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Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life (Vintage) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307455262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307455260
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,224,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hitler's personal library of over 16,000 volumes was picked clean by American troops. But Ryback found 1,200 of Hitler's volumes in the Library of Congress and other caches scattered through the U.S. and Europe. By looking at the books Hitler read (sometimes obsessively, judging from marginalia and other signs of wear and tear), Ryback paints an unusually vivid and nuanced portrait of the dictator. Among the authors and works Hitler was most interested in were Shakespeare (in translation), whose grand historical subjects, Hitler felt, made him superior to Schiller and Goethe; Henry Ford's anti-Semitic The International Jew; adventure novelist Karl May; Dietrich Eckart's interpretation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt; works of the occult and esoterica; and Thomas Carlyle, particularly his biography of Frederick the Great. Ryback (The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau) offers a unique view of Hitler's intellectual life. 47 photos. (Oct. 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Hitler was a voracious reader, finishing a book every night, either at his desk or in his armchair, always with a cup of tea in his hand. His library at one time contained more than sixteen thousand books, of which some twelve hundred survive in various archives. Ryback�s analysis covers books Hitler wrote (including speculation on the content of his missing war memoir), books he read (with extensive comments on marginalia), and books he was given (a copy of the bizarrely titled autobiography �G�ring, What Were You Thinking! A Sketch from a Life� was presented to Hitler by his self-absorbed deputy). Ryback relies heavily on Walter Benjamin�s idea of the private library as a map of its owner�s character, but Hitler�s reading yields few new insights, and some of what Ryback dredges up is merely peculiar: between the pages of an early acquisition, a guidebook to Berlin, is �a wiry inch-long black hair that appears to be from a moustache.�
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is a must read for students of WWII, and Hitler in particular.
John Bragg
Rather, proceeding chronologically, the author has written a series of interconnected essays which take their theme from various of Hitler's books.
Ronald H. Clark
The author brings out a number of nuances in Hitler's mind and personality by looking at what Hitler read.
spinoza

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 72 people found the following review helpful By spinoza on October 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How better to understand the mind of a significant historical personality than through his private library! Ryback literally happened upon a large portion of Hitler's library while doing research at the Library of Congress. This is a well written and fascinating approach to the mind that unleashed fascism in what was arguably the most civilized country in the world at the time. Indeed, "Hitler's library" comes across as an oxymoron; we've so demonized Hitler that one would think from Hitler's anti-intellectual reputation there would be little one could say about his reading interests. Ryback's book goes far in dispelling this popular representation. As August Kubizek is quoted as saying, "Books, always more books! I can never remember Adolf without books."

The author brings out a number of nuances in Hitler's mind and personality by looking at what Hitler read. Rather than 'humanizing' Hitler in this manner, Ryback demonstrates how Hitler arose from the same Weimar intellectual milieu as a Thomas Mann or a Heidegger, how a Hitler could occur from the same intellectual crisis that deeply swept through early 20th century Germany. From a study of his library we learn that Hitler highly valued Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and Shakespeare (even more than Goethe and Schiller!). We also learn, not surprisingly perhaps, that he was intensely interested in religion, the occult, and the nature of divine providence.

After reading Ryback's book, it's hard to believe that, after the dozens and dozens of books written about Hitler, no one has yet taken the time to analyze his library. This is not only a must read for specialists concentrating on WWII, but it is also a valuable and fascinating study for those interested in general European history.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The title of this excellent volume is a bit misleading, since it contains a far richer tapestry of material than merely telling us what books Hitler owned and read. Rather, proceeding chronologically, the author has written a series of interconnected essays which take their theme from various of Hitler's books. And make no mistake about it, as a reading of "Hitler's Table Talk" confirms, the man was a great reader, knocking out in midnight reading sessions as much as a book a night. It seems Hitler was always surrounded by books, whether in Berlin, Munich, his mountain retreat, or at the battlefront.

The book begins with Hitler during the first war and his acquisition of a tourist guide to Berlin, which he employed on several trips to the city while on leave. We learn a bit about what Hitler actually did in the first war and why he was proud of his service. Sometimes, a chapter springs from the dedication in a gift book to Hitler, such as that from his early mentor Dietrich Eckart in the 1920's. This leads to a valuable discussion of Hitler's successful quashing of a competing leader for his party, one Otto Kickel, who had written "Resurgence of the West," and who almost displaced Hitler from party leadership. A third very interesting chapter looks at Hitler's own writings--much more than I was aware of. In addition to "Mein Kampf," there was a second volume devoted to Hitler's view of the future of Germany, a partial volume of war reminiscences, and a third volume of "Main Kampf" devoted to foreign policy issues that resided in a bank vault for decades after the war. The author's discussion of how Hitler wrote, and improved as a published author, is quite helpful.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Frank D on January 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If one wants to penetrate beyond a plodding rehash of Hitler and his life, this thoughtful book offers an original perspective filled with many genuine nuggets.....

Given what seems an uninspiring title and subject, Ryback has created an entertaining book which is both clever and polished.

Be warned though, the perfunctory and probably - given our age - obligatory censures and condemnations do appear with necessary regularity.

Still, a book of genuine worth and insight. Recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tom Corwin on February 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read dozens of books about Hitler, and hundreds on Nazism and WWII I did not expect to learn much new from this little book. Much to my surprise I learned a lot. Especially about American influences on Hitler's thinking. If you've never heard of Madison Grant, you ought to read this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susanna Hutcheson TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I maintain that one of the best ways to get inside a person's head is to know what they read. Now, in truth, most of us read things we disagree with as much as things with which we have a great deal of sympathy and agreement. At least, the most intelligent of us. And, I think we can all agree that for all of his horrible deeds and mad mind, Hitler was intelligent.

Timothy Ryback discovered a priceless collection of Hitler's books that ended up in a hard-to-find section of the Library of Congress. Many books were seized by U.S. officers. But The Soviet army took the lion's share of the Hitler books. They were seen once, briefly, then disappeared forever.

The author neatly uses Hitler's reading habits to give us a vivid view and understanding of his political career and how it evolved. The reading must have taught him and encouraged him. For example, he read the anti-Semite work of Henry Ford. The author even tells us about the books he read and wrote in, making copious notes, while he wrote "Mein Kampf".

Ryback has a superb knowledge of German literature. Moreover, he understands the Nazi era politics. This helps make the book especially telling. Hitler was an avid reader who underlined passages that were especially meaningful to him. A cold, vivid example of that is in Paul de Lagarde's "German Essays". Underlined is: "Each and every irksome Jew is a serious affront to the authenticity and veracity of our German identity."

Hitler had a magpie mind, according to the author. He was a speed-reader and searched for especially meaningful passages and information -- information which would be useful to him. Hitler would discard what wasn't useful to him.
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