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Ian Kershaw

Author of Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris

60+ Works 8,525 Members 125 Reviews 12 Favorited

About the Author

Ian Kershaw is professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield. (Bowker Author Biography)


Works by Ian Kershaw

Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris (1998) — Author — 1,615 copies
Hitler: 1936-1945: Nemesis (1999) 1,483 copies
The End: Germany, 1944-45 (2011) — Author — 993 copies
To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 (2015) — Author — 770 copies
Hitler. A Profile of Power (1991) 225 copies
Death in the Bunker (1600) 73 copies
Den store katastrofe (2017) 4 copies
Sorte do diabo (2020) 4 copies
Gode tider - nye farer (2019) 3 copies
1936-1945 nemezis (2004) 2 copies
2016 1 copy
1998 1 copy
2004 1 copy

Associated Works

The Young Hitler I Knew (1955) — Preface — 120 copies
Peasants, Knights and Heretics (1976) — Contributor — 30 copies
Heydrich et la solution finale (2008) — Foreword, some editions — 13 copies
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society - Sixth Series, Volume 02 (1992) — Contributor, some editions — 5 copies


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Common Knowledge

Oldham, Lancashire, England, UK
Places of residence
Oldham, Lancashire, England, UK
University of Liverpool (BA ∙ History)
Oxford University (PhD ∙ History)
St Bede's College, Manchester
Kershaw, Betty (wife)
Robinson, Alice (mother)
British Academy (Fellow)
Roman Catholic Church
Royal Historical Society
Historical Association
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
Awards and honors
Norton Medlicott Medal (2004)
Federal Cross of Merit (1994)
Knight Bachelor (2002)
Short biography
Sir Ian Kershaw, FBA (born 29 April 1943) is a British historian of 20th century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich. He is regarded by many as one of the world's leading experts on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and is particularly noted for his monumental biography of Hitler.



Some years ago before joining Goodreads, I read the very long first volume of this 'biography', and only recall now its length, thoroughness and the fact that it was a bit dry at times. I came across this second volume recently which takes up the narrative from the point where Hitler had taken power.

The book, like volume 1, is more an explanation of the various social and political forces within Germany which led to such a person being put into power and then becoming completely central to an abnormally run state in which officials tried to "work towards the Fuehrer" by anticipating and carrying out his wishes without needing actual authorisation, often competing and clashing. Hitler, meanwhile, was governed by twin manias: the need to expand Germany's "living space" and the drive to remove - initially by emigration or deportation, and later on by extermination - those elements of the population he viewed as undesirables: chiefly the Jews, but also Gypsies, mentally handicapped, Communists and others. While presiding over mass murder, he took care to distance himself from it, though his constant generalisations against the Jews in particular inspired his subordinates to carry out his wishes. Kershaw describes the mindset which, contrary to any reasonable person's view, saw powerless victims as all-powerful enemies, but does not attempt to explain it.

Hitler's 'talent', as the author sees it, was for detecting the weaknesses of others, including heads of other states, and taking all-or-nothing gambles: until 1941, those paid off, and he had the almost 100% support of his military leaders and most of the general public. But the ultimate gamble, of attacking the Soviet Union, which he completely underestimated, was the one where it all started to unravel. Given his inability to admit any fault, he then scapegoated the Jews or his military chiefs for the repeated reversals. As the situation worsened, his paranoia spiraled until he distrusted the Army chiefs, in particular, and repeatedly sacked them. His megalomania was such that if Germany lost the war, it would prove the German people were unworthy of him and should perish with him.

For such a huge volume there were surprisingly few typographical errors other than a couple of repeated words such as 'the the' and an odd tendency in the first few chapters to use 'imply' and 'infer' incorrectly. Some of the wording is a little turgid, such as 'the implication to imply', but on the whole, the book was interesting and had some surprises: I hadn't known that the conspirators against Hitler had made other attempts before the one where they planted the bomb at the planning meeting. The one thing that this (and as far as I recall, volume 1 was the same) does not do is give a real insight into why Hitler was the way he was or try to give any psychological explanation for views which turned reality on its head. So I would rate this a 4-star read.
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kitsune_reader | 20 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
A systematic look at the way Hitler’s image was formed and used before and during WWII. Kershaw’s conclusion claims the circumstances are unique enough and the result extraordinary enough never to be replicated - not sure about that one. His approach is sometimes a bit scattershot in using individuals as representatives for whole regions or social groups, much in the same way you’d see quotes used in Civil War to give an authentic ring to the historian’s narrative about the war. Actual quantitative measurements are few, necessarily, and by the nature of the oppressive state any data from the period is suspect (dissenters were unlikely to voice said dissent through large periods).
The most striking part of the story was seeing how Hitler managed his image relative to the audience. The early rabid antisemitism he used in gaining control of the party dies down as he faces the mainstream public and eventually rules the nation. Antisemitism is left to the underlings. Likewise is all the bad news, Hitler appearing only with some message of victory or hope, programming a pavlovian response to his image almost, making people crave reassurance from the Führer when the war stars to go badly. It also seems to have fueled a compensatory narrative that wasn’t a designed propaganda message; that whenever things went wrong, someone had let him down (rather than any incompetence in the leadership).
You can see these mental gymnastics in some war memoirs from the nazi side like [b:Berlins sista timmar - En svensk SS-soldats berättelse om slutstriden|15729712|Berlins sista timmar - En svensk SS-soldats berättelse om slutstriden|Thorolf Hillblad|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1341076217l/15729712._SY75_.jpg|849511] (Ragnarok in english).
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A.Godhelm | 3 other reviews | Oct 20, 2023 |
Very engrossing history of leaders in the Twentieth-Century, delving into their personal history as well as their rise to power.
charlie68 | 1 other review | Aug 15, 2023 |
Described as a history of Europe from 1914 to 1949, this is actually a political and economic history of the two world wars in Europe; other aspects of European history are not discussed independently. Military details of the wars are not present. The various human actors are mentioned only as necessary, so Hitler's (of whom the author is a famous biographer) adult political activities are mentioned, but his various colleagues are mostly ignored. There is excellent and enlightening description of Lord Halifax, Neville Chamberlain and Hitler regarding meetings about the Sudetenland, but Churchill, for example, is not discussed in any detail. Consequently, the work is anecdote poor. The first eight chapters of the book are sequential. The book reads like it was well-outlined and is an excellent reference with interesting statistics. I liked the discussion of the economics of the 1920s by country; some myths are dispelled. The book was recommended to me by the author Lewis Weinstein after his initial exposure to Kershaw's analysis of the Spanish civil war. I have to admit that I find the Spanish civil war so confusing that I'm not sure I was enlightened much. The later chapters include interesting discussions of the relationship between the major Christian religions and the Nazis, country by country, the relationship between various famous intellectuals and the Nazis (including, for example, Arthur Koestler, Ezra Pound and Martin Heidegger), interesting statistics about the approximate number of deaths among all of the displaced people after the war, country by country, and interesting statistics about how each country dealt with collaborators and Nazi functionaries after the war. There are many other useful things here. I look forward to the second volume and I will let pass the author's absurd comment that Proust's epic novel was extraordinary "not least for its length".… (more)
markm2315 | 12 other reviews | Jul 1, 2023 |



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Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzat Translator, Traduction
Klaus Kochmann Übersetzer
Margreet de Boer Translator
Klaus Binder Übersetzer
Martin Pfeiffer Übersetzer
Tiny Mulder Translator
Bernd Leineweber Übersetzer
Ronald Kuil Translator
Thomas Engström Translator
Ilkka Rekiaro Translator
Lena Fluger Translator
Darren Haggar Cover designer
Stefan Lindgren Translator
Beatriz Eguibar Traductor
Paul Chemla Traduction
Martin Broszat Afterword
Darren Gavigan Production
Paul Laity Series editor
Catherine Cronin Rights manager
Charlotte Maguire Picture editor
Pas Paschali Production editor
Gavin Brammall Art director


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