Flood, a historian (Lee: The Last Years, 1981; etc.) and novelist (Trouble at the Top, 1972; etc.) now tackles Hitler's early years in order to gain a fuller understanding of how this seemingly insignificant man came to exercise such terrible power. After a brief psychobiographical review (Hitler's father had "created in his son the classic desire of a whipped child: the need for revenge"), Flood begins his narrative with 1919. He points out that, despite the ridicule often poured on Hitler for his low status as a lance corporal in WW I, he had actually shown great bravery in the war. Wounded twice and just out of the hospital (cured of a temporary blindness incurred during a gas attack), Hitler emerged from war ready to meet his destiny. In intimate detail, Flood follows Hitler as he joins the fledgling German Workers Party in 1919 and then—using his blazing oratorical abilities to prey upon mass disaffection with the ruined economy and with Versailles—as he wrests control of the party from its founder, Anton Drexler (who upon first hearing Hitler speak exclaimed, "This one has a big mouth! We could use him"). The party, now known as the National Socialist Party, acquired a newspaper (Beobachter)—for which Hitler wrote inflammatory articles that he then used as springboards for thunderous speeches. Within two years, Hitler was using the designation of Party Fuhrer. Flood takes the story up through the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch—which landed Hitler in jail for nine months and enabled him to consolidate his thinking and strategies for his final eight-year climb to absolute power. A valuable microcosmic work that supplements such fuller treatments as Bullock's Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) and Toland's Adolf Hitler (1976).
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