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Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 14, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Gellately's (Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany) new work insists on Lenin's inclusion in any effort to understand the two major and deadly dictatorships of 20th-century Europe, Soviet communism and Nazism. Every horrendous act of the Stalin era had been seeded by Lenin, the author argues. Moreover, the Soviet and Nazi systems developed in tandem, each carefully eying the other, learning from each other, as they both reached an apex of brutality and terror. In developing this analysis, Gellately provides informed but somewhat plodding accounts of the two systems. Not all of the arguments stand up to scrutiny. In the 1930s, the struggle between Communism and Nazism became a deadly rivalry for world domination the author writes. But in the 1930s Stalin cared for little beyond the Soviet Union and was hardly bent on global conquest. Gellately's approach is relentlessly one-sided in its focus on ideology as the causative factor in history. Even the civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution is treated as backdrop for the implementation of ideology, rather than as an earthquake-like event that well into the 1950s shaped the thinking of Soviet leaders. Gellately is better on the Third Reich, but overall this is an unsatisfying and uninspired history. 16 pages of photos. (Aug. 20)
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From Booklist

A historian of Nazi Germany (Backing Hitler, 2001), Gellately here compares it to its totalitarian enemy, Soviet communism. At pains to distinguish the two dictatorships both ideologically and by their political support, Gellately reviews their roots in the rubble of World War I. Underscoring Lenin's contempt for liberal democracy and dedication to mass violence, the author argues that Leninism had a logical continuator in Stalin—which, while not an original thesis, is one that Gellately capably sustains. Switching to Germany and the radically anti-Semitic nationalist resentments from which Hitler emerged, the author tracks events in the Nazi ascent to power and stresses the popularity Hitler had acquired by the late 1930s. Having poised history before what became the Holocaust, Gellately, as part of his argument for the uniqueness of the Holocaust, however similar numerically it was to Stalin's death tolls, details the menaces in Hitler's rhetoric, such as his notorious 1939 "prophecy" of Jewish "annihilation" in the event of war. But discussing either tyrant, Gellately achieves his aim of describing for general readers the draconian inhumanity of their rules. Taylor, Gilbert

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040056
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,321,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Gellately is the Earl Ray Beck Professor of History at Florida State University and recently was the Bertelsmann Visiting Professor of Twentieth-Century Jewish Politics and History at Oxford University. He is the author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe; The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945; and Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on September 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book wanders over well-tilled ground. How many books have there been on Hitler and the Nazis, on the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks, on Lenin and Stalin? Yet it does bring the old facts into new light. The Germans made Lenin, because they ferried him and his compères from Zürich to Petrograd in 1917, as a way to cause a Revolution and end the war in the Western Front. Bolshevik barbarism, begun by Lenin and ably furthered by Stalin, briefly emulated by followers in Austria, Germany, Hungary and elsewhere, terrified the Germans, a nation of property-owners. Thus, when the Great Depression struck and millions of Germans found themselves unemployed after hyperinflation in 1923 had destroyed their savings, and the Communists tried several times to overthrow the Government, many bürgers were only too happy to give their vote to the Nazis.

Nazi terror was totally different from the Bolshevik variety. Practically anyone could be victimized in Lenin and Stalin's Soviet Union, even old-time Communists: Stalin killed most of them in his successive Terrors. Not in Hitler's Germany: there, only unpopular outsider groups were reppressed, like Communists (whom even the Socialists were happy to see in concentration camps), gypsies, homosexuals and of course Jews. Only in its final winter did Nazism really exhibit its nihilistic face in Germany itself, as portrayed in Eric Johnson's "Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans".
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Graham on September 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite the title, Lenin only appears in the introductory chapters. Gellately carefully reminds us of Lenin's extreme ruthlessness and his enthusiasm for executions and terror as weapons to establish his intended Soviet utopia, thus establishing the pattern that was developed by Stalin. But the bulk of the book is focused after Lenin's time, on the vast repressions of Hitler and Stalin's regimes.

One of the themes of the book is the degree to which Soviet communism drove the rise of Nazism. Gellately argues strongly that Hitler could never have gained power without the threat and example of Russian revolutionary terror. The various attempts in 1918-1920 to launch a Bolshevik revolution in Germany all failed disastrously, but combined with the nearby presence of a Soviet Union spouting world revolutionary rhetoric, they caused many to look in alarm for strong anti-communist leaders. This quest returned in force with the great depression and the perceived failure of the Weimar democracy. And, fatefully, in order to combat the feared Red Menace, many seemed to believe that aping its ruthless methods was both legitimate and necessary.

Gellately also explores how Hitler linked Judaism and Bolshevism, so that the threat to Germany became the "Bolshevik Jews". This wasn't a particularly obvious linkage, but Hitler somehow managed to create a mythical "Jewish Bolshevism" that bizarrely combined the alleged Jewish masterminds of Wall Street and Moscow into a single threat against the German race. This phantasm served Hitler well, as a single scapegoat for all of Germany's ills, but left the Jews doubly exposed.

Gellately highlights the very different relationships the Soviet and Nazi systems had with the mass of the populace.
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56 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on August 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, Robert Gellately, the Earl Ray Professor of History at Florida State University, has written a sobering and chilling account of the unspeakable terror visited upon Europe, and indeed upon the entire world, during the first half of the 20th century.

The years between 1914 and 1945 witnessed World War I, the Russian revolution and the triumph of Bolshevism, the Great Depression, the dictatorships of the Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, World War II, the genocide of the Holocaust, and the construction of the Gulag.

While the brutalities of Stalin and Hitler are well known, Gellately points out that a key figure is often neglected or minimized in the chronicle of European barbarism: Vladimir Illych Ulyanov, a.k.a. Lenin.

In his famous speech in 1956, which renounced the atrocities of Stalin and signaled a "thaw" in the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev claimed that "the bad Stalin" had corrupted "the good Lenin."

"Khrushchev trotted out the myth of Lenin the noble and good," writes Gellately, "to save the 'inner truths' of Communism from association with what were belatedly recognized as 'Stalinist evils."

This myth of the noble and good Lenin, claims Gellately, no longer convinces. Documents from the newly opened Russian archives make abundantly clear that Lenin was the most extreme of the radicals, the leader who pressed for terror as much as, and probably more, than anyone. Far from perverting or undermining Lenin's legacy, as is sometimes assumed, Stalin was Lenin's logical heir.

Gellately began this work as a study of the conflicting ideologies of Communism and Nazism and the murderous rivalries of Stalin and Hitler. At first, he didn't include Lenin as a major figure.
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