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Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 14, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Gellately's (Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany) new work insists on Lenin's inclusion in any effort to understand the two major and deadly dictatorships of 20th-century Europe, Soviet communism and Nazism. Every horrendous act of the Stalin era had been seeded by Lenin, the author argues. Moreover, the Soviet and Nazi systems developed in tandem, each carefully eying the other, learning from each other, as they both reached an apex of brutality and terror. In developing this analysis, Gellately provides informed but somewhat plodding accounts of the two systems. Not all of the arguments stand up to scrutiny. In the 1930s, the struggle between Communism and Nazism became a deadly rivalry for world domination the author writes. But in the 1930s Stalin cared for little beyond the Soviet Union and was hardly bent on global conquest. Gellately's approach is relentlessly one-sided in its focus on ideology as the causative factor in history. Even the civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution is treated as backdrop for the implementation of ideology, rather than as an earthquake-like event that well into the 1950s shaped the thinking of Soviet leaders. Gellately is better on the Third Reich, but overall this is an unsatisfying and uninspired history. 16 pages of photos. (Aug. 20)
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From Booklist

A historian of Nazi Germany (Backing Hitler, 2001), Gellately here compares it to its totalitarian enemy, Soviet communism. At pains to distinguish the two dictatorships both ideologically and by their political support, Gellately reviews their roots in the rubble of World War I. Underscoring Lenin's contempt for liberal democracy and dedication to mass violence, the author argues that Leninism had a logical continuator in Stalin—which, while not an original thesis, is one that Gellately capably sustains. Switching to Germany and the radically anti-Semitic nationalist resentments from which Hitler emerged, the author tracks events in the Nazi ascent to power and stresses the popularity Hitler had acquired by the late 1930s. Having poised history before what became the Holocaust, Gellately, as part of his argument for the uniqueness of the Holocaust, however similar numerically it was to Stalin's death tolls, details the menaces in Hitler's rhetoric, such as his notorious 1939 "prophecy" of Jewish "annihilation" in the event of war. But discussing either tyrant, Gellately achieves his aim of describing for general readers the draconian inhumanity of their rules. Taylor, Gilbert
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040056
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,265,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Antonio on September 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book wanders over well-tilled ground. How many books have there been on Hitler and the Nazis, on the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks, on Lenin and Stalin? Yet it does bring the old facts into new light. The Germans made Lenin, because they ferried him and his compères from Zürich to Petrograd in 1917, as a way to cause a Revolution and end the war in the Western Front. Bolshevik barbarism, begun by Lenin and ably furthered by Stalin, briefly emulated by followers in Austria, Germany, Hungary and elsewhere, terrified the Germans, a nation of property-owners. Thus, when the Great Depression struck and millions of Germans found themselves unemployed after hyperinflation in 1923 had destroyed their savings, and the Communists tried several times to overthrow the Government, many bürgers were only too happy to give their vote to the Nazis.

Nazi terror was totally different from the Bolshevik variety. Practically anyone could be victimized in Lenin and Stalin's Soviet Union, even old-time Communists: Stalin killed most of them in his successive Terrors. Not in Hitler's Germany: there, only unpopular outsider groups were reppressed, like Communists (whom even the Socialists were happy to see in concentration camps), gypsies, homosexuals and of course Jews. Only in its final winter did Nazism really exhibit its nihilistic face in Germany itself, as portrayed in Eric Johnson's "Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite the title, Lenin only appears in the introductory chapters. Gellately carefully reminds us of Lenin's extreme ruthlessness and his enthusiasm for executions and terror as weapons to establish his intended Soviet utopia, thus establishing the pattern that was developed by Stalin. But the bulk of the book is focused after Lenin's time, on the vast repressions of Hitler and Stalin's regimes.

One of the themes of the book is the degree to which Soviet communism drove the rise of Nazism. Gellately argues strongly that Hitler could never have gained power without the threat and example of Russian revolutionary terror. The various attempts in 1918-1920 to launch a Bolshevik revolution in Germany all failed disastrously, but combined with the nearby presence of a Soviet Union spouting world revolutionary rhetoric, they caused many to look in alarm for strong anti-communist leaders. This quest returned in force with the great depression and the perceived failure of the Weimar democracy. And, fatefully, in order to combat the feared Red Menace, many seemed to believe that aping its ruthless methods was both legitimate and necessary.

Gellately also explores how Hitler linked Judaism and Bolshevism, so that the threat to Germany became the "Bolshevik Jews". This wasn't a particularly obvious linkage, but Hitler somehow managed to create a mythical "Jewish Bolshevism" that bizarrely combined the alleged Jewish masterminds of Wall Street and Moscow into a single threat against the German race. This phantasm served Hitler well, as a single scapegoat for all of Germany's ills, but left the Jews doubly exposed.

Gellately highlights the very different relationships the Soviet and Nazi systems had with the mass of the populace.
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Format: Paperback
I've read a few histories on Nazism and Soviet Communism, and this was one of the best. It is a complicated, multi-faceted book; at times depressingly negative, but it answered a least two very difficult questions that I, and many others, often ask:

1) What were some of the major reasons why Hitler particularly hated the Jews? What did he have against them, other than mere xenophobia (fear of difference/strangers)?

2) How did the German people allow such a monster to get into power in the first place?

Another, less well-known but very important question may be asked:
3) What role did Soviet Communism play in the rise and decline of Nazism, and to European history in general in the first half of the 20th century?

To find answers to the first question one needs to understand Germany's situation after WW1. In Hitler's, and many other German's minds, Germany in the 1920s was being destroyed by both internationally exploitative capitalism (eg war reparations), and subversive, perverted, communist- Bolshevism. In Hitler's mind, both were designed, and orchestrated by,' international Jewry', ultimately for world domination. The German (Communist) Revolution of 1918-19, which Hitler witnessed, and, as he said, swore an oath to destroy, was a major formative factor in Hitler's mind. (And the underlying reason for his war against Russia 22 years later). He saw the great enemy of Germany, as subversive Bolshevism, which he also saw as run by Jews, as a race, which in his mind, were always attempting to undermine a nation's strength through conspiracies such as communism; therefore, in his mind, they had to be totally destroyed as a race; women and children and men together.
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