From Publishers Weekly
On March 30, 1933, two months after Hitler achieved power, Paul Nikolaus, a Berlin cabaret comedian, wrote disconsolately, "For once, no joke. I am taking my own life.... [U]nfortunately I have fallen in love with my Fatherland. I cannot live in these times." How Germans could remain in love with their fatherland under Nazism and even contribute willingly to its horrific extremism is the subject of Cambridge historian Evans's gripping if overwhelmingly detailed study, the first of three projected volumes. Readers watch a great and historic culture grow grotesquely warped from within, until, in 1933, a dictatorial state was imposed upon the ruins of the Weimar republic. A host of shrill demagogues had, in the preceding decades, become missionaries to an uneasy coalition of the discontented, eager to subvert Germany's democratic institutions. This account contrasts with oversimplified diagnoses of how Nazism succeeded in taking possession of the German psyche. Evans asserts that Hitler's manipulative charisma required massive dissatisfaction and resentment available to be exploited. Nazism found convenient scapegoats in historic anti-Semitism, the shame of an imposed peace after WWI and the weakness of an unstable government alien to the disciplined German past. Although there have been significant recent studies of Hitler and his regime, like Ian Kershaw's brilliant two volumes, Evans (In Hitler's Shadow, etc.) broadens the historic perspective to demythologize how morbidly fertile the years before WWI were as an incubator for Hitler. 31 illus., 18 maps.
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This is the first volume in a projected three-volume history of Nazi Germany. Cambridge history professor Evans states clearly that this is a work aimed at general readers who hope to gain a fuller and deeper understanding of the course and causes of the Nazi rise to power. Although he breaks no new ground, Evans has written a highly readable and comprehensive account. Thankfully, he does not fall into the trap of looking for proto-Nazis as far back as Luther; however, Evans credibly asserts that the roots of National Socialism can be uncovered in the Germany of Bismarck, which had all of the stresses and tensions of a rapidly modernizing society. While acknowledging that strains of virulent nationalism and anti-Semitism were prevalent in other European nations, Evans shows that these tendencies combined with other vulnerabilities in Germany in an especially volatile mix. This is a first-rate narrative history that informs and educates and may inspire readers to delve even deeper into the subject. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved