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Hitler's Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss Hardcover – April 16, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377296
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Laurence Rees asks, as always, the right questions, and provides excellent answers. Blending oral testimony of contemporaries with documentary evidence, he offers sharp insight into the adulation of Hitler by millions of Germans that underpinned his ‘charismatic rule.’ At the same time, he vividly illustrates the bonds of Germany’s elites with Hitler—bonds which led to world war and genocide, and ensured that the dictator’s power remained unbroken until the end.”
—Sir Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler: A Biography
 “Offering acerbic insight into Hitler’s ‘charismatic rule,’ this is an arresting account, which asks and answers all the right questions.”
The Telegraph (London)
“A useful vehicle for many of the first-hand accounts from eyewitnesses and participants . . . The book flows briskly and provides some illuminating perspectives along the way.”
The Independent on Sunday (London)
“A fascinating study.”
—Antony Beevor, author of The Second World War

“So how did Hitler convince his generals to invade Russia and his subjects to ignore the genocide around them? This readable, fascinating book, a worthy addition to the vast literature surrounding Hitler, has plausible answers.” –Kirkus   

“Rees moves easily from the broad themes of German politics and economics to the individual voices of those who supported and opposed Hitler. Incorporating most of the latest scholarship on Hitler, Rees provides valuable insights here into a topic that is not new.” –Library Journal 

“Rees's spotlight on charisma forces us to think hard about what it means to persuade, to argue, to reason—or simply to assert one's will.” –The Chronicle of Higher Education  

About the Author

Laurence Rees is the writer, director and producer of the BBC TV series The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler. The former head of BBC Television History programs, he has specialized for the last twenty years in writing books and making television documentaries about the Nazis and World War II. Previous projects that were both series and books include Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution and World War II Behind Closed Doors.
In 2006 Rees won the British Book Award for History Book of the Year for Auschwitz. Educated at Oxford University, he was appointed in 2009 a senior visiting fellow in the International History Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 2010 he launched the multimedia website WW2History.com, which won best in class awards in the education and reference categories at the 2011 Interactive Media Awards. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Very well researched and written.
Keith Milburn
One of the truly great mysteries of the twentieth century is how the German people followed Hitler into a moral abyss.
Dana Keish
This is how a demagogue can get power, like Hitler, even today.
Jay Oza

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Bradley TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a very readable and interesting book that follows the arc of Hitler's political life in terms of his relationship with those who followed, assisted or were complicit in his remarkable rise to power. The idea of the book was to follow Hitler's life through the eyes of those who came within the sphere of his political influence, and while the book does follow that plan, it is actually more interested in the life of Hitler and therefore reads as a biography with occasional reflections on the issue of Hitler's "charisma." The information that the author, Laurence Rees, supplies is well-organized and insightful and often surprising.

One interesting point is Hitler's political orientation may not have fully crystalized until after his military service. Notwithstanding the myth, Hitler was not a front line fighter. While he faced danger in running messages at the front, he slept in relative comfort behind the lines. During this period, he was considered odd and not very compelling. Hitler had a tendency to monologue on subjects - a trait he retained throughout his career. Hitler found something to criticize in everything he saw. After the collapse of the war effort, Hitler was at loose ends; he was described by one of his officers, Capt. Karl Mayr, as a "stray dog...looking for a master." Mayr also wrote at the time that "At this time, Hitler was ready to throw in his lot with anyone who would show him kindness." (p. 17.) (So, a plausible alternative history story might involve a Bolshevik Hitler.) In fact, Hitler remained in the army during the Communist take-over of Munich, rather than joining a right wing Freikorps to fight the Communists. Rees notes that many future Nazis - Himmler, Strausser and Rohm, for example - joined Freikorps, but Hitler was not one of them.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Sharp on June 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In "Hitler's Charisma" Laurence Rees sets out to explain how an unremarkable Austrian "oddball painter" was able to amass the limitless power necessary to destroy people and nations on three continents. Rees's answer is that Hitler was the "archetypal charismatic leader" whose messianic persona satisfied his followers quasi-spiritual needs for salvation and redemption. This theory is generally supported throughout the book, but Rees fairly points out those instances in which those meeting Hitler, especially foreign leaders, were wholly unimpressed or confident that Hitler was more madman than charismatic.

Rather than a deep study of Hitler's ability to appeal, the book is more a biography that intermittently discusses examples of Hitler's charisma, or cites charisma as the explanation for how Hitler was able to accomplish certain goals. This means that readers who have read other biographies of Hitler might be tempted to skim through much of the background material. But Rees, a filmmaker by trade, had conducted hundreds of interviews with individuals who lived through Hitler's reign, and by his count, "the vast majority of the testimony that is quoted in this book appears here in print for the first time." He often reproduces page-long quotes from these interviewees and the stories do help contextualize Hitler's arresting personality. Other interviewees do not reflect on Hitler's charisma but instead recount the horrors of Nazi atrocities. These anecdotes are valuable additions to the historic record.

Overall, this is a very well-written book that I highly recommend to readers interested in history but not yet familiar with the details of Hitler's rise to power. The book is worth a quick look from more-experienced readers who want to consider Rees's argument that Hitler's charisma explains his ability to implement such bold, destructive, and evil plans.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on May 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Hitler, at first glance, was the most unlikely leader of a sophisticated European state. He was incapable of normal friendship, unable to debate intellectually, filled with hatred and prejudice, unable to love, and lonely. Yet, for many Hitler was a quasi-religious figure. This may appear silly to those watching films of his speeches today, but author Rees points out that we're not hungry, humiliated after the loss of a war, unemployed, fearful of widespread violence in the streets, feeling betrayed by the broken promises of one's democratic system, terrified of one's savings vanishing in a bank crash (7/1931's crash of the huge German Danat Bank) or hyperinflation (1923), and wanting to be told this is all someone else's fault. And we too desire to be led by a strong personality in a crisis, and crave purpose.

Besides charisma, Hitler also used threat, murder, and fear to get his way. His monumental intolerance meant he found it impossible to debate any issue, and thus single-handedly made the three major decisions of WWII - invading Poland, invading Russia, and liquidating the Jews.

Timing was a key part of Hitler's appeal. His ignorant slogan shouting in 1913 was later seen as certainty of vision, and his over-confidence came to be later seen as a mark of genius. Hitler only discovered what he passionately believed to be his 'mission' after the end of WWI. During WWI he served as a dispatch runner and won the Iron Cross, First Class for bravery - ironically recommended by his Jewish commander.
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