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HITLER by Ian Kershaw

HITLER

1889-1936: Hubris

By Ian Kershaw

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04671-0
Publisher: Norton

A monumental biography that seeks to be the final word (at least for this century) on the subject. British historian Kershaw (Univ. of Sheffield) has spent an academic career thinking judiciously and writing clearly about Hitler, the Weimar Republic, and Nazi Germany. This massive work, which will consist of two volumes, promises to be the most comprehensive biography of Hitler to date. And although the writing is clear and mercifully free of far-fetched theories attempting to fathom Hitler’s evil, it still takes some dedication to historical truth to finish such a work and realize that the story is only half told. This is epic history on a grand scale; from rural Austria and Vienna to Munich and cosmopolitan Berlin; from the battlefields of the Great War to the exaggerations of the beer hall; from Hitler’s rejection by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna to his election as chancellor of Germany. As narrative biography, Kershaw— account clearly portrays how Hitler evolved from a rejected artist to a political novice and then to messianic illusion. Besides the use of Goebbels’s diaries, recently discovered in Moscow, there is little that is new here; Kershaw’s achievement lies in his retelling the tale in greater detail and avoiding some of the more outlandish theories concerning Hitler. No one writing on Hitler, though, can avoid some attempt at explanation. Kershaw writes—and few would argue—that “the First World War made Hitler possible,” but goes on to argue against the interpretation that Hitler was somehow the logical outcome of German history’s “special path.” Kershaw’s Hitler is no —psychopathic god— but deeply rooted in the history and vulture of Vienna, the Great War, and German racial nationalism. Thus, what emerges is a fascinating dialectic between the socioeconomic causes of Hitler’s rise and the responsibility of the German people for his reign of terror. (32 pages b&w illustrations, not seen)