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Anmerkungen Zu Hitler (German Edition) by…

Anmerkungen Zu Hitler (German Edition) (original 1978; edition 1996)

by Sebastian Haffner (Author)

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599327,095 (4.23)14
Sebastian Haffner examines Hitler's lifespan, his performance, his successes, errors, intellectual misconceptions, crimes and, last but not least, his great betrayal of his nation, the Western world and human civilisation. 'What makes Haffner's book different is that it is not one more biography but an analysis - a most penetrating analysis - of what Hitler was up to in his astonishing career' A.L. Rowse 'Mr Haffner...has exposed better, and more briefly, than anyone else the clockwork of that infernal machine' Gordon Brook-Shepherd, Sunday Telegraph… (more)
Title:Anmerkungen Zu Hitler (German Edition)
Authors:Sebastian Haffner (Author)
Info:Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH (1996)
Collections:Your library
Tags:sachbuch, zweiter weltkrieg, adolf hitler, biografie, lang:de

Work details

The Meaning of Hitler by Sebastian Haffner (1978)


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English (2)  French (1)  All languages (3)
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A dilettante made by history, making history

The first 30 years of Hitler's life were a failure, despite obtaining two Iron Crosses in the First World War. Not having finished secondary school, Hitler lived off his pension as an orphan and the occasional sale of his paintings. Even with his Iron Crosses, he never made it to officer. He did enjoy politics feverishly though.

In 1919 the bohemian joined a right wing political party that would lead to his rise and fall. His private life remained poor, but his political life became ever more intense, but was just as much a failure as the first 30 years of his life. His life lacked everything that gives human life meaning, warmth and value: education, profession, love and friendship, marriage, parenthood. During his political career Hitler showed a permanent acceptance of suicide. His relationships to other people where those of a loner, shunning every intimacy. His education was that of a newspaper reader. Only through his experience at the front did he obtain some knowledge of military matters.

Reichskanzler was his first job, which he performed as an artist, reading only those documents that interested him and often indolently waiting for inspiration. There is no development in his character, which was characterised by will power, braveness, stamina, mercilessness, vengefulness, faithlessness, cruelty, and a complete lack of self reflection.

With controlled anger, Sebastian Haffner needs just a few pages to analyse the character of Adolf Hitler at the beginning of this short biography. The same sharp pen is sometimes somewhat repetitiously used in the otherwise excellently composed description of the Fuhrer's rise and fall. The book is a consistent analysis of both the person and the specific circumstances that marked the most disastrous period of German history. With this book Mr. Haffner helped to crash the left-wing opinion of the structural German Sonderweg from Prussian Obrigkeitsstaat with its elite of Junkers to Nazism. Unlike the Prussian state, Hitler had an ideological programme.

Hitler grew up in an age of much more political involvement of citizens. Nationalism and socialism were the leading ideologies. Hitler combined a specific form of nationalism with anti-Semitism and later with a dose of socialism. His anti-Semitism was rooted in eastern Europe, but also common in Vienna. He put his nationalist ideas into practice by moving to Germany in 1913. In 1919 he decided to go into politics to ascertain that no second revolution like in 1918 would occur. For Mr. Haffner, this decision decided the full domestic political programme of Hitler's life (page 21). His foreign policy ideas came in the 1920's assessing Russia as the true enemy.

When he joined the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, he discovered his talent to hypnotise the masses through his often rambling speeches. This and his clear political purpose must have given him the idea to be unique and the desire to become Fuhrer. This would be ascertained on party level with the founding of the NSDAP and on a national level as Reichskanzler after the death of Hindenburg. Hitler set up the state in a way that made him irreplaceable. No constitution, dynasty, Politburo or other long-term requirements could obstruct the execution of his ideas. This also put tremendous time pressure on him.

Hitler had an excellent organisational talent, which he used to turn the NSDAP into an effective and dynamic power base. His Wirtschaftswunder was a formidable result, mainly accomplished by his finance minister. Both economically and diplomatically German re-armament was second success. His personal decision to found tank divisions against the will of the German military establishment helped to win early victories in war. Nazi Germany offered the majority of citizens the same kind of community as the later German Democratic Republic, which Mr. Haffner considers a socialist aspect of Nazism.

The period from 1930 to 1941 (with the occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece) was an unprecedented string of successes, with the French campaign the greatest. The later years were a complete failure, although no change in Hitler's character, influence, or determination can be determined. It was the quality of his later opponents that brought his demise. Hitler never tried to break the Allied coalition. At the same time, during his rise domestic opposition was limited mainly to the former right wing elite, who did not recognise the Weimar Republic in the first place.

Hitler did not consider himself a typical political Pragmatiker, but a rare case of a Programmatiker, who tries to implement a political programme. His programme of national (and mono-racial) struggle and war (against other peoples and Jews) could never work however. The pre-industrial programme of Lebensraumdid not include statehood or the logic that peace always follows war. Besides, Germany was too weak compared to the other powers to ever conquer the world. He really believed he would find global sympathy for his murderous anti-Semitism. With it he created an extra enemy.

In 1938 most of Europe between France and the Soviet Union had been incorporated into Germany or had come within its sphere of influence. Hitler had no interest in consolidation. War came in 1939. His calculation of British neutrality had proven wrong. However, again Hitler could have opted for consolidation. He offered peace to unconquered Britain, not to France, a loner's blunder against logic.

In 1941 Hitler failed to apply Montgomery's first rule on war (i.e. to never march on Moscow). Hitler had no plan B. After failing to conquer Moscow, Hitler inexplicably escalated trouble by declaring war on America. It was a decision he had taken alone, without even consulting his generals. After failing in Moscow he would try nothing politically or diplomatically to stem the coming tsunami.

Mr. Haffner uses his desire for "industrial genocide" as an explanation for the latter. It was beyond normal war crimes that Mr. Haffner deems best forgotten after the end of the conflict. The decisions required for the murder of Europe's Jews were all taken shortly after the Moscow turning point, when victorious conquest became impossible. The genocide was the only victory still possible.

In the last nine months of his rule Hitler aimed for the total destruction of Germany. With Aktion Gewitter he ordered the arrest of all candidates that could have potentially formed a new government and could have negotiated peace. His hatred of Jews, Poles, and Russians now turned against his own people. The Ardennes offensive was another personal mistake. Mr. Haffner sees it as one of the expressions of Hitler's aim of the total destruction of the German people, which had failed him.

In the afterword of the Dutch edition, Frits Boterman explains how much Mr. Haffner's analysis is the product of his own upbringing and experiences. Mr. Boterman is critical of Mr. Haffner's opinion to see Hitler as a "deus ex machina" who pulled all the strings while things just happened to Germany. By concentrating on Hitler as a person, the role of others and the circumstances he found loose their importance. I concur. ( )
2 vote mercure | Nov 16, 2011 |
This is a very interesting book. I had heard of the book, but found that it was older than I'd thought: originally published in 1979 and reissued in 1999. This is not the standard political, life, or military biography of Hitler. Rather, Haffner tries to look at Hitler from different angles: his life, his achievements, his successes, misconceptions, mistakes, crimes, and betrayal. It is an attempt to understand something of the political persona of Hitler, not of the man himself, because as Haffner notes, "The decisive characteristic of his life is its one-dimensionality...His life lacked-"before" and "after"-everything that normally lends weight, warmth and dignity to a human life: education, occupation, love and friendship and parenthood.

Haffner argues that Htiler's decision to become Fuhrer was tied to his conviction that he had to accomplish everything in his lifetime; there was no attempt to establish a legacy or succession mechanisms; rather he ruled through "controlled chaos" and deliberately destroyed the state's ability to function in favour of his personal omnipotence and irreplaceability. For this these reasons, Haffner disagrees with those who say that if Hitler had died in 1936/1937 he would have been remembered as a great leader of Germany.

Haffner maintains that one of Hitler's biggest mistakes was to pursue two grand aims at the same time: world domination and the destruction of the Jews. He did, in fact, obtain a large part of the first goal in establishing German hegemony over Europe, right up to the Russian border in 1938, without reverting to war; and again, in 1940 with the defeat of France and the occupation of the rest of Europe, he had the opportunity to establish a new European order. But that would have required a degree of vision, of statesmanship and of the appreciation of the value and benefits of peace that are the objectives of war, that were all alien to Hitler. Haffner argues that the check in Russia (when the Germans were stopped before Moscow), tied to the otherwise inexplicable declaration of war on the USA indicated that even then, Hitler sensed an ultimate loss and he then was bent on two things: the destruction of the Jews (the Wanesse conference took place shortly afterwards) and his determination to destroy Germany itself as shown, ultimately, in his order to raze the country as the Allied and Russian armies closed in.

Haffner examines Hitler in this short (150 pages book through his life, achievements, successes, misconceptions, mistakes, crimes and betrayal. A well-written and thought provoking look at Hitler.
3 vote John | Dec 1, 2005 |
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”En intelligent, tvers gjennom original og oppklarende bok”
”En liten bok som på en suveren måte stiller andre, mer omfangsrike fremstillinger i skyggen”
En bemerkelsesverdig historisk og psykologisk undersøkelse av Adolf Hitler og den betydningen han hadde i det 20.århundret. Sebastian Haffner undersøker Hitlers livsløp, hans prestasjoner og seire, hans intellektuelle og ideologiske feiltagelser, hans forbrytelser og sist, men ikke minst, hans store forræderi mot sin nasjon, den vestlige verden og menneskelig sivilisasjon. Forfatteren stiller spørsmål om hvem Hitler egentlig var, hvordan han brukte makten og hvorfor han var dømt til å mislykkes. Boka tegner bildet av en mann som gjorde politikken til erstatning for livet.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sebastian Haffnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boterman, FritsAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helm, Ruud van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metz, Max deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Osers, EwaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reijers, JoopCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roseman, MarkIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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De vader van Adolf Hitler had het ver geschopt. De buitenechtelijke zoon van een dienstmeid wist een belangrijke positie in de ambtenarij te verwerven en was bij zijn dood een gezien en geacht man.
One has to go back a long way in history -- perhaps to Alexander the Great -- to find a man who, in a below-average short span of life, transformed the world so fundamentally and lastingly as Hitler. But what one would not find in the whole of world history is a man who, with an unparalleled and gigantic effort, achieved, as Hitler did, the exact opposite of what he had hoped to achieve.
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