GOEBBELS by Ralf Georg Reuth


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 Impressive, well-translated (from the German) life of the notorious Nazi propaganda chief and anti-Semite, much of it drawn from new sources. To tell the story of Goebbels--a leading architect of Nazi style, and the man perhaps closest to Hitler--Reuth (a reporter for the Frankfurter All-gemeine Zeitung) uses material uncovered from Staasi files and personal papers owned by a Swiss attorney. Goebbels's nightmarish childhood in a poor, hard-working Roman Catholic family is nicely explicated, and the author shows how the boy--repeatedly ill and rejected by schoolmates and his mother (who considered her son's clubfoot to be a divine punishment)-- discovered books while in the hospital for a failed operation. Reuth captures Goebbels as a young, liberal socialist and aspiring writer, willing to lie and steal, fascinated with drama, his work dominated by Nietzsche and Spengler and his personal life dominated by a taste for women above his station. Similarly, the author captures post WW-II Germany, and how this desperate country--in which no kind of ability, industry, or talent was a guarantee against poverty--nurtured Goebbels's search for a savior who could galvanize the stricken Volk and satisfy his own personal longings as well. Hitler is shown doing with Goebbels what he did with all his followers--giving the future propaganda minister belief and energy, then stripping him of convictions and reducing him to a slave (albeit an effective one), whose campaign to launch a pro- Nazi newspaper proved to be a master-stroke of media manipulation generations ahead of its time. Before long, Goebbels, who'd studied under Jews he liked and respected, became under Hitler's rule the ``twisted dwarf'' of Kristallnacht. A harrowing account that focuses clearly on the man and his long degeneration rather than on his politics. (Thirty-three b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-136076-6
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993