Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 6, 2016
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—Neil Gregor, The Wall Street Journal
“The author deals with the usual turns, such as Hitler’s rough years as an aspiring artist and the horrors of trench warfare in World War I, but he adds welcome observations and interesting asides along the way…Timely, given the increase in right-wing intransigence throughout the world, and one of the best works on Hitler and the origins of the Third Reich to appear in recent years.”
“[A] fascinating Shakespearean parable about how the confluence of circumstance, chance, a ruthless individual and the willful blindness of others can transform a country — and, in Hitler’s case, lead to an unimaginable nightmare for the world.”
–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“This is, by any measure, an outstanding study… Learned, calm and riveting… All the huge, and terrible moments of the early Nazi era are dissected, from the early beer hall speeches, to the failed putsch, through the economic and social dislocation of Weimar and the opportunities that presented… The political history is meticulously told. But the real strength of this book is in disentangling the personal story of man and monster… Ullrich’s rigour and sensitivity enables him to succeed.”
—John Kampfner, The Guardian (U.K.)
"A superb biography of the Führer’s pre-war years…Readable and compelling… This biography stands apart thanks to Ullrich’s refusal to buy into the idea—assiduously fostered by the Fuhrer himself—that Hitler was invulnerable… The contradictory vulnerabilities that he calmly exposes heighten the power of this extraordinary portrait… It is a tribute to Ullrich’s absorbing biography that one contemplates its second volume with a shudder."
—Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph (U.K)
“Striking… A highly detailed and always interesting critical narrative of [Hitler’s] political life… What mark[s] him out is his conscious abandonment of conventional morality: the monstrous, shameless ease with which he lied, betrayed and murdered…Ullrich’s narrative of Hitler’s rise to power… is full, intelligent and lucidly written.”
—Neal Ascherson, The London Review of Books
“It succeeds brilliantly … [deserves] to be read as widely as possible.”
— David Aaronovitch, The Times “Book of the Week” (U.K)
"In a most impressive and massive account, [Volker Ullrich] adds telling details and subtle nuances to the dictator’s portrait and provides a fresh perspective on his rise. The result is a must-read book that is bound to be a critical and commercial success."
—Robert Gellately, Times Higher Education
“Fine biography… Where Ullrich adds greatly to our understanding is by making the mercurial, changeable and…profoundly unknowable Hitler believable… This is a major achievement… Impressive and revealing biography.”
—Nicholas Stargardt, Literary Review
“Volker Ullrich compellingly tells us once again that no one could have been under any illusion about Hitler’s general intentions towards the Jews from his very first appearance as a political figure, even if the detailed planning of genocide took some time to solidify… Insightful … Acutely argued… One of the more unexpected questions we are left with by a study of political nightmare such as Ullrich’s excellent book is how we find the resources for identifying the absurd as well as for clarifying the grounds of law and honour.”
—Rowan Williams, The New Statesman
"Volker Ullrich works like a master chef: he trusts his ingredients and uses them with great care. The Hitler that emerges is droll, clever, hysterical, and at the same time alarmingly pragmatic; the reader is able to follow his development from oddball to messiah, propelled forwards by the dynamics between the Fuhrer and his people. Ullrich describes what happened: nothing more, nothing less. And it is exactly this impressive restraint which gives the book its two important qualities: it is both reliable and enormously entertaining."
—Timur Vermes, author of Look Who's Back
"The first volume of Volker Ullrich’s monumental new biography, Adolf Hitler: Die Jahre des Aufstiegs 1889-1939, is beautifully written, as befits the experienced journalist, and deeply and freshly researched, with many new details and a finely balanced judgement, as one would expect from the trained historian."
—Sir Richard J. Evans, Times Higher Education “Best Books of 2013”
“Ullrich’s attention to detail during this period of Adolf Hitler’s life is exceptional… If the second volume is as informative and interesting as the first, it will be a valuable collection for those interested in this era and those who are just learning about it.”
—Judith Reveal, New York Journal of Books
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Best source for Hitler's life: Kershaw's classic two-volume biography is the obvious comparison. Ullrich has 15 years of subsequent research to draw on. As well, Kershaw presents a Life and Times, while Ullrich focuses on the life. Ullrich can seem plodding in comparison with Kershaw's brilliance, and subsequent research doesn't overturn Kershaw's analysis, so you may still prefer him. If you've already read Kershaw and you want to go deeper, Ullrich is for you.
Clear: Straightforward, fairly concise, readable. Excellent translation, livelier than the original.
Level-headed: Ullrich disposes of much of the nonsense written about Hitler -- that he was a shirker in WW1, or gay, or lazy. He doesn't swallow Speer's self-serving lies.
Absorbing: Ullrich's method is to give the facts with a minimum of analysis. It's dry, but the events are so powerful that the result is absorbing. I didn't find the book too long. Yes, it's 1,000 pages, but 232 of them are source notes, and there is a lot to cover.
Book or Kindle? Buy the Kindle version. The book is workmanlike rather than attractive.
The parallels to our current president are chilling. Using bigotry and xenophobia to create an "us vs. them" mentality played a major role in demonizing the Jews and bringing Hitler's base together with a rallying cry. Also, using easy to remember slogans that were chanted at his rallies created almost a brotherhood. Hitler stated that he always spoke to the "dumbest" person in the room.
Facts were not important to Hitler, it was the message.
I bought this book because I wanted to understand how a sociopath could get elected and create a loyal, fervent following - I thought that we would never see this again. But it is happening here and now in our country. If you are curious to understand the mess we are in today, this is a good book to read.
The similarities are haunting.
Once you read this, you can see how and why he had so much support. Despite how vile he was, I can see now how he had such a large following with the cunning nature of his character, but also his tactful choice in words, leadership, and power.