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Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship Hardcover – July 1, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 482 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195125371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195125375
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Usually, accounts of Hitler start with WWI and his subsequent rise to power in Munich. And usually, histories of Vienna in the early part of this century focus on the Secession, on Freud, on Viktor Adler. But in her carefully argued and smartly written book, Hamann (The Reluctant Empress) creates a portrait that shows the evolution of a far different city, one that for five years, between 1908 and 1913, shaped one young provincial. This is a Vienna of poor laborers who live in men's hostels and are the willing fodder of Social Democrats and Pan-Germans alike. Waves of immigrants (among them Jews fleeing Russian pogroms) and the introduction of equal suffrage in 1906 gave rise to a virulent crop of chauvinistic German politicians and theoreticians who shaped Hitler's worldview, from his racism to his use of "Fuhrer" and "Heil," both adopted from Pan-German activist Georg Schonerer. Unlike many biographers, Hamann finds the roots of Hitler's anti-Semitism here, rather than in run-ins with Jewish professors at the Academy of Visual Arts (there were none), a Jewish grandfather (the evidence, she convincingly argues, is lacking) or a syphilitic Jewish prostitute (Hitler was inordinately afraid of both infection and women). Hamann also traces other crucial aspects of Hitler's development to his time in Vienna: his fascination with the mechanics of theater and the political symbolism of architecture, and his hatred of parliamentarianism. Hamann's deep knowledge of Vienna and her skeptical approach to previous sources results in a double-sided portrait that will help readers understand both the Dual Monarchy and WWI and the Third Reich and WWII. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Hamann's deep knowledge of Vienna and her skeptical approach to previous sources results in a double-sided portrait that will help readers to understand both the Dual Monarchy and WWI and the Third Reich and WWII."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A virtuoso piece both of research and exposition...Brigitte Hamann is an author of great flair, as well as being thorough, scholarly, and thoughtful." --Robert Evans, Oxford university

"The world needs another Hitler biography like it needs another squirrel, but his one is different and worth the effort.... Hamann paints a fascinating picture of the events and readings that shaped the young Hitler. Much of this information will be unfamiliar to American readers, and translator Thornton has done a masterful job of inserting notes to help those unfamiliar with the details of Austrian history. Highly recommended for any library with serious interest in 20th-century European history."--Library Journal

"A fascinating and impressive book...whether one accepts its underlying thesis, Hitler's Vienna serves as a prologue to the inhuman." --George Steiner, [London] Times Literary Supplement

"A valuable social history of Vienna's netherworld and an attempt at explaining Hitler's anti-Semitism."--Kirkus Reviews

"All previous psyho-historical studies, which rest on false assumptions regarding Hitler's youth, simply become redundant." --Hans Mommsen

"Does away with long-established myths." --Berliner Zeitung

"The multitude of facts which Brigette Hamann has gathered about Hitler's early years is both stunning and chilling." --Gunter Fischer, Suddeutsche Zeitung

"Hitler's Vienna shows a sympathetic, even necessary, meticulousness [and] magisterial treatment of the replaces not only earlier single studies, but a whole library." -- Die Welt

"No-one has produced such an extensive and well-founded picture of the climate and milieu in which Hitler was socialised. [Hamann's] description of the life of the Viennese underclass, especially, is evocative in the extreme....the book crosses the boundaries between scholarship and popular history in exemplary fashion." --Dr. Neil Gregor of Southampton University (UK) and author of Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich

Until this book was written hitlers first 25 years were, with few exceptions such as ian kershaw, often given little attention. Fortunately this book solves this problem. Hamann has researched the subject in great detail and gives an in depth thorough account of hitlers life from 1889 to 1914. His family is described in great detail and so are the various homes in which he lived. In addition a good and detailed description is given of daily life as a whole in the towns and cities in which Hitler lived. There is also an excellent description of the events, politicians and movements which may have made an impact on Hitler in these years. --By C. Nielsen

Understandably, Brigitte Hamann likes Vienna more than Hitler. She shows us around the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with great authority and is a Sherlock Holmes for tracking down remnants of Hitler's stay there prior to his move to Munich. She starts with a long chapter on Hitler's background in provincial Linz. Moving to Vienna, Hamann describes the galleries and operas he attended and the multilingual parliamentary debates that infuriated him. She tells the stories of the politicians Georg Schönerer, leader of the minority Pan-German party and Christian Socialist Karl Lueger whom Hitler sought to emulate. She tells us of his life in the rented rooms and hostels where he stayed; about the ambitions of the trade unionists and lives of the Czech and Jewish communities. This colours in the sketches Hitler gave in Mein Kampf and his friend August Kubizek in The Young Hitler I Knew, from which she draws. She also speculates on what he read, probably including Houston Stewart Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Gustav Le Bon's Psychology of Crowds and perhaps Nietzsche, though she is sceptical of Kubizek on this latter. Perhaps the replacement of physical by social anthropology in our culture has made the influence of Chamberlain hard for us to grasp. My feeling is that she underestimates the influence of Vienna on Hitler. Quibbles and second-guessing apart though, this is an exhaustive, well-written and absorbing book on its subject. --By Stephen Cowley

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Customer Reviews

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This fascinating book is very worthy of your attention.
Bill Stevenson
Her scholary book explores the philosophical and cultural climate of Vienna that produced such a terrible tyrant as Adolf Hitler.
C. M Mills
The author is really detailed in explaining and citing information.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Harding VINE VOICE on December 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
I thought I knew a lot about Adolf Hitler's life, even his youth, until I stumbled upon this book. Hitler's Vienna provides a fascinating glimpse into the social, economic, and political milieu in which young Hitler found himself immersed when he came from the provinces to the capital of the crumbling Austro-Hungarian empire in order to pursue his dream of a career in art or architecture.
The book is really less about Hitler himself than about the forces which helped to shape his weltanschauung. Though he reportedly not an anti-Semite as a youth, it was in Vienna that Hitler learned the language of anti-semitism and nationalism.
As I engrossed myself in the book, my thoughts often wandered to comparing the identity politics and quota demands of Austro-Hungarian politicians with the increasing ethnic balkanization here in the United States and wondered whether such a man as Hitler could not one day spring from our political landscape.
One of the chief things I learned is that political and ethnic anti-Semitism was already a very potent force among both the more radical German-nationalist followers of Georg Schoenerer as well as among the more mainstream supporters of the enormously popular mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger. There was also a large groundswell of anti-Czech sentiment due to a heavy flow of Czechs into Vienna and to the mistreatment by Czechs of Germans in Sudetenland, a situation that Hitler was later to temporarily rectify.
The most surprising fact about Hitler brought to light is that he had many Jewish friends during his Vienna days. And I had to laugh at the part where he was described by a former fellow boarder at the men's hostel as having arrived wearing shoulder-length hair and wearing nothing but a coat because he didn't have a shirt.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bill Stevenson on March 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Brigitte Hamann has done a remarkable thing with this book. By examining Vienna during Hitler's formative years, she has unlocked a lot of mystery surrounding the great man himself. While it is true that she uncovered discrepancies in Hitler's description of those years in Mein Kampf, her real contribution is in helping the reader to understand what Hitler was talking about, and why he said the things he said.
Particularly useful is Hamann's analysis of the prominent politicians of the day. She first described these leaders and their political ups and downs. Then, with the testimony of the witnesses who knew Hitler during those years, she deftly draws a picture of the formative influences that helped shape the mature dictator. Hitler was obsessed with politics and he learned what worked and what did not work during those early years in Vienna. Many of his later policies first saw the light of day in the Vienna of his youth. There is a chilling passage about the problem of gypsy pickpockets expected for the 60 Anniversary Parade in honor of Emperor Franz Joseph, in 1908. One solution, seriously presented in Parliament at the time, was to tattoo a number on the forearm of every gypsy.
Hamann also provides an in-depth analysis of the Austro-Hungarian attempt at a multi-ethnic parliamentarism, the chaos and the inefficiency that it brought, and the consequent neglect for the common people. The Pan-German movement, which clearly influenced the young Hitler is clearly explained in considerable detail. At times while reading this book, I had to pause and remind myself that the period under review presaged the rise of Adolf Hitler to power by some 20 years!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This excellent volume, which suffers from a poor translator, demonstrates that the overwhelmingly anti-semitic atmosphere of Vienna when Hitler lived there did not turn him into an anti-semite. It is surprising how little it seemed to influence him at that time; he seems to have successfully resisted becoming an anti-semite. Thus his war experience and the influence of post-WWI Munich must be seen as more decisive. One needs more concentration on the growth of anti-semitism in Germany and in Bavaria in particular during and shortly after the World War. However unfairly Hitler concluded that the Jews were responsible for all Germany's ills, his reaction must have been somewhat less irrational than has previously been thought. His equation of Jews and Bolshevism was widespread in Europe in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and must not be underestimated in assessing the growth of Fascism and anti-Semitism. Hamann's book makes Hitler both more and less an enigma.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on July 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Though this book is better in the original German (it loses something in the translation), Hamann is a diligent researcher who has unearthed some new facts about Hitler's period in Vienna. She uses primary sources and archive material without merely rehashing what other biographies have written in the past. The Franz Jetzinger book from the 50's is still the standard, definitive version of Hitler's Vienna years, but Hamann does a nice job and weaves in some new material. She also adroitly dismisses some claims from other German authors who have inaccurately written about Hitler's relationship with early roommate, August (Gustl) Kubizek. Thankfully, Hamann doesn't indulge in psychoanalyzing Hitler, which is sort of a deranged cottage industry amongst more recent Hitler biographers.
One small criticism is that Hamann veers away from Hitler too frequently. There is a plethora of material about Vienna's political climate in the 1910's, its mayor, the origin of anti-Semitism in the city and other ancillary details. Though all of this is relevant to Hitler, one wishes she would have stayed a bit more on topic. Still, the book is interesting, informative and devoid of errors. If you want to learn more about the young Hitler, this is an acceptable choice.
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