NAPOLEON AND HITLER by Desmond Seward

NAPOLEON AND HITLER

A Comparative Biography
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An intriguing comparison by Seward (Henry V, Napoleon's Family, etc.) of the lives, careers, and legacies of two of history's most flagrant tyrants. Seward finds plenty to compare between his two subjects. Both Napoleon and Hitler were foreigners in an adopted country, and both were self-made men ("the Emperor an uprooted squireen, the Fuhrer, a rootless petit-bourgeois"). Both loathed intellectuals (a common enough trait among men of action). Both restored prosperity and self-confidence to their countries before undertaking to conquer all of Europe. Both invoked their fatal flaws by carrying their invasions into Russia (and both intended, after conquering Russia, to invade and conquer India). Both were heartless and cavalier about the lives of their men (Napoleon: "A man like me cares little about losing the lives of a million men"; Hitler: "I can send the flower of German youth into the hell of war without the slightest pity"). As for their legacies, Seward states that Napoleon "began the irreversible destruction of the old hierarchical, Christian Europe and the Fuhrer completed it." Seward is also not unmindful of the dissimilarities, and indeed points them out (Hitler came to power at an age when Napoleon was already defeated; he was also responsible for more evil, while Napoleon's conquests ushered in a reformative legal code). A clever and cohesive look at megalomania in action, marred only by Seward's curious last-minute conjecture that perhaps Napoleon and Hitler were only forerunners of some future Anti-Christ.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1989
ISBN: 670-81480-6
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:




MORE BY DESMOND SEWARD