From Publishers Weekly
As the Gotterdämmerung for Hitler's Germany approached in April 1945, the surviving members of the Führer's inner circle of bureaucrats were still competing for his favor and conspiring, each in his own furtive way, to succeed him. Why anyone aspired to preside over the ruins is less a mystery after reading Read. From the unpromising beginnings of Nazism in the 1920s, ambitious misfits gathered around Hitler, whose demagogic genius in exploiting the humiliation of WWI's defeat seemed likely to propel him to power. Each was, in Read's words, "totally besotted" with Hitler and "bitterly jealous" of his attention to others. Not all survived the Darwinian struggle for favor and succession. Ernst Rhm was murdered by fellow Nazis. Rudolf Hess took a solo flight to captivity. Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated. But three of the original disciples-Hermann Gring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler-remained to the end, competing for power even when, with defeat imminent, the prize had lost all value. Four latecomers also hung on for dubious glory: the foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop; chief architect and war production genius, Albert Speer; Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann; and Adm. Karl Dnitz, whom no one expected to be anointed Hitler's successor. That the internecine rivalries persisted beyond the end suggests the warped minds of Hitler's crew of bureaucratic criminals. Despite his penchant for cliche ("the ripest of plums suddenly dropped into the Nazis' laps, completely out of the blue"), Read (coauthor of The Fall of Berlin, etc.) tells the story of two decades of assiduous jockeying for power in luridly absorbing if overwhelming detail. 16 pages of b&w photos.
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From the ample literature about Adolf Hitler's sycophants, Read synthesizes this hefty chronological narration of the most notorious half-dozen's competition for the dictator's favor. He expresses his repugnance for this crew of cretins and cynics but understands the great interest in their horrific career trajectory as they emerged from obscurity to warmongering, genocidal prominence. Read recounts how the economic and political crises of early 1920s Germany affected Hitler's future paladins, and their motivations in picking his Nazi party from the stew of right-wing organizations as the vehicle for their ambitions and the outlet for their hatred. Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goring-- these principals as well as the second tier of the inner circle are all here, proving their usefulness to Hitler, murderously crushing opponents within and outside the Nazi party, engineering the Holocaust, and otherwise setting the world on fire. An able integration of extant material, Read's chronicle stands as a viable alternative to collecting it individually, or simply as an introduction to the gangsterlike personalities of the leading Nazis. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved