Before writing the first volume
of his substantial biography of Adolf Hitler, Ian Kershaw focused on the popular appeal of the Nazi dictator in The "Hitler Myth"
. Arguing that "the sources of Hitler's appeal must be sought ... in those who adored him, rather than in the leader himself," Kershaw shows how Hitler's public image welded together antagonistic forces within the Nazi state, mobilized the nation for war, and contributed to the ethos that animated systematic and genocidal violence.
Responding to historians who maintain that Hitler's personality or ideological fixations accounted for his broad acceptance, Kershaw argues that, in the early 1930s, a sizable plurality of Germans hungered for an omnipotent Führer to stand above the political disharmonies of the Weimar state. Later, foreign policy and military victories attracted many more to the Hitler legend. However, victories were the price for popularity; and Hitler became more and more bloodthirsty as both his image and regime foundered under the blows of the Allied powers. The Hitler myth, then--a cultural phenomenon the Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels claimed as his greatest propaganda triumph--became a fundamental cause for the collapse of the Nazi State.
Kershaw's authoritative history of political culture in Hitler's Germany forcefully demonstrates that the Führer's popularity rested less on "bizarre and arcane precepts of Nazi ideology than on social and political values ... recognizable in many societies other than the Third Reich." In our present political environment, which repeatedly features outcries for "leadership" from pundits and public servants alike, the disturbing lessons of The "Hitler Myth" are an urgent warning. --James Highfill
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The strength of Kershaw's study is that he moves beyond a description of the construction of the 'Hitler myth' to analyze its strength and resiliency."--The Richmond Times-Dispatch