An in-depth examination of the tactical compromises Hitler made in order to consolidate power.
Stoltzfus (Holocaust Studies/Florida State Univ.; Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany, 1996, etc.) offers a novel interpretation of Hitler’s rise to power and continued popularity as a dictator, depicting him as a surprisingly flexible tactician who frequently achieved more through compromise than he did through terror or his oft-cited charisma. In sharp contrast to Stalin’s brutal, inflexible methods, Hitler was willing to “compromise with the German people when the political stakes were high enough.” While Hitler took the “most extreme and brutal course” against Jews, “homosexuals, unproductive ‘useless eaters,’ or other social aliens,” he avoided using force whenever possible against “German-blooded” citizens. Stoltzfus convincingly argues that the Führer was obsessed with pleasing his populist base, giving ground or making deals whenever conflicts between the state and the people became exceptionally contentious or visible. The author relies on specific examples to prove his point, including Hitler’s determination—after the “notorious failure” of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch—to pursue the “legal course” in his quest for power, despite his loathing of democracy. Stoltzfus explains how Hitler’s determination to attend to the whims of the German public grew out of his understanding that “the radical dimensions of the Nazi mission” would require that the Nazi Party “try harder to ingratiate itself to the German masses in every way possible.” The author goes on to examine numerous unpopular issues on which the dictator compromised, such as the “euthanasia” policy, attempts to limit the church’s influence, and civilian evacuations. Rather than making purely academic distinctions, Stoltzfus advances a cogent argument with broad moral, historical, and sociological implications. While armchair generals might find the material dry, serious students of history will be thoroughly engaged.
A lucid work of historical argumentation that succeeds in establishing compromise as a crucial instrument in Hitler’s political arsenal.