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Thirty Days by Henry Ashby Turner

Thirty Days (1996)

by Henry Ashby Turner

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I found this book fascinating and hard to put down. I believe it is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the fall of the Weimar Republic.

I also strongly agree with much of Mr. Turner's conclusion that Hitler's appointment was not inevitable, but rather the result of luck and of the flaws and mistakes of a handful of men. In that respect, Mr. Taylor agrees, at least in part, with William Shirer's belief that so much of history is random.

And yet in one crucial way I found this book lacking: its portrayal of two of the principal players: Hindenburg and Schleicher, both of whom reluctantly accepted political power not to fulfill a love of power, like so many politicians do, but to save the Weimar Republic and to stop Hitler.

And so, here's my two cents:

Part of the problem is that Mr. Turner's devotes so little time to what happened before the crucial month of January 1933. For example, he hardly mentions that Germany faced very real threats from a civil war, a communist takeover and an invasion on their Easter border. (Because of the last threat, Schleicher felt he had no choice but to try to use the Nazi paramilitary to strengthen German's small military.)

Also, Mr. Turner states that Hindenburg's military career, before the World War One, was unexceptional. From what I read, Hindenburg was very well-respected in the military. Also, he was one of the few generals who predicted that, if Russia invaded, they would do so in the Masurian Lakes region. He therefore he studied the terrain, and railroads of the region and was well prepared when he arrived and took command at Tannenberg. (During the Great War he proved to be a very capable, defensive commander who, unlike other generals, cared for the lives of his men.) Furthermore, Mr. Turner ignores the reality that Hindenburg hated being forced to govern by presidential decree, which he properly felt was a threat to the republic.

Schleicher, on the other hand, hated Hitler and deeply cared about the working man and their economic plight; yet we never read about his compassion in this book. (Yes, Mr. Turner is right: Because of a lack of documentation, we know relatively little about Schleicher. I don't believe we should, therefore, assume almost the worst about him and view him in a one-dimensional light.(His plan to try to bring Strasser into the government and hopefully split the Nazis was realistic and almost worked.)

During the final years of the republic Hindenburg and Schleicher were lodged between rocks and hard places, especially because they had to work with so many petty partisan politicians.

IMHO, to truly understand history we must look beyond events and into the often complex personalities of the men and women who shaped and lived it. Settling for simple characterizations, and then for easy answers to the predicaments they faced, limits our understanding.

Yes, Hindenburg and Schleicher were flawed - like most of us - and made crucial mistakes. After all, they had no playbook to go by. So, in light of what unfolded, should they be forgiven?

Mr. Turner and most people don't think so. I'm, however, not so sure. ( )
  Randyflycaster | Jun 18, 2011 |
The end of the Third Reich was certainly a dramatic and (if we can call it that) a spectacular event. The beginning of that dark period, however, was, in my opinion, a much more interesting time. Its very beginnings, what one could call its pre-history, consisting in the last few weeks of Weimar's regime, is probably the most extraordinary (and extraordinarily catastrophic) piece of political intrigue in recorded history. This book presents in detail the amazing chain of events, clandestine meetings, blunders and blindness of a very small number of individuals, at the very top of Weimar's regime, that rescued Adolf Hitler and his Party at a time when both were beginning to show clear signs of a desaggregation process that could have led to the return of the Nazis to the radical fringe of the political spectrum and to the marginal political (in)significance they enjoyed three years previously. A pointed indictment of von Papen, the Hindenburgs, Scleicher, and a few other individuals that, with appaling ineptitude and disregard for the amply clear signs the Nazis would not play by the rules, had tried to co-opt Hitler to a nationalistic, conservative, autoritarian, government just to be sidestepped by a maelstrom of uncontrolable proportions. A great book of history that can be read as a thriller. Anyone interested, not only in the history of the Nazi regime but also in politics in the largest sense of the word, should read and meditate upon it. ( )
  FPdC | May 25, 2010 |
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Every one has heard of Hitler.
Only through the political blindness of and blunders of others did Adolf Hitler gain the opportunity to put his criminal intentions into effect between 1933 and 1945.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0201328003, Paperback)

In Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power, distinguished Yale historian Henry Ashby Turner makes an important and influential addition to his life-long study of Nazi Germany. Providing vivid portraits of the main players of the drama of January 1933, and using newly available documents, Turner masterfully recreates the bewildering circumstances surrounding Hitler’s unexpected appointment as chancellor of Germany. The result is a work that Booklist calls “first rate … a gripping, foreboding narrative.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:39 -0400)

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