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Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw

Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris (original 1998; edition 2000)

by Ian Kershaw

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1,031168,214 (4.23)25
Title:Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris
Authors:Ian Kershaw
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2000), Paperback, 912 pages
Collections:Your library, read, insightful books
Tags:biography, Adolf Hitler

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Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw (1998)


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History, but more gripping than any novel. Details Hitler's rise to power in the twenties. Leaves you staggered that this could appen in a modern society. Object lesson in the dangers of extreme political polarization. ( )
  steve.lane | Nov 28, 2015 |
Heavy going in places and short on his personal life, but a very detailed account of each part of Hitler's development. Fascinating are the opportunities to stop his rise and the perfect storm of the economy, Versailles and a contemporary German appetite for authority that delivers him to power. It's terrible, and compelling. ( )
1 vote mancmilhist | Aug 28, 2014 |
Like most people alive today, I'm only a generation or so away from people who were involved in the Second World War. What happened in Nazi Germany isn't an abstract bit of history, but it's something that had direct and severe effects on people very close to me. I've therefore grown up with the notion of Hitler as a "special case", the one person you can't abstract into a "character from history" and the one character from history that you daren't identify with as a person. Reading a biography of him feels like a risky act: the idea of seeing Hitler in the normal human terms — someone who is born, quarrels with his parents, goes to school, etc. — is a distinctly uncomfortable one. It feels like tangling with dangerous knowledge.

Kershaw is well aware of this. He most definitely doesn't manage to identify with his subject in the way biographers usually do: Hitler remains very much at arm's length throughout this book. More than anything else, especially in the early chapters, we are presented with Hitler as someone estranged from the world around him. He didn't have any close contact with friends or family, he never studied, he wasn't religious, he doesn't seem to have had a sex life, he never learned a trade, he evaded military service in Austria, except as a soldier in the First World War he never had a job, he didn't have any identifiable cultural interest apart from a passion for Wagner (which Kershaw doesn't examine in any depth) — up to 1919 his existence is just a string of negatives. Had it not been for the chance that he stayed in the army and was assigned to propaganda work, he might easily have ended up as a kind of Franz Biberkopf, a petty criminal leading a hand-to-mouth existence on the fringes of society, with a few crazy ideas he was fond of airing in bars.

The question how Hitler got from that point to becoming Chancellor in 1933 is not a trivial one, and Kershaw doesn't propose any simple answer. Part of it is clearly down to Hitler's abilities as an actor and public speaker (it seems improbable that he developed these skills out of nothing in the few months he was on political duties in the army, but we don't get any other explanation); Kershaw makes it clear that another large part was due to the opportunism and irresponsible self-interest of various groups in German society that saw no point in maintaining democracy.

This book certainly isn't a comfortable read, but I felt it did add a good deal of perspective to the picture of Hitler I had in my mind. Kershaw's background as someone who has spent his career studying the way others saw Hitler is uniquely well-adapted for this, even if it does tend to leave a bit of a blank space at the very centre of the narrative.

Kershaw is not the best and most fluent of narrative historians, and his prose style has clearly been damaged by years of reading bureaucratic German: all too often you have to re-read a sentence to try to work out where the verb is. He also has a few words he habitually misuses (especially "epicentre"). But these are minor issues, and only interfere minimally with the effectiveness of the book. Certainly not enough to discourage you from moving on to the second volume. ( )
  thorold | Nov 4, 2012 |
This was assigned for a graduate seminar on fascism, and I must say I did not at first look forward to having a two-volume biography of Hitler on my shelves. But Kershaw's magnum opus (including both this volume, Hubris, and the second volume, Nemesis) is a keeper. It's a sensitive, convincing, readable biography of Hitler with plenty of context to shed light on the times.
  Muscogulus | Jul 29, 2012 |
The character of the subject of this book is set forth succinctly in the last word of the title. One of the first pictures in the book is a shot from a school picture showing Hitler at about 12. He is standing erect with his arms clasped across his chest and a cold stare on his face. The cover picture of Hitler as an adult has the stronger, adult, version of the same stare.
This book was very informative and well written. An exceptional feature of the author's writing is his understated style. It allows him to write about some truly horrible people and events without terrorizing the reader. You cannot write an effective book about this person without that skill.
The author uses an incredible amount of detail to convey thoroughly the life and times of Adolf Hitler. There is an interesting section which analyzes when and where Hitler became a rabid anti-semite. The author makes sure not to sensationalize the story. Geli Rabaul was an attractive young girl who was Hitler's niece. She used his gun to kill herself in his house. A book about Hitler I read recently had a chapter on the incident. This author uses four pages. At the same time he lists every document in the Schicklgruber name change story.
When you consider that this is only volume one I cannot imagine what more could be written about this topic.
Like any good biography the book is also an excellent history of the times. A few examples of things I remember. I was fascinated learning about life in in Vienna before World War I. The cultural scene was ahead of Berlin. The author's description of the Ringstrasse left me with a memory of a beautiful circle of monumental buildings.
Hitler in Munich had some very strange habits. He carried a dog whip and walked around like a gangster with a leather trench coat and a black hat. I haven't read a better chronicle of politics in the Wiemar Republic. The " Night of the Long Knives" reads like an action story.
There are 600 pages of text and 160 pages of notes. The notes are not just citations they include useful supplemental facts and comments. There is an abridged version which probably says something about what the publisher thinks about the audience for this edition. I found it worth the effort and intend to read volume two. Definitely five stars. ( )
1 vote wildbill | Apr 15, 2012 |
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'Charismatic rule has long beeb neglected and ridiculed, but apparently it has deep roots and becomes a powerful stimulus once the proper psychological and social conditions are set. The Leader's charismatic power is not a mere phantasm – none can doubt that millions believe in it.'
Franz Neumann, 1942
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393320359, Paperback)

Noted for his excellent structural explanation of the Third Reich's political culture in The Hitler Myth, eminent historian Ian Kershaw shifts approach in this innovative biography of the Nazi tyrant. The first of a two-volume study, Hubris is far from a simple rehearsal of "great man" history, impressively exploring the historical forces that transformed a shiftless Austrian daydreamer into a dictator with immense power.

In his forthright introduction, Kershaw acknowledges that, as a committed social historian, he did not include biography in his original intellectual plans. However, his "growing preoccupation" with the structures of Nazi domination pushed him toward questions about Hitler's place and considerable authority within that system. He argues that the sources for Hitler's power must be sought not only in the dictator's actions but also (and more importantly) in the social circumstances of a nation that allowed him to overstep all institutional and moral barriers. In a comprehensive treatment of Hitler's life and times up through the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, Kershaw draws from documents recently made available from Russian archives and benefits from a rigorous source criticism that has discredited many records formerly understood to be reliable. Hubris thus supplants Alan Bullock's classic Hitler: A Study in Tyranny as the definitive account of a man who, with characteristic smugness, indicated that it was a divinely inspired history that made him: "I go with the certainty of a sleep walker along a path laid out for me by Providence." Kershaw's penetrating analysis of how such a certain path could emerge from the dire circumstances of post World War I Germany is the abiding strength of Hubris. --James Highfill

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:12 -0400)

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This first book of a two-volume account of Hitler's domination of the German people brings readers closer than ever before to the character of the bizarre misfit.

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W.W. Norton

3 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393322521, 0393320359, 0393046710

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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