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The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich Paperback – December 13, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0192802064 ISBN-10: 0192802062 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (December 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802064
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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

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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful By I should be at the gym on September 19, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Hitler Myth" is essentially a charting of the effectiveness of--though not an in-depth investigation of--the propaganda machine relative specifically to how the German populace viewed Adolf Hitler from the late 1920's through the duration of the war. Kershaw measures the propaganda machine's effectiveness through 1) opinion poll results, 2) voting figures, and 3) anecdotal documentation, especially reports from Nazi Party functionaries regarding what might today be called "the word on the street."

What ends up being Kershaw's most strongly stressed observation in the text is the persistence in Nazi Germany of public "excusablility" of Hitler (my clumsy term, not Kershaw's) or a sort of "blame transfer" (again, my inadequate term) that existed relative to any negative news or regime mistakes.

In other words, when things went wrong, the public--in a seemingly maniacal way--held onto a "BUT IT'S NOT THE FURHER'S FAULT" mentality. Concomitant to this reality is the extent to which the Nazi Party was actually actively disliked by huge swaths of the population of Germany from quite early on (pre-war), and even more so by the beginning of hostilities with the Allies. Nonetheless, none of that displeasure seemed to get applied to Hitler himself until much, much later. Kershaw's fairly convincing stream of written evidence shows that the public persistently disassociated Hitler from the over-zealous policies, corruption, or flat-out bad ideas and brutish stupidity of the Nazi regime by assuming that Hitler was being misinformed by sycophants, or was being foiled by the pernicious British, or was simply too absorbed with genius foreign policy and thus distracted from domestic concerns, etc.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Thomas W. Robinson on September 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Kershaw is probably more famous now for his two part bio of Hitler, but he wrote this book around 1980 and it is still one of the best works on how propaganda painted a picture of the Fuhrer. What one finds out through reading this book is a glmpse into everyday life for Germans, how propaganda kept Hitler's popularity up despite the popularity of the Nazi Party declining, and how propaganda gave the general public a distorted view of Hitler. We also see how the public could have supported someone like Hitler and his party. Often times with the Nazi era, it is hard to understand how ordinary citizens supported the party considering what we know now, but of course people at the time did not expect a world war or the holocaust to happen. Kershaw does an excellent job of hitting this theme as he puts the reader in the time period so we see why Hitler and the Nazis rose to power. We also see that the Nazi's often times downplayed their anti-Semitism before taking power and their hatred of the Jews was not amongst the reasons most ordinary people voted Nazi or supported Hitler. All in all, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the Nazis or the use of propaganda. The book is scholarly, but for the most part is easy to read and flows pretty well.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd Greg on February 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
In the late summer months of 1933 and 1934, groups of German citizens flocked to Berghof hoping to catch a glimpse of Adolf Hitler walking through the countryside . Filled with a zealous belief for the `Hitler Myth', post World War I Germany surrendered itself to Nazi propaganda. Responding to the humiliating treaty of Versailles and the economically unstable Weimar Republic, Hitler took on the Weberian characteristics of charismatic leadership . Unconditional loyalty and unquestioned faith in the Fuhrer rekindled historical notions of charismatic authority within the German psyche. Only after millions of European deaths and an Allied imposed peace could Germany finally tear itself away from the spell of Adolf Hitler.
Unlike other chroniclers and scholars of the Nazi regime, Ian Kershaw in his book The Hitler Myth: Image and Reality in The Third Reich, examined the subtle distinction World War II German citizens carried in their assessment of Hitler and the Nazi Party. According to Kershaw, Hitler realized that the personality cult constructed around him could be used to cement the integration of the Nazi Party and the German populace. Indeed, the spell of Hitler or the myth of Hitler did not always exactly correspond with the German populace's perception of the Nazi Party. Throughout his well documented work, Kershaw makes the case that the `Hitler Myth' held a different form of allegiance within World War II Germany. The `Hitler Myth' unlike the Nazi party, prevented the German citizen from abandoning the Fuhrer in his quest for European dominance . It was trust in Hitler not in allegiance to the Nazi Party that propelled many German citizens to fight through World War II, despite food shortages and mounting casualties.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Truthteller on May 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Historian Ian Kershaw, later to scribe a monumental two-volume biography of Hitler, here tries, in one of his early works on Nazism, to assess the creation, acceptance, and downfall of the "Hitler Myth" among the German people. In essence, the Myth of Hitler is that of a charismatic leader and hero of the people upon whom the people bestow traits, characteristics, and motives that simply do not gibe with the facts.

The Hitler Myth reached its zenith in 1941 at the same time that the Third Reich was becoming the largest empire the world has ever known. Small wonder then that the German people supported Hitler in his ever expanding grabs for land and power. In this respect Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbel's claim that he created the "Hitler Myth" may be a case of the tail wagging the dog.

In any event, author Kershaw makes a marvelous attempt to understand how and why the Hitler Myth started, how it grew and was sustained, and what led to its destruction. In so doing he focuses not on Hitler the person as a myth but on the people who were the real source of the Hitler Myth, the people of Germany who bought into the myth.

The basic resources for his analysis are based on two different, and competing, records. One major resource is internal reports of the government and Nazi Party agencies on the state of the attitudes, feelings, and morale of the German people. The other major resource is reports made by agents within Germany of the Social Democratic Party, initially as a party in opposition and then as a party in exile.
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