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on September 2, 2013
Let the facts speak for themselves and then make an informed decision. The book surpassed all that I expected from this author.
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on June 5, 2012
Finally, an analysis that is both refreshing and, as a whole, makes sense. Prof. Stolfi effectively tackles standard "accepted" arguments point by point. Amazing how much the "great biographers" (term that Prof. Stolfi uses) distort, down play, and/or omit important facts about the subject of their book. Makes one wonder why such authors are consistent in their approach and contents, despite non-corroborating/supporting facts or assertions that are not common sense. Is it attributed to fear? For profit? At times, I get the distinct feeling some books are written by "prominent" authors hired by special interest group to expressively regurgitate, thus perpetuating the party line.

It would be wonderful if Prof. Stolfi could take his keen insight and craft a pure biography of Adolf Hitler. He would be doing both history justice and disseminate to a deserving, wider audience.
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on April 3, 2014
Frankly I haven't even started reading the introduction even yet but after a quick browse through the thick pages I generally have a feeling and an idea that I am already loving this book and I know I am definitely gona like it. Professor Stolfi is one of those new authors whose books I find particularly interesting to my liking on Hitler's biography, challenging the established norms of other Hitler biographers such as Ian Kershaw, John Toland all the way to the classic such as AJP Taylor. Hence why I am giving this revisionist historian a deserving 5 star rating for this work.
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on December 28, 2013
I am no history buff or Hitler scholar, and my understanding of history has only become critical and thoughtful in the last five years, having found plenty of evidence that government-run schools and universities, including major publishing firms, are filled with Marxist/Zionist propaganda. I've had a lot of catching up to do since I graduated from college forty years ago, and I soon quickly grasped that it didn't take a Hitler scholar to know it is very difficult to find a decent, somewhat objective book on Hitler in the U.S. or in Europe.

Thus, I already knew the "great" Ian Kershaw took a subjective and jaundiced view of Hitler by just casually perusing his oversized volumes and targeting the author's propaganda and "hit pieces." I knew, too, that other historians like Alan Bullock, Joaquim Fest, and John Toland as well couldn't write honest history without smearing the Chancellor of Germany in the Thirties at every chance available, although I understand John Toland's work on Hitler is admired by the so-called revisionist writer Mark Weber, Director of the Institute for Historical Review.

I only warily approached Stolfi's book since I knew it would truly be an uncommon work if the author wrote a book defending Hitler's life and decisions or removed the mask of evil from him while at the same time laying no claim to a revisionist history.

This book took me more than four months to read from beginning to end. I wanted to learn facts from this professor emeritus about Hitler's military history while also avoiding digesting the subjective, Zionist-informed jibes the "great" historians had already splattered across thousands of pages about Hitler.

I was not disappointed in my expectations in the least. While I only read twenty pages a week, with every reading session I was rewarded with a clear and detailed viewpoint of Hitler such that he came alive on the page for the kind of unique human being Stolfi said was the only perspective in which Hitler might be rendered palpably visible. Hitler was not someone suffering from a "lust for power." Hitler was not "a demagogue or politician." Hitler was not an inept artist and a dolt of limited intelligence either. Hitler's personality bore no resemblance to the qualities these other "great" historians had described Hitler to be.

The book grew in excitement for me as Stolfi went toe-to-toe with the other historians' views, particularly Ian Kershaw's sneering psychobabble descriptions of him, as Hitler's career began and as he climbed the political hierarchy. What Stolfi eventually makes superbly clear through fact and evidence, over and over again, was that Hitler was a heroic visionary, much in the style of the character of Lohengrin from Wagner's opera and whom others readily saw as a German Messiah. Hitler did not, like the typical politician, seek to tell the German people what they wanted to hear in order to be elected, he sought to tell them what he needed them to hear, and they did hear him and they were uplifted -- economically as well as spiritually -- by his words and his leadership.

As Stolfi's portrait of Hitler develops, the reader begins to see that, indeed, Hitler moves onto the world stage not as any ordinary diplomat seeking to position himself for wealth and fame (as clearly did Winston Churchill who knew exactly whom he had to answer to) but as a rare world-historical personality similar to but certainly not the same as Julius Caesar or Napoleon.

The portrait Stolfi paints of Hitler, while definitely free of the illogical and contradictory descriptions that pepper former Hitler biographers' books, does have some problems of its own even as it attempts to resurrect Hitler's reputation as someone worth historical consideration and even appreciation.

Stolfi claims that Hitler was not a moral man, going so far as to say he cannot be understood in any kind of Manichean system of good and evil since, as a visionary, his goals were "beyond good and evil." How can Stolfi make a moral claim at all about Hitler if such is the case? How is the reader to understand that Hitler was not a moral man and yet was beyond good and evil? Stolfi's views here are nebulous. Stolfi himself, I think, is at a loss as to how to explain, in the style of the heroic visionary Zolfi claims Hitler certainly was, how the Night of the Long Knives occurred or how it came to be necessary that Ernst Roehm and several others in Hitler's group had to be killed.

Secondly, as the book marches steadily forward, marvelously allowing the world-historic personality of Hitler to reach nearly self-evident proportions, particularly in the way Stolfi shows Hitler displaying superior insight and ability in the conduct of a war to defend Germany in WWII, in the last page and a half of the book, Stolfi suddenly -- and without warning -- mentions how Hitler was responsible for the "unimaginatively cruel systematic killing of European Jews" since Hitler intoned in an early speech that Jews were not necessary to Europe -- making this dark and unfounded assertion without any prior disclosure as to how such a deed might have been prepared for or made to be "the final solution."

Thus, in this last page and a half, Stolfi decides, irrationally and with no basis in fact, to throw filth and mud over the clear and largely understandable portrait of Hitler he so carefully and painstakingly built up, doing no better, in the end, than the other historians he had taken great exception to, calling Hitler, without ado, a "dark world-historic personality." Stolfi merely relied upon the Zionist propaganda of Hitler or the received ideas about him being taught in every government-run school and university in the county.

If Hitler was not a moral man and yet was not "consciously evil," as Stolfi claims in his book, how did he suddenly and inexplicably become a "dark world-historic personality" who was responsible for "unimaginatively cruel and systematic killing of thousands of European Jews"?

Stolfi leaves no clue and has also left this world so that no one will ever know, leaving the reader with a whole lot of confusion and a sense that Stolfi wrote something that only is the beginning of what an objective history of Hitler might be. So much more is wanting for such a book. I hope the scurrilous dumping of unanalyzed negative myths will cease with the next historian who dares test his own integrity for truly independent thinking.

Stolfi has written 460 pages of what easily could be understood as a defense of Hitler's personality, his youth, as well as his early fight against Marxism all the way through his career as Chancellor and his defense of Germany in WWII -- only to throw at the end the Marxist/Zionist lies on his memory at the very end of the book -- and with no analysis or investigation
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on October 7, 2017
I recently purchased Stolfi's book and was surprised to see a positive treatment of Hitler's life and character. Previously, only David Irving's Hitler's War had attempted to present Hitler as a human being. What is surprising about these books is not that they take a minority position on Hitler's life and achievements. It is that they present a reasonable argument that, perhaps, Hitler was not the strange, alien being that is described in nearly all other literature on the subject.

The point being made in these works, as well as Eberhard Jackel's 1969 book, Hitler's Weltanschauung, is that we cannot hope to understand the Hitler phenomenon if we refuse to approach the subject as a historical, rather than a moral, event. It can be both, but historians should be able to set aside feelings of outrage if they are going to be able to present a credible account of the past.

As for the "review" printed at Kirkus of Stolfi's book, the great weight of previous biographies and attempts to explain how Hitler happened, and some of the comments by readers here, they all make Stolfi's point that the literature on the subject of Hitler is so hysterical that it may be another hundred years before anyone can study the subject without having their efforts labled, "A repellent text, as deranged as its subject." Well, I guess there is no room for any other opinion, is there? I think that is called orthodoxy and Stolfi would then be a heretic. Let's burn him.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 9, 2012
Adolf Hitler (1889-suicide 1945) was a cruel dictator. He reigns as one of the most evil men ever to lead a nation. Yet he was not the dumb mindless cipher he is so often depicted as being by historians. Stolfi is a retired professor who fleshes out the life and times of the dark world-historical tyrant of a dark empire.
Among the many lessons learned about Hitler in Stolfi's excellent work:
a. Hitler was a fine architect even though he was not accepted by the Vienna Art academy
b. Hitler was popular in Germany until he began to lose battles during World War II.
c. The Fuehrer's greatest enemies were: Marxist and Communists, Jews and the Soviet Union.
d. Hitler was a brave man having one the Iron Cross First Class and several other decorations for service during four dangerous years on the Western Front in World War I.
e. Hitler was a dreamer who wanted to restore Germany to greatness. He and his geneeration of Germans were angry over the restrictions placed on the Reich by the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Hitler wanted to restore areas of land which Germany had lost as a result of the treaty; he also wished to raise Germany to a great military power.
f. Hitler helped the Germans during the Depression by providing thousands of jobs required to complete the autobahns which
made German transportation systems a worldwide wonder.
g. Hitler was a bookish autodidatic scholar with a photographic memory. He read voraciously and could remmeber what he perused.
h. Hitler was a amoral. He was a hard man who used reason rather than sentiment to make his major decisions. He was also a bohemian who enjoyed films, plays and the grand operas of Richard Wagner and others. Hitler believed he was the Nordic Lohengrin. who would rescue Germany from defeat and poverty. He knew a good deal about operatic staging and art.
i. HItler was a great orator who lived an ascetic life. He was faithful to his longtime mistress and wife Eva Braun.

Stolfi realizes that the world would have been better if Adolf Hitler had not been born in Linz, Austria. His purpose in the biography is to critique the conclusions about Hitler made by the Fuehrer's major biographers such as Ian Kershaw, John Toland, Alan Bullock and others. As a result of reading this book the seasoned reader of Hitler studies will have a good deal to think about and reassess in the picture of the demonic Adolf Hitler. A thoughtful scholarly work!
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on December 12, 2015
“No man is a hero to his valet, not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet.” — G. W. F. Hegel

“When ZOG and all its monkey men come a gunnin’ for me, I will build myself a fortress of my Hitler biographies.” — David E. Williams, “Wotan Rains on a Plutocrat Parade”

Adolf Hitler was clearly the man of the 20th century, whose shadow grows taller as the sun of the West sinks ever lower. Sadly, though, there is no biography worthy of Hitler.

If great men are those who leave their stamp on history, then Hitler was a great man. But great men present great problems for biographers. Great men are not necessarily good men, and even good men, when they hold political power, often find it necessary to kill innocent people. Evil men do not find this difficult, but good men do. Thus a good man, if he is to be a great man, must also be a hard man. But it is difficult for biographers, who are ordinary men, to sympathize with great men, especially men who are unusually bad or hard.

But biographers must at least try to enter imaginatively into the minds of their subjects. They must feel their feelings and think their thoughts. They must feel sympathy or empathy for their subjects. Such sympathy is not a violation of objectivity but a tool of it. It is a necessary counter-weight to the antipathy and ressentiment that hardness, cruelty, and greatness often inspire. Sympathy is necessary so a biographer can discover and articulate the virtues of intellect and character necessary to achieve anything great in this world, for good or ill.

Of course, one’s ability to sympathize with great men depends in large part on one’s moral principles. A Nietzschean or Social Darwinist would, for instance, find it easier to sympathize with a human beast of prey than would a Christian or a liberal democrat. Even so, it has been possible for Christians and liberals to write biographies of such great conquerors as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Mohammed, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon without whipping themselves into thousand-page paroxysms of self-righteous moralistic denigration.

Hitler, of course, provides even greater problems for biographers, because his demonization is a prop of contemporary Jewish hegemony, and there are consequences for any writer who challenges that consensus.

R. H. S. Stolfi’s Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny is one of my favorite books on Hitler. It is not a biography of Hitler, although it is organized chronologically. It is, rather, a kind of “meta-biography,” an essay on the interpretation of Hitler’s life. Stolfi’s project has both positive and negative aspects: Stolfi critiques the existing interpretations of Hitler’s life as a whole and of specific episodes in Hitler’s life, and Stolfi sets forth his own interpretations.

Stolfi’s criticism of Hitler biographies focuses on the work of those he calls the four “great biographers”: John Toland (Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography), Alan Bullock (Hitler: A Study in Tyranny), Joachim Fest (Hitler), and Ian Kershaw (Hitler: 1889-1936, Hubrisand Hitler: 1936-1945, Nemesis). In Stolfi’s words, “the penchant of [Hitler’s] biographers for gratuitous sarcasm, strained skepticism, and writing from preconceived heights of antipathy has left the world with a dangerously inaccurate portrait of Hitler” (p. 54). (Judging from the reception of David Irving’s Hitler’s War and The War Path, the existing establishment regards an accurate portrait of Hitler more dangerous than an inaccurate one.) Four examples of this bias will sufficice:

(1) Ian Kershaw claims that outside of politics, Hitler was an “unperson,” a nullity, which completely ignores Hitler’s voracious reading, serious engagement with and understanding of philosophers like Schopenhauer, love of painting and fine art, remarkable architectural knowledge and skill, and love of classical music, including a connoisseur’s knowledge of the operas of Richard Wagner that impressed the Wagner family and other highly discerning individuals.

(2) Hitler’s biographers invariably denigrate his humble, common origins, coming off like parodies of the worst forms of social snobbery. But of course the same authors would wax sodden and treacly in describing any other man’s rise from poverty and obscurity to fame and fortune. Jesse Owens, for instance.

(3) Stolfi rebuts one of Joachim Fest’s most outrageous liberties as follows: “The great biographers all debunk Nazi theories of racial differences, which they characterise as pseudoscientific and based on unredeemed prejudice, yet one of them [Fest] could claim confidently, without hint of countervailing possibility, that the subject of his biography had ‘criminal features’ set in a ‘psychopathic face'” (p. 268).

(4) The great biographers regularly slight Hitler’s service as a soldier during the First World War, yet as Stolfi points out, Hitler won the Iron Cross First Class, the Iron Cross Second Class, and a regimental commendation for bravery. He was also seriously wounded twice. Hitler never spoke much about what he did to earn these commendations, partly out of his characteristic modesty and reserve, but also probably because he did not wish to relive painful experiences. But even this is twisted by his biographers to cast aspersions on Hitler’s bravery and character. Stolfi notes that with no other historical figure do biographers feel entitled to take such liberties.

Kershaw is the most tendentious of the great biographers, repeatedly characterizing Hitler as an “unperson,” a “nonentity,” a “mediocrity,” and a “failure.” These epithets must surely feel good to Kershaw and like-minded readers, but if they are true, then Hitler’s career is utterly incomprehensible. Stolfi is acerbic, witty, and tireless in skewering the great biographers — although some of his readers might find it tiresome as well.

In addition to offering fascinating interpretations of particular events, Stolfi argues for three overriding theses about Hitler: (1) Hitler cannot be understood as a politician but as a prophet, specifically a prophet forced to take on the role of a messiah; (2) Hitler cannot be understood as an evil man, but as a good man who was forced by circumstances and his own ruthless logic and unemotional “hardness” to do terrible things; and (3) Hitler must be understood as one of the great men of history, indeed as a world-historical figure, who cannot be grasped with conventional moral concepts.

Surely by now you are thinking that our author must be some sort of “discredited,” “marginal,” outsider historian like David Irving, or even a dreaded “revisionist.” So who was Russell Stolfi? Born in 1932, Stolfi is to all appearances an established, mainstream military historian. He was Professor at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and a Colonel in the US Marine Corps Reserve. He is the author of three other books: German Panzers on the Offensive: Russian Front North Africa 1941-1942 (Schiffer Publishing, 2003), Hitler’s Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted (University of Oklahoma, 1993), and NATO Under Attack: Why the Western Alliance Can Fight Outnumbered and Win in Central Europe Without Nuclear Weapons (with F. W. von Mellenthin, Duke University Press, 1983). I first read Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny in May of 2012, and I was so excited that I tried to contact Stolfi for an interview only to learn that he had just died in April.

Politician or Prophet?

Adolf Hitler was a formidable political organizer who took over a minuscule Bavarian debating club and turned it into the largest political party in Germany. After being imprisoned for an abortive Putsch, Hitler decided to attain power legally, through electoral politics. To that end, he virtually created the modern political campaign, traveling tirelessly by automobile and airplane and masterfully employing the mass media of his time. When he became Chancellor, Hitler proved a formidable statesman, transforming Germany with a virtually bloodless revolution and recovering German lands and pride through a series of deft foreign policy triumphs until the British and French started a World War to stop him.

Yet for all that, Stolfi argues that Hitler’s personality, goals, and grand strategy were more like those of a religious prophet, specifically an armed prophet like Mohammed.

Politicians presuppose a common political system and climate of opinion. They generally avoid contesting fundamental principles and instead deal with essentially quantitative differences within the same political and ideological continuum, hence their ability to compromise and their susceptibility to corruption. Stolfi points out again and again that Hitler refused to behave like a politician.

Hitler never compromised on basic principles. He took dangerously unpopular stands (p. 225). He refused to soften the party’s message to appeal to squeamish and lukewarm people. He was no demagogue: “A demagogue tells his audience what it wants to hear. A messiah tells his audience what he wants it to hear” (p. 248). Hitler never worried that his radical views would “discredit” him in the eyes of the public, whose minds were mostly in the grip of his enemies anyway. Instead, Hitler was supremely confident of his ability to lend credit to his ideas through reason and rhetoric. He wanted to elevate public opinion toward truth rather than condescend to pander to ignorance and folly.

Hitler also refused to enter common fronts with enemy parties, especially the Social Democrats, even when they took patriotic stands.

Hitler was, moreover, utterly incorruptible. He refused to make special promises to businessmen and other interest groups. He just handed them the party’s platform. In the end, he was offered the Chancellorship simply because his opponents knew he could not be bought off with anything less.

Revolutionaries deal with fundamental issues of principle, which is why they seek to overthrow existing systems and begin anew. Hitler was, of course, a political revolutionary. But he was something more. He saw himself as the exponent of a whole philosophy of life, not just a political philosophy. He placed politics in a larger biological and historical perspective: the struggle of Aryan man against Jewry and its extended phenotypes Communism and Anglo-Saxon capitalism. He believed the stakes were global: nothing less than the survival of all life on Earth was in peril. And having miraculously survived four years of slaughter and two serious wounds in the trenches of World War I — including an experience that can only be described as supernatural (p. 95) — Hitler believed that he enjoyed the special protection of Providence.

Hitler had a number of heroic role models. As a child, he was transported by Germanic myths and sagas. As a teenager, he identified with the hero of Wagner’s opera Rienzi, based on the story of Cola di Rienzi, the 14th century popular dictator who sought to restore Rome to its Imperial glory but who was undone by the treachery of the aristocracy and church and finally murdered. Hitler prophesied that he would become a tribune of the people who would rise and fall like Rienzi, and he did. Hitler also identified with Wagner’s Lohengrin and Siegfried. Although Hitler himself had little use for the Bible, his later career as armed prophet brings to mind the Hebrew prophets and lawgivers as well. Stolfi’s analogy between Hitler and Mohammed is quite apposite and revealing.

Savior of Germany — and Europe

Hitler, however, apparently did not think of himself as a messiah figure, but more as a John the Baptist, preparing the way for someone greater than him. But, as Stolfi documents, many of Hitler’s closest followers — all of them intelligent men, ranging from mystics like Hess to consummate cynics like Goebbels — as well as some of his more fair-minded enemies, did see him as a messiah figure, and in the end, he was forced to take on that role. Reading Stolfi makes Savitri Devi’s thesis in The Lightning and the Sun that Hitler was an avatar of the god Vishnu seem a little less eccentric. (Savitri did not originate that thesis. It was a view that she encountered widely among educated Hindus in the 1930s.) There was something messianic about Hitler’s aura and actions, and people around the world understood it in terms of their own cultural traditions.

Stolfi does not mention it, but there is a sense in which Hitler was the savior of Germany and all of Western Europe, although his accomplishments fell far short of his ambitions, consumed his life, and devastated his nation. When Hitler launched operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Soviets were poised to launch a massive invasion of all of Central and Western Europe. Hitler pre-empted that invasion, and although he failed to destroy the USSR, the Third Reich was destroyed instead, and Stalin conquered half of Europe, the outcome would have been much worse if Stalin had been able to launch his invasion. Stalin could have conquered all of Europe. At best he would have been repulsed after unimaginable devastation and bloodshed. Thus every Western European who has lived in freedom from want and terror since 1941 owes a debt of thanks to Adolf Hitler, the German people, and their Axis partners.

(See on this site Daniel Michaels, “Exposing Stalin’s Plan to Conquer Europe” and the National Vanguard review of Viktor Suvorov’s Icebreaker; for more recent literature on this subject, see Viktor Suvorov’s definitive statement of his research has been published as The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II [Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2008] and Joachim Hoffmann, Stalin’s War of Extermination, 1941-1945: Planning, Realization and Documentation [Capshaw, Al.: Theses and Dissertations Press, 2001].)

The Question of Evil

In today’s climate of moral relativism and rot, Adolf Hitler is probably the only human being that even liberals will denounce as evil. Hitler is the modern world’s paradigm and embodiment of evil. But of course other people can be evil if they are “like Hitler.” Thus the most radical thesis of Stolfi’s book is that Adolf Hitler was not evil.

There are many dimensions to this argument.

(1) Stolfi points out that there is no evidence that Hitler had psychopathic or sociopathic personality traits as a child. He did not torture animals or steal, for instance. He was polite, serious, and reserved.

(2) Stolfi also points out that Hitler was not primarily motivated by hate or ressentiment. He arrived at his two great enmities, namely against Jewry and Bolshevism, based on personal experience, current events, and extensive research. But when he was rationally convinced of their enormity, he naturally hated them with appropriate magnitude and intensity. As Stolfi writes, “It is difficult to imagine Hitler either as messiah or otherwise and not hating the enemy. Did Jesus the Christ or Mohammed the Prophet hate Satan or merely disapprove of him?” (p. 233).

(3) Calling Hitler evil, like calling him “crazy,” is mentally lazy, because it exempts us from trying to understand the reasons for Hitler’s actions: both his thought processes and objective events that prompted him to act. Hitler had his reasons.

(4) Stolfi argues that Hitler’s character, goals, and actions were not evil. Hitler did what he thought was right, and he was hard enough to spill oceans of blood if he thought it was necessary to advance the greater good. A Socratic, of course, would claim that it is an empty claim, as nobody does evil as such but only under the guise of a perceived good. The evil of an act is in its outcome, not its motive. We all “mean well.”

(5) Stolfi hints that Hitler may have, in a sense, been beyond good and evil, because his goal was nothing less than the creation of a new order, including a new moral order, and it begs the question to subject such men to the moral laws they seek to overthrow. This points us back to Stolfi’s thesis that Hitler has to be seen more as a religious than a political figure and forward to his third major thesis, that Hitler was a world-historical individual.

Stolfi deals with a number of episodes in Hitler’s life that are adduced as evidence of evil. Stolfi argues that some of these acts are not evil at all. He others that others were necessary or mitigated evils.

And he claims that still others were no more evil than the actions of other great men of history who nevertheless manage to receive respectful treatment from biographers. Finally, Stolfi argues that all of these acts, even the evil ones, do not necessarily make Hitler an evil man, for even good men can commit horrific acts if they believe they are necessary to promote a greater good.

(1) Stolfi argues that Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch and other violations of the laws of the Weimar Republic are somewhat softened by the fact that he believed that the Weimar Republic was an illegitimate and criminal regime. Hitler’s early attempts to defy it and replace it are not, therefore, “evil,” unless all acts of disobedience and revolution against governments as such are evil. In any case, after his release from prison, Hitler adopted a policy of strict legality: he pursued the Chancellorship through electoral politics, and he won.

(2) Stolfi argues that the creation of the Sturm Abteilungen (Storm Troops) was not motivated by a desire to violently intimidate political opponents and seize power. Instead, the SA was formed in self-defense against organized Communist efforts to violently intimidate political opponents and seize power, violence that had effectively suppressed the ability of all Right-wing parties to assemble. The SA did not merely assure the NSDAP’s freedom to assemble and organize, it broke the Red terror and restored political freedom to all parties.

(3) Stolfi argues that the Röhm purge was necessary because there was ample evidence that Röhm himself was plotting a coup, and, true or not, Hindenburg, the leaders of the military, and Hitler’s top lieutenants all believed it to be true. Hindenburg threatened to declare martial law and have the army deal with Röhm if Hitler would not. Hitler had to act, because if he didn’t, he would be effectively deposed: he would be abdicating the sovereign function to decide and act for the good of the people to Hindenburg and the army. Even so, Hitler temporized to the last possible moment.

R. H. S. Stolfi, 1932–2012
R. H. S. Stolfi, 1932–2012

Stolfi claims that Röhm’s death was a kind of apotheosis for Hitler: “By June 1934, Hitler stood poised to pass beyond friendship with any man into the realm of the lonely, distant Leader. But Hitler could never pass into that realm with Röhm alive and serving as a reminder of Hitler’s own historical mortality. Röhm had to die, and Hitler had to kill him” (p. 306). But this was not, of course, Hitler’s motive for killing him.

Ultimately, Stolfi judges Röhm’s death to be politically necessary and morally excusable. He describes it not as a cool, premeditated murder but as a “crime of passion” of a man faced with the infidelity of a sworn confidant (p. 309). Of course, the Röhm purge was the occasion for settling a number of other old scores, which complicates Stolfi’s moral picture considerably.

(4) Stolfi evidently thinks there was nothing evil at all about Hitler’s assumption of dictatorial powers — through a provision in the Weimar constitution — or his suppression of a political movement as destructive and implacable as Marxism. But he praises the relative bloodlessness of Hitler’s legal revolution.

(5) As for the concentration camps off to which Hitler packed the leaders of the Marxist parties and other subversive groups: in 1935, when the German population stood at 65 million, the concentration camp inmates numbered 3,500, most of them Communists and Social Democrats. The camp system and its mandate were expanded to house people in protective custody for being social nuisances, including beggars, drunks, homosexuals (homosexuality was criminalized under the Second Reich, remained criminalized under Weimar, and was criminalized in the liberal democracies too), gypsies, and habitual criminals — by 1939 there were 10 camps with 25,000 inmates in a country of 80 million people. That doesn’t seem quite as evil as it was cracked up to be. Furthermore, since Himmler and Heydrich certainly did not lack persecuting zeal and organizational skill, we can conclude that the camp system was exactly as big as they thought it should be.

To give some context, according to Wikipedia — where statistics about Soviet atrocities tend to be on the low end due to Marxist policing — in March of 1940, the Soviet Gulag comprised 53 separate camps and 423 labor colonies in which approximately 1.3 million people were interned out of a population of 170 million. Whatever the real size, it was exactly as big as Stalin wanted it to be.

Although I have not been able to find records of similar forms of internment in liberal democracies for political dissidents and social nuisances, these surely did take place. But even in the absence of these numbers, it it seems clear that Hitler’s camps were far more similar to the prisons of liberal democracies than the Soviet Gulag to which they are always likened.

Of course, these were peacetime numbers. Under the exigencies of war, Hitler’s camp system expanded dramatically to house hostile populations, prisoners of war, and conscript laborers, which is another topic.

(6) Hitler’s anti-Semitism is often put forward as evidence of evil. Hitler himself thought that certain forms of anti-Semitism were repugnant if not outright evil: religious anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on ressentiment, gutter populist scapegoating, etc. His repugnance for such phenomena prejudiced him against anti-Semitism as such. But his personal experiences in Vienna, combined with serious reading eventually led him to a dispassionate, scientifically based, and historically informed anti-Semitism.

When Hitler took power, Germany had a relatively small Jewish population. His basic policy was to prevent any further German-Jewish genetic admixture, remove Jews from positions of power and influence, and encourage Jews to emigrate. By the outbreak of the Polish war, Germany’s Jewish population had been dramatically reduced. But due to Hitler’s war gains, millions of new Jews fell into his remit. More about this anon. Stolfi is somewhat circumspect in passing judgment about Hitler’s peacetime Jewish policy. But we can safely say that it was no more evil than, say, the British treatment of Boer non-combatants or the American treatment of the Plains Indians.

(7) Regarding Hitler’s foreign policy exploits as Chancellor — including rearmament, pulling out of the League of Nations, remilitarizing the Rhineland, the annexation of the Sudetenland and Austria, the annexation of Bohemia, and the war with Poland — Stolfi writes, “every international crisis that involved Hitler in the 1930s stemmed from an iniquity on the part of the Allies in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919” (p. 316). According to Stolfi, in all of these crises, morality was on Hitler’s side, and he lauds Hitler for conducting them with restraint and relative bloodlessness — at least up until the Polish war.

These were hardly the outrageous, unendurable moral provocations of Allied propaganda that justified Britain and France starting a World War because Hitler, having exhausted diplomatic negotiations, started a war with Poland to recover German lands and peoples subjected to horrific Polish oppression. The British and French simply could not grasp that, in Stolfi’s words, “a world-historical personality had marched, outraged, out of the desert of shattered Flanders fields, and the former Allies had not even superior morality to shield themselves from him” (p. 317).

(8) Stolfi interprets Operation Barbarossa against the USSR as a colonial war of conquest as well as a crusade to rid Europe of the scourge of Bolshevism. From an ethnonationalist perspective, of course, Hitler’s aim to reduce Slavs to colonized peoples was evil. Furthermore, it was more evil than British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, American, and Russian imperialism directed at non-European peoples, because it is always worse to mistreat one’s own blood than foreigners. But it was certainly not uniquely evil in the annals of human history. If Genghis Khan and Timur the Lame can be the subjects of objective historical assessments, then Barbarossa does not disqualify Hitler.

Stolfi does not treat Barbarossa as a necessary war to preempt Stalin’s planned invasion of Europe. I wanted to ask Stolfi his thoughts about the thesis defended by Viktor Suvorov and Joachim Hoffmann in an interview, but that was not to be. If they are right, of course, than there was no evil at all in launching Barbarossa, although one can justly criticize the excesses of its execution.

(9) According to Stolfi, Hitler’s darkest deeds are the massacre of 3.1 million Soviet POWs captured in the opening months of Barbarossa and the killing of 4.5 million Jews in what is known as the Holocaust. Stolfi is certainly a Hitler revisionist, but I do not know whether he is a Holocaust revisionist or not, since I am unsure if it is legal for him to think that “only” 4.5 million Jews were killed by the Third Reich. I had not even heard of the 3.1 million Soviet POWs, which Stolfi mentions only a couple of times in passing. But of course I have heard of the Holocaust, to which Stolfi dedicates the last two paragraphs of the book (pp. 461–62). Such a brief treatment may itself constitute revisionism, at least in France, where Jean-Marie Le Pen was fined for saying that the Holocaust was only a footnote to the Second World War. Given that some footnotes are longer than the paragraphs in question, Stolfi might have gotten in trouble in the land of liberté. Stolfi’s treatment, however, is a welcome corrective to the Jewish tendency to treat World War II as merely the backdrop of the Holocaust.

Of course, just as Hitler is our age’s paradigm of an evil man, the Holocaust is the paradigm of an evil event. Stolfi does not dispute that the massacre of 7.6 million people is evil. But he does not think it is uniquely evil in World War II or the annals of history in general. Winston Churchill, for example, was responsible for the starvation of millions of Indians whose food was seized for the war effort. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of German non-combatants in strategically unnecessary terror bombings of German cities. He was responsible for the expulsion of 14 million Germans from their homes in Eastern and Central Europe, up to two million of whom died. Was Churchill evil? His apologists, of course, would argue that his actions were necessitated by the exigencies of war and the pursuit of the greater good. But Hitler’s apologists, if there were any, could argue the very same thing and be done with it. If Churchill, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Julius Caesar, and other members of the Million Murder club can receive fair treatment in a biography, then why not Hitler?

Stolfi compares the Holocaust to Julius Caesar’s 10 year conquest of Gaul, in which he killed more than a million armed men and reduced another million to slavery. One million civilian non-combatants were also killed or reduced to slavery. Some particularly troublesome tribes were entirely exterminated because they were “irreconcilable, menacing, and useless either as allies or slaves” (p. 38). Stolfi points out, however, that Caesar’s acts “revealed harshness of almost incredible proportion,” but his acts were “based on realism and prudence in the face of perceived danger — scarcely sadism and cruelty” (p. 38). Likewise, Stolfi argues that “Hitler took the action of pitiless massacre as a last resort in the face of a perceived irreconcilable enemy” and his actions “showed virtually nothing that can be interpreted as sadism, cruelty, or ingrained hate as opposed to temporary fury in the carrying out of the action” (p. 39).

Hitler’s massacres, terrible though they may be, do not prove that he is an evil man, since even good men might resort to such measures in direst extremity. Moreover, even if they were expressions of evil, they were not unique expressions of unique evil but all too common in the annals of history. But, again, only in Hitler’s case are they treated as insuperable objections to serious historical treatment.

In sum, Stolfi argues that Hitler cannot be seen as evil if that means that he was motivated by sadism, psychopathy, hatred, or a neurotic need for power and attention. Instead, Hitler was motivated, first and foremost, by love of his people, beyond which were wider but less pressing concerns with the larger Aryan race, European civilization, and the welfare of the world as a whole. Because Hitler believed that the things he loved were imperiled by Jewry, Bolshevism, and Anglo-Saxon capitalism, he fought them. And when the fight became a world conflagration, he fought them with a remarkable hardness and severity. But his essentially decent character and positive ends remained unchanged. Thus for Stolfi, Hitler is a good man who did some bad things as well as good things — a good man who made many good decisions and some catastrophic mistakes.

A Dark World Historical Personality

But there is a sense in which Stolfi thinks that Hitler is beyond the very categories of good and evil, at least as far as historians should be concerned. Stolfi argues that Hitler was a great man, like such great conquerors as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon. (Stolfi makes scant...

Read in full parts 1 and 2 of this review at counter-currents DOT com
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on September 20, 2015
"...Hitler," writes R. H. S. Stolfi, "was not a moral man, and as the mighty form he had become would trample down many an innocent flower, crush to pieces many an object in his path."

After reading this excellent, book the above quote seemed to me the best summation of Adolf Hitler's extraordinary life and career. This book takes that extraordinary life and career and analyzes the man from a cold, rational point of view in the way that no other authors have done. And from that point of view one cannot walk away from the book without a deeper understanding and appreciation for the central figure of the 20th, and part of the 21st Century.

Stolfi argues that Hitler, far from being a cruel, megalomaniacal, tyrant was more of a messiah and prophet of the German people who came along at a time when Germany most needed such a figure. He also corrects many of the slanders against Hitler made by his hostile biographers.

1. Hitler was not a personally cruel man. There are no incidents in his childhood of torturing small animals, lighting fires, etc. which usually signal a cruel serial killer in adulthood. Indeed, he showed a great deal of love for animals, women, and especially the German People.

2. Hitler was not a lousy soldier, indeed his exploits in the First World War were nothing short of spectacular. He was decorated several times for valor. His job as a messenger was dangerous, important, and done by Hitler excellently. His record as a soldier stands out among a generation of Europeans where millions of men served in dangerous jobs in the military. Hostile biographies who contradict those ideas are simply engaging in "Swift-Boating."

3. Hitler had the soul of an artist and he applied those ideas to politics to success after success from 1923, until 1942...when the Eastern Front became a war of attrition he couldn't win. Far from being a lousy artist, Hitler was a very competent painter of buildings and his talents in architecture impressed even Albert Speer. One must wonder what Hitler's Berlin would look like should he have won the war. I might also add, Hitler's Nazi flag and other symbols are easily recognizable, highly imitated, and artistically well done.

4. Far from being a madman who had subordinates cowering in fear, Hitler was the object of intense personal loyalty. In his abortive Beer Hall Putsch, his bodyguard literally took bullets meant for Hitler. This behavior by his followers was repeated again and again until the very end.

5. Hitler's anti-Semitism was an ideology that was carefully and rationally thought through. Hitler saw first hands the problems with "vibrant diversity" in his Vienna days and saw the Jewish role in Bolshevism quite clearly.

6. Stolfi argues that most of Hitler's tactical decisions were good and based on carefully crafted ideas of Hitler to create buffer states and colonial areas for Germany to carry out her national ambitions. His vision in the East of Europe was indeed sound. Since the fall of the Soviet Union every nation which sent it's young men into the Waffen SS in WWII have joined NATO or been involved in pro-NATO/EU political conflicts. Think here of the amazing parallels with the nations carved out of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the breakups of the various SSR's of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Critical Thinking:

This book is very sympathetic to Hitler and is nearly impossible to put down, however the mistakes which Hitler made after 1940 are glossed over. Stolfi argues that Hitler should have won the war in August 1941 with a drive to Moscow. He argues that the capture of the Soviet Capital would have made the rotten mess that was the Soviet Union collapse. This reviewer is not so sure. The Poles and French did capture Moscow, to no effect. Stalin could have moved his government East like the others. The rotten mess of the Soviet Union did collapse within the lifetimes of the Russian defenders of Stalingrad but more through internal decay. It is every bit as likely when looking on a complex historical circumstance that the attack on the Soviet Union breathed life into the Communist Empire which gave it a few more decades. Hitler could have sponsored revolution and insurgency in the USSR for far less risk.

It seems to this reviewer that Hitler's biggest mistake was not influencing the domestic elections of the United Kingdom. There was plenty of opportunities for a separate peace with Great Britain and they seem to have been squandered by the messianic vision. Hitler also seemed to be unable to avoid growing the war. Abraham Lincoln, a messianic figure as well as a down-in-the dirt politician shrewdly avoided spreading his war of National Unity although there were close calls with both Japan and Great Britain.

The chapter about Hitler's purging of Ernst Rohm is perhaps the most interesting and instructive. Rohm was a danger to himself and others, his reckless pursuit of revolution and dispute with the towering figure of Hitler leading National Socialism into a sort of stability are very instructive of the loneliness of leadership. In short, should you be a leader, one can solidify your position by getting rid of a troublesome, over-familiar subordinate, although one doesn't need to go as far as Hitler did with Rohm.

In short, this book is excellent, indeed beyond excellent.
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on July 9, 2015
If you aren't well read by other historians books on Hitler then this will be a hard and boring read for you. Having said that, I absolutely loved this work. A work on Hitler without all the dogma hype such as "madman", "insane dictator" etc., buy an honest evaluation of the facts and an impartial interpretation of those facts. Stolfi presents Hitler as any other historical figure and does not vilify the German Chancellor, nor glorify him either and allows the reader to make up their own minds regarding the former Chancellor of Germany. Quite refreshing really.
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on April 25, 2013
In the normal course of things, it usually doesn't take that long after the death of a person of significance for passions to cool and objectivity rein when historians begin to sit in judgement. Even in the case of wartime enemies, ordinary Americans have been remarkably quick to jettison the baggage of official propaganda once we've achieved victory, and in some cases even embrace the leading figures of our erstwhile enemies. Did Americans ever really_hate_George III? Did we feel_anything_about the Kaiser after WWI? We came to idolize Robert E. Lee after the Civil War and romanticized Emperor Hirohito once we showed him who was boss.

In the case of Hitler however, historians are still- almost 70 years after his death, hobbled by a set of rules, unofficial but as iron-clad as divine writ, about how he should be presented to the masses: to wit- as an ignorant, cowardly, sexually deviant, one-testicled, no-talent artist who gained power by mesmerizing the German people solely on the force of his oratory which, contradictorily enough, was of comical crudity and amounted to nothing more than screaming anti-Jewish slogans. He achieved economic success for Germany by military spending, he took over countries unjustly, he "started" World War II and initiated "The Holocaust." When the historical facts won't stand even twisting, then historians must resort to outright fabrication.

Such strictures of thought control are unprecedented in our history. It is, of course, because Hitler chose to confront two international, overlapping groups- Judaism and Communism- who neither forgive nor forget. When those 2 groups emerged from WWII victorious over both Hitler and Western civilization, they were determined that their captive populations should hate their masters' greatest enemy and his principles as much as they did, and thus instituted a regimen of 24/7/365 propaganda that replaced the Cross with the gas chamber, that replaced original sin with our White skin, that replaced Christianity with the Holocaust and that replaced the devil with Hitler. Dissidents from the official line are personally and professionally destroyed, by the powerful forces that regulate thought in this country.

The author of this incredible book, who is either brave or reckless or, perhaps, judging himself immune from retribution because of his advanced age and retired status, has written the first objective evaluation of Hitler and first professional critique of the historiography of Hitler's biographers. The biographers he exposes as court historians, who tell demonstrable lies as they dismiss Hitler as insignificant in 900 page tomes. Stolfi correctly regarded such simultaneous diminution and obsession as contradictory and so undertook this objective examination of Hitler. What he reveals is that, regardless of how one "feels" about Hitler, he was a personally exceptional man whose political accomplishments would objectively rank him as a World-Historical figure as great as, if not greater, than men such as Caesar or Napoleon.

Stolfi is no Nazi apologist. He acknowledges Hitler's actions against the Jews and offers some perspicacious criticism of Hitler's war conduct. But he honestly weighs him in the historical scales and quite correctly judges him as the very opposite of the insignificant figure his biographers claim him to be. If you want propaganda, look elsewhere. Read this book if you want to know the truth about Hitler.
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