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Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship Hardcover – July 1, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Usually, accounts of Hitler start with WWI and his subsequent rise to power in Munich. And usually, histories of Vienna in the early part of this century focus on the Secession, on Freud, on Viktor Adler. But in her carefully argued and smartly written book, Hamann (The Reluctant Empress) creates a portrait that shows the evolution of a far different city, one that for five years, between 1908 and 1913, shaped one young provincial. This is a Vienna of poor laborers who live in men's hostels and are the willing fodder of Social Democrats and Pan-Germans alike. Waves of immigrants (among them Jews fleeing Russian pogroms) and the introduction of equal suffrage in 1906 gave rise to a virulent crop of chauvinistic German politicians and theoreticians who shaped Hitler's worldview, from his racism to his use of "Fuhrer" and "Heil," both adopted from Pan-German activist Georg Schonerer. Unlike many biographers, Hamann finds the roots of Hitler's anti-Semitism here, rather than in run-ins with Jewish professors at the Academy of Visual Arts (there were none), a Jewish grandfather (the evidence, she convincingly argues, is lacking) or a syphilitic Jewish prostitute (Hitler was inordinately afraid of both infection and women). Hamann also traces other crucial aspects of Hitler's development to his time in Vienna: his fascination with the mechanics of theater and the political symbolism of architecture, and his hatred of parliamentarianism. Hamann's deep knowledge of Vienna and her skeptical approach to previous sources results in a double-sided portrait that will help readers understand both the Dual Monarchy and WWI and the Third Reich and WWII. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Hamann's deep knowledge of Vienna and her skeptical approach to previous sources results in a double-sided portrait that will help readers to understand both the Dual Monarchy and WWI and the Third Reich and WWII."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A virtuoso piece both of research and exposition...Brigitte Hamann is an author of great flair, as well as being thorough, scholarly, and thoughtful." --Robert Evans, Oxford university
"The world needs another Hitler biography like it needs another squirrel, but his one is different and worth the effort.... Hamann paints a fascinating picture of the events and readings that shaped the young Hitler. Much of this information will be unfamiliar to American readers, and translator Thornton has done a masterful job of inserting notes to help those unfamiliar with the details of Austrian history. Highly recommended for any library with serious interest in 20th-century European history."--Library Journal
"A fascinating and impressive book...whether one accepts its underlying thesis, Hitler's Vienna serves as a prologue to the inhuman." --George Steiner, [London] Times Literary Supplement
"A valuable social history of Vienna's netherworld and an attempt at explaining Hitler's anti-Semitism."--Kirkus Reviews
"All previous psyho-historical studies, which rest on false assumptions regarding Hitler's youth, simply become redundant." --Hans Mommsen
"Does away with long-established myths." --Berliner Zeitung
"The multitude of facts which Brigette Hamann has gathered about Hitler's early years is both stunning and chilling." --Gunter Fischer, Suddeutsche Zeitung
"Hitler's Vienna shows a sympathetic, even necessary, meticulousness [and] magisterial treatment of the sources...it replaces not only earlier single studies, but a whole library." -- Die Welt
"No-one has produced such an extensive and well-founded picture of the climate and milieu in which Hitler was socialised. [Hamann's] description of the life of the Viennese underclass, especially, is evocative in the extreme....the book crosses the boundaries between scholarship and popular history in exemplary fashion." --Dr. Neil Gregor of Southampton University (UK) and author of Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich
Until this book was written hitlers first 25 years were, with few exceptions such as ian kershaw, often given little attention. Fortunately this book solves this problem. Hamann has researched the subject in great detail and gives an in depth thorough account of hitlers life from 1889 to 1914. His family is described in great detail and so are the various homes in which he lived. In addition a good and detailed description is given of daily life as a whole in the towns and cities in which Hitler lived. There is also an excellent description of the events, politicians and movements which may have made an impact on Hitler in these years. --By C. Nielsen
Understandably, Brigitte Hamann likes Vienna more than Hitler. She shows us around the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with great authority and is a Sherlock Holmes for tracking down remnants of Hitler's stay there prior to his move to Munich. She starts with a long chapter on Hitler's background in provincial Linz. Moving to Vienna, Hamann describes the galleries and operas he attended and the multilingual parliamentary debates that infuriated him. She tells the stories of the politicians Georg Schönerer, leader of the minority Pan-German party and Christian Socialist Karl Lueger whom Hitler sought to emulate. She tells us of his life in the rented rooms and hostels where he stayed; about the ambitions of the trade unionists and lives of the Czech and Jewish communities. This colours in the sketches Hitler gave in Mein Kampf and his friend August Kubizek in The Young Hitler I Knew, from which she draws. She also speculates on what he read, probably including Houston Stewart Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Gustav Le Bon's Psychology of Crowds and perhaps Nietzsche, though she is sceptical of Kubizek on this latter. Perhaps the replacement of physical by social anthropology in our culture has made the influence of Chamberlain hard for us to grasp. My feeling is that she underestimates the influence of Vienna on Hitler. Quibbles and second-guessing apart though, this is an exhaustive, well-written and absorbing book on its subject. --By Stephen Cowley
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is really less about Hitler himself than about the forces which helped to shape his weltanschauung. Though he reportedly not an anti-Semite as a youth, it was in Vienna that Hitler learned the language of anti-semitism and nationalism.
As I engrossed myself in the book, my thoughts often wandered to comparing the identity politics and quota demands of Austro-Hungarian politicians with the increasing ethnic balkanization here in the United States and wondered whether such a man as Hitler could not one day spring from our political landscape.
One of the chief things I learned is that political and ethnic anti-Semitism was already a very potent force among both the more radical German-nationalist followers of Georg Schoenerer as well as among the more mainstream supporters of the enormously popular mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger. There was also a large groundswell of anti-Czech sentiment due to a heavy flow of Czechs into Vienna and to the mistreatment by Czechs of Germans in Sudetenland, a situation that Hitler was later to temporarily rectify.
The most surprising fact about Hitler brought to light is that he had many Jewish friends during his Vienna days. And I had to laugh at the part where he was described by a former fellow boarder at the men's hostel as having arrived wearing shoulder-length hair and wearing nothing but a coat because he didn't have a shirt.
Though the book adds much to what we knew of Hitler, it comes no closer than any other of really getting inside his head to explain his true motivations. After all, hundreds of thousands of Europeans hated Jews and lived through the same hardships that young Hitler did, but only Hitler took that extra step and made the end of Jewry his life's work. Nevertheless, this book is a very valuable study and is an easy and fascinating read that comes highly recommended to all those who yearn to know more about the life and times of Adolf Hitler.
Particularly useful is Hamann's analysis of the prominent politicians of the day. She first described these leaders and their political ups and downs. Then, with the testimony of the witnesses who knew Hitler during those years, she deftly draws a picture of the formative influences that helped shape the mature dictator. Hitler was obsessed with politics and he learned what worked and what did not work during those early years in Vienna. Many of his later policies first saw the light of day in the Vienna of his youth. There is a chilling passage about the problem of gypsy pickpockets expected for the 60 Anniversary Parade in honor of Emperor Franz Joseph, in 1908. One solution, seriously presented in Parliament at the time, was to tattoo a number on the forearm of every gypsy.
Hamann also provides an in-depth analysis of the Austro-Hungarian attempt at a multi-ethnic parliamentarism, the chaos and the inefficiency that it brought, and the consequent neglect for the common people. The Pan-German movement, which clearly influenced the young Hitler is clearly explained in considerable detail. At times while reading this book, I had to pause and remind myself that the period under review presaged the rise of Adolf Hitler to power by some 20 years!
Out of the murk emerges Hitler as a young man obsessed by politics, hot tempered, forceful in argument, with poor work habits, odd hours, and a penchant for talk. Hamann's decision to look at the politics that helped him to formulate his world view is brilliant history. This fascinating book is very worthy of your attention.