline of this tome being the Hitler biography of the 21st century is not off at all. This book sat on my shelf for some years; I was and am hesitant about spending that much time "inside" someone's head like Hitler. It's the same reason I've never read 'Mein Kampf'. That being said, for some reason towards the end of last year I felt like delving into this. I knew it was going to be horrible and I knew it was going to be a slog. The obvious horrors aside, I learned a ton actually, things that I was shocked to learn and this lead to a deeper mental questioning of just how these things came to be and just how much wasted potential there was that was squandered on genocide. The first big shock to me was just how effective Hitler and Goebbels propaganda was to the point that even the history books in my high school curriculum were accepting of it. EG the Anschluss, the invasions of Czechoslovakia, Poland and France, are still portrayed broad stroke as examples of Hitler's drive and will power, when in reality he vacillated tremendously on these things, second guessing, postponing, doubting himself etc. I was amazed at how little Hitler actually dabbled in government affairs. It's well known he was involved in the absolute minutia of the armed forces by 1941. He was almost completely hands off when it came to real policy work, just relying on his increasingly Byzantine-esque court to handle things for him. This in turn led to an insane style of government that Mr. Kershaw dubbed "Working towards the Fuhrer." Where his gauleiters, paladins, etc all just took what he said in his speeches as free license to attempt to do things that would impress Hitler and raise their standing with him. Which leads me to my next point: How in the absolute hell did the perfect storm of so many evil people be around all at once? Hitler's rhetoric is absolutely 100% at fault but Kershaw shows how the men put in charge of conquered areas decided to turn things up to 11 genocide and abuse wise before Hitler was really ready to get to that stage (He knew it would come, but he hadn't quite accepted his own speeches it seemed). Again all in the name of "Working towards the Fuhrer". Just mind blowing. On the flip side of the above coin, just the amount of talent all in Germany at once completely squandered in the pursuit of terrible anti-Semitism and racist genocide. Hitler's right hand men including himself had such incredible gifts. Hitler was an amazing speaker, Speer a brilliant architect and production genius, Goebbels a master propagandist, Reinhard Heydrich was a masterful problem solver and delegator. And the list goes on. It's incredibly hard to read this biography and not go "What if?". What if Hitler had not been obsessed with what he viewed as the betrayal and stain of 1918, if he had not been caught up in looking for an easy scape goat in the form of the Jewish and Slavic peoples. How different things could have been, if Hitler, Speer, Goebbels, Heydrich, had instead focused their incredible natural talents on rebuilding Germany and bettering their citizens existences. The building projects envisioned by both Hitler and Speer alone would have kept skilled laborers employed for decades. These same structures would have then needed staff, care takers, etc. I truly feel that if he had not been fundamentally evil and encouraged the evil to be given free reign in those around him, perhaps the 'Thousand Year Reich' he envisioned could actually still exist. If only the pillars of its creation and foundation were built on love, compassion, and the pursuit of good will. Just such an absolute waste of real talent on hate and vitriol. This is to say nothing of the millions people wiped out under Hitler's auspices. How many brilliant minds went to their early graves by the hands of the few in control. How different the world would have been today, perhaps the Cold War would have never happened or taken a much different route if Germany had just focused on defensive measures and the betterment of mankind. Hitler also lived in a complete fantasy world, even to the very end he couldn't stop sudden swings of optimism citing his, by then, well worn examples of famous Germans who had (In his view) through simply the power of their will beaten back and won against incredible odds. He was surrounded obviously by sycophants who knew they were beholden to Hitler alone in terms of their power and influence and did everything to keep that. This book opened my eyes to much more than I had known about Hitler and Germany in WWII. Honestly after reading it I don't think I need to read any more biographies on Hitler. It should be remembered, it should be guarded against from ever happening again. There is no other way to put it than the period of 1933-1945 being an utter catastrophe for the human race.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    After reading 300 pages of a 956 page biography of Hitler, I decided I couldn't bear another page of minutia about this essentially boring person. I realized that evil people are not necessarily interesting in any way. Kershaw's scholarship is incredibly extensive and his prose is professional. He deserves 5 stars on both those counts. However, descriptions of what Hitler wore when he made this speech or that got to be a bit much, as did mention of every location of every speech he made. Every per After reading 300 pages of a 956 page biography of Hitler, I decided I couldn't bear another page of minutia about this essentially boring person. I realized that evil people are not necessarily interesting in any way. Kershaw's scholarship is incredibly extensive and his prose is professional. He deserves 5 stars on both those counts. However, descriptions of what Hitler wore when he made this speech or that got to be a bit much, as did mention of every location of every speech he made. Every person whom Hitler made contact with seems to be mentioned as well. By page 300, I felt as if I was drowning in factoids. What was missing was Kershaw's assessments of why Hitler attracted people to him. He does mention that when Hitler ranted about killing Jews and conquering other countries for Lebensraum, the crowds were ecstatic. But why? Kershaw doesn't dwell on such issues, but he does note how Hitler was dressed on different occasions. I love biography, but the subject has to be interesting in some way, especially in a biography that's almost 1,000 pages long. Hitler was just not an interesting person. He seems never to have had an original idea. Everything he emoted about was already old hat in 1920's Germany. The stab in the back theory, the Red scares, the need for Lebensraum, none of that was original with Hitler. Even his expounding that Jews had to be exterminated was based on 19th century German anti-Semitism. In a word, Hitler was banal. He orated emotionally, which resonated with the crowds he drew. They cheered the most when he exhorted them to be violent against Jews. However, beyond rousing crowds to peaks of hatred, he had no wit, no arguments, nothing. But he always wore a tie. When he talked to industrialists whom he needed to finance his party, Hitler toned his rhetoric down and concentrated on anti-Communism. Since Jews were, absurd as it may be, blamed both for being Communists and financiers, Hitler's anti-Semitism was pitched along with his promise to rid Germany of Reds. Since I bought this as an e-book, I do find myself clicking on it and reading pages at random from time to time. There's an advantage to an e-book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    Blimey! It was about a thousand pages long, but seemed nearer to a zillion. Kershaw dealt with this Hitler biography with great scholarship and to such a great depth. So much so that there were times when it felt like I had been reading all day and had still just covered one Thursday afternoon in 1919. There were lots of positives. I gained a more intimate knowledge of Hitler as a person, a better understanding of some developments as they happened, and had some of the old myths debunked. On the Blimey! It was about a thousand pages long, but seemed nearer to a zillion. Kershaw dealt with this Hitler biography with great scholarship and to such a great depth. So much so that there were times when it felt like I had been reading all day and had still just covered one Thursday afternoon in 1919. There were lots of positives. I gained a more intimate knowledge of Hitler as a person, a better understanding of some developments as they happened, and had some of the old myths debunked. On the not so positive aspects, it was really a political history, and although it went to great lengths to stress the importance of seeing his life in the context of the times and conditions, I felt the social and economic factors weren’t never really given the attention or depth that was required for a fuller understanding of the Hitler phenomenon.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Newell

    I was hesitant to even admit that I was reading this book, fearing that my interest in this book would somehow be misinterpreted. 70 years after his death, this man is still such a powerful symbol that even the mention of his name stirs disconcertingly raw feelings in almost everyone. He remains the undiminished quintessential symbol of evil for generation after generation. I was compelled to read this book because I wanted to understand how this man could have ever happened to the world. I've sp I was hesitant to even admit that I was reading this book, fearing that my interest in this book would somehow be misinterpreted. 70 years after his death, this man is still such a powerful symbol that even the mention of his name stirs disconcertingly raw feelings in almost everyone. He remains the undiminished quintessential symbol of evil for generation after generation. I was compelled to read this book because I wanted to understand how this man could have ever happened to the world. I've spent a lot of time in Germany and I've found the people there amazingly welcoming and compassionate. How could such a horribly cruel misfit of a human being have ever come to lead such an amazing country? This is a compelling, but thoroughly exhausting book. It's taken me months to get through. I can only read about a half hour at a time before I have to put it down and do something normal to clear my head. Still, I am fascinated by this book. The hardest part is that it is so heartbreaking to watch person after person enter Hitler's life, then to watch them sell out their humanity, and finally join him in his cruel mission. Of all the biographies I have read, it is the most thoroughly researched book I've encountered. The detail in this book is stunning. Every page is packed. It is obvious that the author has spent a lifetime researching Hitler and has left no stone unturned. He almost never takes Hitler at his word, but has taken the time to research all the people who surrounded Hitler. It is through their accounts that I get a better understanding of what this man was actually like. This is not a book for the faint of heart, or for someone looking for a casual biography. This book is work, but I leave it with a better understanding of how desperate people in desperate times can fall into the abyss, and follow anyone who will give them the misguided hope that the suffering can stop.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    (7.5) This was a long, dense read. However, as somebody with only a casual interest in Hitler this was a book that was completely understandable and accessible, whilst also being written in incredible detail. The focus is exclusively on Hitler (as the name suggests) and successfully balances this without glossing over the events happening that Hitler wasn't directly involved in. This book was the perfect level of depth for me, and incredibly interesting (although it was most definitely long did I m (7.5) This was a long, dense read. However, as somebody with only a casual interest in Hitler this was a book that was completely understandable and accessible, whilst also being written in incredible detail. The focus is exclusively on Hitler (as the name suggests) and successfully balances this without glossing over the events happening that Hitler wasn't directly involved in. This book was the perfect level of depth for me, and incredibly interesting (although it was most definitely long did I mention that)?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I’m not a person who enjoys a brief overview. When I read history books, I want to learn, and I often find the most interesting nuggets of information in the details, the things that typically get left out of brief overviews and vignettes. Furthermore, while the actual big event is interesting, really what captivates me is all the stuff that led up to the big event, and less the big event itself. I like to see just how things had to move, how decisions had to be made so this Big Thing was even a I’m not a person who enjoys a brief overview. When I read history books, I want to learn, and I often find the most interesting nuggets of information in the details, the things that typically get left out of brief overviews and vignettes. Furthermore, while the actual big event is interesting, really what captivates me is all the stuff that led up to the big event, and less the big event itself. I like to see just how things had to move, how decisions had to be made so this Big Thing was even an option in the first place. So, knowing that, you might not be that surprised that out of all the biographies of Hitler I had to choose from, I decided to land on one that was over 1,000 pages long. And yes, it’s a lot. A whole lot. I actually listened to the audiobook and it took me a long, long time. That being said, I didn’t regret any one of those 40+ hours. Reason? This book is amazing. The thing is, World War II was a big event. Big. Very big. And the guy at the center of it all was… well, he was kind of weird. But more on that later. For now, I will tell you the real reason I picked this book up. It was actually less due to its length, and more because I really, really want to know what life was like when Hitler was just existing in the world, rather than leading his corner of it. I wanted to understand who he was as a man. I wanted to know what events had to happen to make this guy become who he became. Mussolini considered himself the best actor in the world, and I wanted to know if Hitler felt the same way about himself, and what happened that made him that way. I’d heard of Ian Kershaw, and I knew that he was a man who was well suited to the task, so I jumped. This book really doesn’t skimp on any details, and if you aren’t the kind of person who finds it interesting to hear about how someone passes their free time, for example, you might find this book more of a slog than anything else. That being said, Hitler had an absolute ton of free time in his early days. He was basically allergic to work, to the point where he lived in a men’s home rather than get a job. If you don’t think it’s interesting to know that his contemporaries, when he lived in Austria thought he looked like he was starving, and he stunk, then maybe this book is not for you. If, however, those sorts of human details about a man who has burned away all his humanity are interesting, if you like the more intricate picture they paint, then you’ll probably want this book. That being said, to understand Hitler, you have to know where he came from. You have to know what social stresses existed at the time, and you absolutely must understand how World War I impacted the politics of the time. Kershaw does a great job of this, not just detailing how these political and social forces pushed and pulled people, but how they specifically impacted Hitler himself. It paints a vivid portrait of a rather lost, lacklustre youth growing up during an extremely changeable, and changing time, complete with all the stresses (like the Great Depression, the impact of World War I in Austria and Germany and more). Further, Kershaw frequently points out common and popular rumors that have spread about Hitler, like the fact that he was abused as a child, or the rumor that he was gay. He addresses them nicely, stating what the rumors are, and then giving reasons why it probably was/wasn’t like that, and here’s the evidence as to why. He often frequently sights contemporaries at the time, and people who were around Hitler when these things were reported to happen. However, he does say when an account should be considered questionable, and why. Smooth writing, and a very balanced perspective as well as fantastic sources I’d never encountered before, really helped me understand not just who Hitler was, but why someone like Hitler was even possible in the first place, and what happened once he had all that power… and how his house of murderous, genocidal cards came falling down. He didn’t exist in a vacuum, and that’s why history is so interesting to me. There are always forces at play. Social changes, political changes, war, and the loss of a war all combined to set the stage for something like the Nazi party could even come to be. Cause and effect. It’s pivotal that we know these things so “never again” isn’t just a thing we say, rather something we fundamentally understand and adhere to. The fact is, there are about a billion books on Hitler and probably that many and more on World War II. So out of all the books in the world, why should you pick up this one? Because, with the sheer magnitude of knowledge we have, there is still a whole lot we don’t know, and there are only a very few authors who are up to the task of presenting this wealth of information as succinctly and well-sourced as Kershaw. He takes complex, nuanced events, and makes them digestible. He paints a brilliant backstory, with which all the foreground is even clearer. One of my favorite quotes I ran across recently was, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot.” We have to learn about the past, about the things that happened, and all the stuff that had to transpire so that one event could take place. And we need to understand. There are no new stories. But Ian Kershaw sure does a great job vividly painting a story we all know at least something about.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Anthony

    Having recently read Hitler's Mein Kampf I wanted to read this celebrated biography.It is very well written and maintained my interest throughout - it's a long book! Hitler's rise to power was stranger than fiction - a poor Austrian with little education, no influential connexions and very few friends - the archetypal loner.But here was a supremely gifted propagandist with the ability to captivate and motivate an audience, whether near or far. His work was admittedly made very much easier as a re Having recently read Hitler's Mein Kampf I wanted to read this celebrated biography.It is very well written and maintained my interest throughout - it's a long book! Hitler's rise to power was stranger than fiction - a poor Austrian with little education, no influential connexions and very few friends - the archetypal loner.But here was a supremely gifted propagandist with the ability to captivate and motivate an audience, whether near or far. His work was admittedly made very much easier as a result of the Versailles treaty.He had a great deal of luck too at first. Kershaw captures the triumphs and disasters including the pervasive bleakness of those last days in the bunker in Berlin.His portrayal of Hitler leaves the reader in no doubt that his rise and fall was one of the greater wonders of History.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pradeep E

    British historian Ian Kershaw's massive 1000+ pages biography of Adolf Hitler is a brilliant in-depth look at the man responsible for one of the largest genocides in the history of mankind. Compelling masterpiece of historical writing in terms of research, with lessons for us. Ian clinically puts across bit by bit the life and times of Hitler, right from his birth in Vienna, his uneventful and vagrant early life to his growth as a demagogue and propagandist, in the backdrop of the end of the Firs British historian Ian Kershaw's massive 1000+ pages biography of Adolf Hitler is a brilliant in-depth look at the man responsible for one of the largest genocides in the history of mankind. Compelling masterpiece of historical writing in terms of research, with lessons for us. Ian clinically puts across bit by bit the life and times of Hitler, right from his birth in Vienna, his uneventful and vagrant early life to his growth as a demagogue and propagandist, in the backdrop of the end of the First Wold War and his eventual death in the form of suicide in a bunker. Hitler uses propaganda as his core tool to wipe up a sense of hatred and paranoia against the Jews and Bolsheviks and creates a demonic party that rules unquestioned for twelve long years. One man's deep sense of insecurity and vitriolic hate was the main reason for the World War 2, which led to the death of 50 million folks across and scarred most of Europe for decades to come. It is hard to think and accept that such a man came to power through democratic means and then used the power given to him to dismantle institutions and carve out a dictatorial regime for himself. And it was popular - as long the initial remarkable victories (against Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France) came, the masses were with him. The deep antisemitism was acceptable because the nationalistic pride was being taken care of. However, as the Soviet Union war that started in 1941 started to crumble amidst the fanatic ambition of a despot, coupled with the magnificent underestimated fighting capacities of the Soviet soldiers, the same people had started losing faith in their god. Historian Frank McDonough refers to a famous quote on how World War-II eventually came to an end, in a BBC History podcast - '.. America gave the money, Russia gave the blood and Churchill gave the speeches.' This remarkable insight tells a lot about how the war eventually crystallised and how probably Stalin's men never got sufficient credit when compared to the West, in nailing this monster' s dream. There is a lesson in India for us. The same obsession with the past and nationalistic pride, the demeaning of a specific community, the massive popularity and hero worship of a messiah who will take India to a new dawn, an environment that makes hatred acceptable, the ruling party vigilantes who are backed subtly by the powers - all of these are a familiar template. Do we wish to allow ourselves to take such a destructive path? Time will tell, if we are willing to learn from history..

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe Flynn

    Scholarly, balanced, brilliant. Somehow this mammoth work is a condensed version of the authors two previous Hitler biographies, Hubris and Nemesis, that split his life chronologically. For all except the academic I am sure this work suffices. Really detailed and insightful of Hitler's early life, the Nazi rise to power, and then through searing highs, the lucky escapes, and ultimate destruction. Does not get carried away with any unsubstantiated theory or rumor, and dismisses others. Allows no Scholarly, balanced, brilliant. Somehow this mammoth work is a condensed version of the authors two previous Hitler biographies, Hubris and Nemesis, that split his life chronologically. For all except the academic I am sure this work suffices. Really detailed and insightful of Hitler's early life, the Nazi rise to power, and then through searing highs, the lucky escapes, and ultimate destruction. Does not get carried away with any unsubstantiated theory or rumor, and dismisses others. Allows no excuses for the horror while looking for reasons on how and why it could have happened. Lessons for today there. Minor note - would recommend Blitzed by Norman Ohler, a great read that maybe does go to far in some conclusions, but offers more on Hitler's drug use, it is discussed here but not all the facts were established at time of writing. Conclusions reached remain unchanged.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim Dudley

    An absolutely fascinating read, at times entirely engrossing. As well as an interesting biography this book gives a highly original viewpoint on world war 2.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beth Godmon

    Solid analysis of Hitler. Would recommend chunking reading this book down into chapters, because lets fact it 1060 pages of small font isn't anyone's idea of a fun weekend - even in 2021! Solid analysis of Hitler. Would recommend chunking reading this book down into chapters, because lets fact it 1060 pages of small font isn't anyone's idea of a fun weekend - even in 2021!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christoffer

    An excellent biography of Hitler. Highly readable. On the other hand, Kershaw presents nothing new - and maybe it's not much more to say about one of history's most important figures. Fortunately Kershaw stays clear of the temptation to explain Hitler with traditional and higly suspectable myths - that Hitler was homosexual, incestuous, psychopathic or asexual. An excellent biography of Hitler. Highly readable. On the other hand, Kershaw presents nothing new - and maybe it's not much more to say about one of history's most important figures. Fortunately Kershaw stays clear of the temptation to explain Hitler with traditional and higly suspectable myths - that Hitler was homosexual, incestuous, psychopathic or asexual.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil Iyengar

    Hitler was more than an angry man with a moustache. There's a popular consensus that this was an evil man, though reading this biography proves that this was an ordinary man with serious psychological issues that led to the death of millions across the world. It's the story of how a nationalistic, opera loving artist went on to conquer most of Europe using his "triumph of the will" and then sat back in depression when it proved to be grossly inadequate to maintain his Reich. Kershaw places empha Hitler was more than an angry man with a moustache. There's a popular consensus that this was an evil man, though reading this biography proves that this was an ordinary man with serious psychological issues that led to the death of millions across the world. It's the story of how a nationalistic, opera loving artist went on to conquer most of Europe using his "triumph of the will" and then sat back in depression when it proved to be grossly inadequate to maintain his Reich. Kershaw places emphasis on the statement that a Hitler could not have been possible if not for the ruinous economic and political situation in Germany following World War I, and I find myself disagreeing with this. Born in a different time, his ambiguous propaganda would have reflected a different popular ideology that would have stirred the passions of the people and would have led to the same result. This man orchestrated genocide and tragedy not because he was misguided, but because he was a narcissistic egomaniac who promised the very word that the humiliated Germans craved to hear - Greatness.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    The 'former World War I corporal thinking he was the greatest warlord of all time'. It's astounding just how utterly pathetic the man was. I had no incline as to how work-shy he was in his younger years and the pre-WW1 section was very informative. It also put Stalingrad into stark contrast emphasising just how early on things started to tilt in the favour of the Allies. The run up to 1933 and the wins and losses in elections for the Nazi party was really the only dry section in this 1,000 page The 'former World War I corporal thinking he was the greatest warlord of all time'. It's astounding just how utterly pathetic the man was. I had no incline as to how work-shy he was in his younger years and the pre-WW1 section was very informative. It also put Stalingrad into stark contrast emphasising just how early on things started to tilt in the favour of the Allies. The run up to 1933 and the wins and losses in elections for the Nazi party was really the only dry section in this 1,000 page book. The similarities between this cretin and current cretins the world over is staggering and sad that we are unable to fully learn from past nightmares. Dick.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Very impressive overview of the dictator. Whether or not Kershaw's psychological analysis is correct, it's quite clear he was a delusional man who, somehow (thanks to democracy) got into power, where he used and abused the responsibility he'd been given. Also makes you wonder why the Nazis are portrayed as supremely evil and powerful. If anything their leaders were inept, their soldiers the only reason they won, and this book makes it clear that Germany didn't even have the upperhand for a long Very impressive overview of the dictator. Whether or not Kershaw's psychological analysis is correct, it's quite clear he was a delusional man who, somehow (thanks to democracy) got into power, where he used and abused the responsibility he'd been given. Also makes you wonder why the Nazis are portrayed as supremely evil and powerful. If anything their leaders were inept, their soldiers the only reason they won, and this book makes it clear that Germany didn't even have the upperhand for a long period.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    All day at work I knew when I came home this would be the night this deranged human would die, because I would finish this book. An excellent book! It had a slow start because I was traveling a lot and because Hitler is really not that interesting until suddenly he somehow attains power over a party, a country, another country, another country, half a continent. The war years read with suspense and horror, even if you knew most of it before. I've lived for decades in Germany and feel nevertheless All day at work I knew when I came home this would be the night this deranged human would die, because I would finish this book. An excellent book! It had a slow start because I was traveling a lot and because Hitler is really not that interesting until suddenly he somehow attains power over a party, a country, another country, another country, half a continent. The war years read with suspense and horror, even if you knew most of it before. I've lived for decades in Germany and feel nevertheless enlightened. And this isn't the half of it. Recommended for everyone.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dorthe

    A well-researched, sober book on a topic that is unpleasant but important, both in its own right and in the light of subsequent mistakes - not least the current government and developments across the pond.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jan Chlapowski Söderlund

    "Hitler" by Ian Kershaw, an "abridged" version of the original two-volume biography. An extensive work starting with Hitler's birth and youth, and finishing with his final bullet. The book covers all aspects surrounding this individual - the power-struggles he used to cement his own dominance, general happenings in Germany and the world, people surrounding Hitler, the build-up of his personality cult. Some initial "hobby psychologising" on the development of Hitler's personality seemed a bit for "Hitler" by Ian Kershaw, an "abridged" version of the original two-volume biography. An extensive work starting with Hitler's birth and youth, and finishing with his final bullet. The book covers all aspects surrounding this individual - the power-struggles he used to cement his own dominance, general happenings in Germany and the world, people surrounding Hitler, the build-up of his personality cult. Some initial "hobby psychologising" on the development of Hitler's personality seemed a bit forced to me. A strong point of this work was that some of the myths surrounding this persona were disproved and a slightly more human face was given to this distant figurehead. The author also attempts to explain how an entire country could blindly follow this one man, suggesting different motives for various parts of German society. Ian Kershaw depicts Hitler as a power-hungry but otherwise empty individual, adept at domineering and manipulating his surroundings. One of his main tools is his unshakeable and persuasive belief in his own destiny as the great leader (führer) of the German people. Ruthless and virtually devoid of the ability for forming warm interpersonal ties. Often discarding people once they have served their purpose or for some other reason loose their usefulness to him. As I mentioned - the book covers all aspects SURROUNDING Hitler. But I felt it did not really and truly deep-dive into the phenomenon that was Hitler himself, despite this being a biography. This is an eminent history of Germany under Nazi rule, providing many details on this epoch. But since I have already delved into this epoch previously, I found this book did not add much to my previous knowledge except for some minor details about Hitler and his entourage. If I had not previously read Richard J. Evans extensive trilogy "The History of the Third Reich", I would've found this biography much more informative. I give this book 2 stars, although 2½-3 stars could possibly mirror my feelings towards this book now after finishing it. This might not be entirely fair, since I believe I would have liked it better if it was the first book I read on the subject. The reason I am not 100% satisfied, is that I believe a biography of Hitler could afford to be written assuming the reader has some basic knowledge about the time period in question, and omit a lot of the surrounding events and concentrate more on the person himself. Here must be mentioned, the sources on the person that was Hitler might be scarce and may explain this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    John

    No opinion yet. The introduction suscinctly describes the focus of this book of 1100 pages. The book is effectively written, but I'm not sure I can take that much Hitler. We'll see. Imagine this scenario. I put aside books about Alexander Herzen and the history of Populism and early socialism in Russia, because they began to bore me. So what do I do? I pick up a biography of Adolph Hitler, a man who has never interested me over much. Go figure. I've just taken up Kershaw's biography again - now on No opinion yet. The introduction suscinctly describes the focus of this book of 1100 pages. The book is effectively written, but I'm not sure I can take that much Hitler. We'll see. Imagine this scenario. I put aside books about Alexander Herzen and the history of Populism and early socialism in Russia, because they began to bore me. So what do I do? I pick up a biography of Adolph Hitler, a man who has never interested me over much. Go figure. I've just taken up Kershaw's biography again - now on page 150 or so. Hitler doesn't interest me very much, but I have to admit that Kershaw's biography is a masterwork, and there are no two ways about that point. I am entirely stunned by the amount of material he has staged and organized in an altogether effective manner. He NEVER looses sight of his concept for the book, the organizational and evidentiary principles that implement his concept. There is not the first extraneous detail that I can find in the first 150 pages. His powers of focus and concentration must be fearful indeed. So his book is a page-turner - for me at least, but then again I love biography, especially of the kind that presents, actually shows in entirely relevant detail, the interactions and exchanges between an individual and the circumstances of his time and place. Anyway, I'm still not particularly interested in Hitler, but I am blown away by Kershaw's mastery of his craft. The question is: Will I actually read both unabridged volumes rather than this abridged (?) version? Most likely I will. I did read with great pleasure all five volumes of Frank's biography of Doestoyevski and then the 900-1000 page abridged version when it appeared. Entirely different experiences. -------------------- Now that I've finished the book, I will state again that this biography is a masterwork of the genre. I am amazed at Kershaw's pacing of his narrative over 961 pages of text. And it's not as if this story is unfamiliar to me, because it is. Nonetheless, Kershaw's writing still leads me on from page to page, and I experience this page-turner as if I'm reading of these persons and events for the first time. So I will read both of the unabridged volumes, just to see if Kershaw can sustain his pacing over an additional 650 pages, or if his fluent story-telling in the abridged version is really a product of focus, deletion and compression.

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