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Explaining Hitler Paperback – December, 1999

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Paperback, December, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Viking Pr (December 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670821586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670821587
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,038,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Overall, the book is fascinating, meticulously researched and well composed.
Kenneth Stevenson
It tells us nothing about Hitler; it's just more "Look at what I had to go through to write this book!" nonsense.
The glaring problems of the book being Rosenbaum's complete lack of objectivity, and important omissions.
Ben Leedy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

187 of 202 people found the following review helpful By Diane Schirf on January 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum. Highly recommended.

Explaining Hitler is a misleading title, for the focus is primarily on the Jewish academic community's attempts to explain Hitler-to put it in grossly oversimplified terms, this is somewhat like the prey explaining the motivations of the predator. The result is that, while Hitler remains a mystery, the academic and personal biases of the explainers are revealed. To each person's theories and comments Rosenbaum adds his own analysis, finding the flaws with precision.

Hitler explanation ranges from the deeply personal (abusive father, infection by a Jewish prostitute, mother's painful death under the care of a Jewish physician) to the inevitable influence of historical forces (post-war inflation, depression). Rosenbaum discusses the personal in depth, including Hitler's rumored Jewish ancestor and bizarre relationship with his half-niece Geli Raubal, the convolutions each theory takes, and the lack of facts or reliable information to support any of them. For example, Rosenbaum astutely points out the only real "proof" of the abusive father is Hitler's own assertion and sarcastically suggests that there is reason not to trust Hitler's word. One argument that immediately comes to mind that Rosenbaum only briefly alludes to later is that millions of people have abusive fathers, bad experiences with individual members of ethnic and other groups, and so forth, yet do not turn into war criminals responsible for the deaths of millions. In short, these theories might explain Hitler's anti-Semitism, but not the results.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Laon on May 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Rosenbaum opened this thoughtful and literate review of the supposed "explanations" for Hitler with a gripping account of a winter journey to Hitler's birthplace in the Austrian hinterland, to glean what can be gleaned from the - largely obliterated - traces of his family and early life. There is effective use of the dangerous iciness of the mountain roads as a metaphor for some of the people and places he encountered there: cold to the bone, dangerous, and frozen in time.

That set-piece opening led to a consideration of some of the "explanations" of Hitler's madness and evil: that Hitler had been abused as a child, that he was genitally deformed, or even that he was born normal but traumatised when his genitals were mutilated by - of all things - a goat. These and some of the other speculations that have been offered - that Hitler was homosexual, that he had caught syphilis from a Jewish prostitute, that he was brainwashed into megalomania by a doctor experimenting with new psychological techniques, and so on - led Rosenbaum to a fascinating discussion of what is involved in even attempting to "explain Hitler".

Rosenbaum noted that many of the attempts at explaining Hitler tend, deliberately or not, to reduce the focus on his evil. To understand is to forgive, at least a little, and risks reducing Hitler to a victim, whether of other people or of circumstances. Worse, many of the proffered explanations put the blame on Jews, for example Weisenthal's notion of the (probably imaginary) Jewish prostitute who gave Hitler the clap.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Marsella on May 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book examines the various schools of thought regarding Hitler and the Holocaust and the author did a wonderful job of researching and interviewing many of the scholars on the topic who have in turn influenced our understanding and perceptions of what happened and why. The questions may ultimately not have definitive answers but reading this and having Rosenbaum guide us through the various viewpoints is a worthwhile exercise in intellectual and philosophical investigation. The question of whether Hitler was essential to the Holocaust or if in his absence someone else would have set the same events into motion is one example of an unanswerable question that gets considered.
The questions surrounding the origins of Hitler's anti-semitism are also explored in detail.
There are scholars quoted who adamantly believe that any attempt to understand is misguided because understanding Hitler's motivations is considered by them to be the first step toward rationalization and diminishing the horror of the Holocaust to just a human crime on a larger scale.
This is not a biography of Hitler although many critical episodes in his life are referenced. Instead this is a fascinating look at how different perspectives on the nature of Hitler's evil have developed and how in the end there is no comprehensive answer as to the how and why of the suffering he unleashed. THere is a quote used from Primo Levi's book Survival in Auschwitz. Levi suffering from thirst reaches for an icycle. An SS guard knocks it away and Levi asks "why ?' The response.."there is no why here". I think that story captures some of the spirit of Rosenbaum's book.
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