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Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis Paperback – September 17, 2001
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George VI thought him a "damnable villain," and Neville Chamberlain found him not quite a gentleman; but, to the rest of the world, Adolf Hitler has come to personify modern evil to such an extent that his biographers always have faced an unenviable task. The two more renowned biographies of Hitler--by Joachim C. Fest ( Hitler) and by Alan Bullock ( Hitler: A Study in Tyranny)--painted a picture of individual tyranny which, in the words of A.J.P. Taylor, left Hitler guilty and every other German innocent. Decades of scholarship on German society under the Nazis have made that verdict look dubious; so, the modern biographer of Hitler must account both for his terrible mindset and his charismatic appeal. In the second and final volume of his mammoth biography of Hitler--which covers the climax of Nazi power, the reclamation of German-speaking Europe, and the horrific unfolding of the final solution in Poland and Russia--Ian Kershaw manages to achieve both of these tasks. Continuing where Hitler: Hubris 1889-1936 left off, the epic Hitler: Nemesis 1937-1945 takes the reader from the adulation and hysteria of Hitler's electoral victory in 1936 to the obsessive and remote "bunker" mentality that enveloped the Führer as Operation Barbarossa (the attack on Russia in 1942) proved the beginning of the end. Chilling, yet objective. A definitive work. --Miles Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
At the conclusion of Kershaw's Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris (1999), the Rhineland had been remilitarized, domestic opposition crushed, and Jews virtually outlawed. What the genuinely popular leader of Germany would do with his unchallenged power, the world knows and recoils from. The historian's duty, superbly discharged by Kershaw, is to analyze how and why Hitler was able to ignite a world war, commit the most heinous crime in history, and throw his country into the abyss of total destruction. He didn't do it alone. Although Hitler's twin goals of expelling Jews and acquiring "living space" for other Germans were hardly secret, "achieving" them did not proceed according to a blueprint, as near as Kershaw can ascertain. However long Hitler had cherished launching an all-out war against the Jews and against Soviet Russia, as he did in 1941, it was only conceivable as reality following a tortuous series of events of increasing radicality, in both foreign and domestic politics. At each point, whether haranguing a mass audience or a small meeting of military officers, the demagogue had to and did persuade his listeners that his course of action was the only one possible. Acquiescence to aggression and genocide was further abetted by the narcotic effect of the "Hitler myth," the propagandized image of the infallible leader as national savior, which produced a force for radicalization parallel to Hitler's personal murderous fanaticism; the motto of the time called it "working towards the Fuhrer." Underlings in competition with each other would do what they thought Hitler wanted, as occurred with aspects of organizing the Final Solution. Kershaw's narrative connecting this analysis gives outstanding evidence that he commands and understands the source material, producing this magisterial scholarship that will endure for decades. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The second volume (Nemesis 1936-45) traces the mature Hitlerian state, and the world catastrophe it engendered.
Both volumes are most valuable to those who seek to find why, in the mid-20C, human civilisation seemed to be hijacked by a human virus that meant the death of 50+ million.
Hitler seems a man aware but not satisfied with Machiavellian precepts: he cared little for love or hate. Fear was better, but (perhaps) he really wanted to be worshipped as a God (like post Augustus emperors).
Kershaw's `The Hitler Myth' and `Making Friends with Hitler' are also useful.
Also highly recommended: Bullock's classic `Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (published 1953);' and Fest's `Hitler' (published 1974).
One thing I always fear with works like this is that the scholarship will be excellent, but the prose impenetrable. Not so here--it's hard to put down if you are interested in the subject matter.
I did like Hubris better, too, as some other readers have suggested, but I think they are too hard on this work. The reality is that Hubris treads ground that is not as familiar. Nemesis treads ground that everyone knows from every sketcy book, movie and newspaper retrospective. It is harder to make it new and thrilling. I think it succeeds in its focus nonetheless, spending more time with Hitler than ordinary WWII books, and more time with WWII than ordinary bios.
It is a bit churlish to criticize any aspect of this well done duo.