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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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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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Sir Ian Kershaw has written the definitive biography of Adolf Hitler. Lord Kershaw is a Fellow of the British Academy. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on the history of Germany. He has written several other books about WWII and Hitler, but this work is absolutely the most thorough of any books on Hitler.

This book is actually two volumes. The first volume, "Hitler: Hubris," covers Hitler's life from birth to 1936. The second volume, "Hitler: Nemesis," covers 1936 to 1945.

Together the volumes make up over 1500 pages. Lord Kershaw himself abridged the two volumes into one book for those who don't want to take on such a long book.

What is so remarkable about this work is that it is so well documented without surmising, guessing or otherwise interpreting events to suit the author's preferences -- which so often happens with famous and infamous people.

An example of how meticulous is the research:

Other books about Hitler's early life and his joining the Democratic Socialist Party make claims about his being an early member of the party with a membership number in the single digits.

This claim is apparently untrue. His membership "card" was numbered in the 500s. It wasn't until he became a sought-after public speaker and leader of anti-Bolshevik sentiments that his card was changed to reflect an earlier membership number.

Many books about Hitler are really about WWII. This book, of course, covers the war, but it is an actual well-articulated biography.

I confess that I would never have gotten through these two volumes but for the availability of them in audiobook format. While it is faster to read, it is -- at least for me -- easier to listen while sometimes doing other things.

If you really want to know about Adolf Hitler and how he came to be the infamous -- but apparently charismatic -- person he was, read these two volumes. They are well worth your time. ( )
  ClassicMovieFan | May 24, 2017 |
This is the first volume of a very readable biography of Hitler. Although the two books are very long, they are a good investment since there is so much information to cover. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 10, 2016 |
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 |
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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W.W. Norton

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

Editions: 0393320359, 0393046710

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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