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RIBBENTROP by Michael Bloch


by Michael Bloch

Pub Date: June 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59310-6
Publisher: Crown

 Powerful study of a life in Hitler's service, by Bloch (The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor, 1989, etc.). Bloch's young Ribbentrop is a shallow, friendly man of the middle class, characterized in early manhood by a love of sports and music, excellent manners, and snobbery (he added a phony ``von'' to his name). Son of a career officer, his education was slighted, but he traveled (as far as Canada) and made friends outside Germany, and his liquor-importing business strengthened these connections. Bloch makes clear that, into the early 30's, Ribbentrop was liberal in outlook, with Jewish friends, and that his international experience and personal finesse, rare in Nazi circles, were prized beyond their worth by Hitler, who assumed they indicated real sophistication. Ribbentrop acquired recognition by assisting in the maneuvers that made Hitler chancellor, and, in 1938, he was appointed Germany's foreign minister. He had diplomatic aspirations but neither gifts nor training and, as Bloch indicates, career diplomats of all nationalities abhorred him. Familiarity with the period and its major figures allows Bloch to present a detailed example of how Nazi Germany operated: Using Ribbentrop the social-climber, Hitler undermined and spied on the distrusted diplomatic service. Ongoing rivalries with Goebbels, Goering, and other Nazis represented here reveal a world in which everyone was set against everyone else by the master, and in which everything depended on his whim. Ribbentrop, acclimated to domination by his wife, was good at the game, debasing himself to the point where he was completely dependent on Hitler's approval for his state of mind. By the time Germany occupied Norway, Ribbentrop had become a raging anti-Semite--a changed man whose harangues in delicate diplomatic situations rivalled those of Hitler himself. Bloch controls his material expertly, balancing personal and historic elements to produce a fascinating, cautionary tale. (Sixteen-page b&w photo insert--not seen)