- Hardcover: 720 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (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: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 14, 2007
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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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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 Stalinwhich, 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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Overall the focus is on political history and the behind the scenes machinations of those in power rather than the details of the military campaigns and other overt events. If you have already some familiarity with the history of the period you are going to appreciate the book even more.
The book also brings forth the fact that both Stalin and Hitler had many eager followers that often exceeded their orders in imposing terror and killing people. While this phenomenon does not absolve the evil dictators of their crimes it is also points out the darker sides of human nature that often come into play and, maybe, we should pay more attention to the latter forces than to whoever happens to be their leader. The modern parallel seems to be the excessive focus on bin-Ladden rather than the factors that make certain people flock to his cause.
There are several little known stories that are presented in the book and there is no space to mention all of them so I pick only two, both on page 290, that struck me the most. One is a statement by Admiral Raeder about Hitler "... In my opinion he was a great and talented politician in the first years, whose national and social aims were already known for years, and which found an echo in the armed forces as well as among the German people." Keep in mind that the "aims" included extreme anti-Semitism. The second story on the same page is that of the enthusiastic support of the Nazis by the young lieutenant von Stauffenberg who gained fame later by his attempted assassination of Hitler in July 1944. The story gives further credence to the argument that the conspiracy against Hitler was motivated not by principled opposition to his aims, but mainly by disappointment that his leadership was causing Germany to lose the war. (After all the "coup" occurred less than two months after the Normandy landing.)