Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris

Narrated by: Graeme Malcolm
Length: 28 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (442 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Hailed as the most compelling biography of the German dictator yet written, Ian Kershaw's Hitler brings us closer than ever before to the heart of its subject's immense darkness.

From his illegitimate birth in a small Austrian village to his fiery death in a bunker under the Reich chancellery in Berlin, Adolf Hitler left a murky trail, strewn with contradictory tales and overgrown with self-created myths. One truth prevails: the sheer scale of the evils that he unleashed on the world has made him a demonic figure without equal in this century. Ian Kershaw's Hitler brings us closer than ever before to the character of the bizarre misfit in his thirty-year ascent from a Viennese shelter for the indigent to uncontested rule over the German nation that had tried and rejected democracy in the crippling aftermath of World War I.

With extraordinary vividness, Kershaw recreates the settings that made Hitler's rise possible: the virulent anti-Semitism of prewar Vienna, the crucible of a war with immense casualties, the toxic nationalism that gripped Bavaria in the 1920s, the undermining of the Weimar Republic by extremists of the Right and the Left, the hysteria that accompanied Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 and then mounted in brutal attacks by his storm troopers on Jews and others condemned as enemies of the Aryan race.

In an account drawing on many previously untapped sources, Hitler metamorphoses from an obscure fantasist, a "drummer" sounding an insistent beat of hatred in Munich beer halls, to the instigator of an infamous failed putsch and, ultimately, to the leadership of a ragtag alliance of right wing parties fused into a movement that enthralled the German people.

This volume, the first of two, ends with the promulgation of the infamous Nuremberg laws that pushed German Jews to the outer fringes of society, and with the march of the German army into the Rhineland, Hitler's initial move toward the abyss of war.

©1998 Ian Kershaw (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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The heart of evil

Before reviewing this book it seems appropriate to mention that the author, Ian Kershaw, describes himself as a historical structuralist. He thus rejects the Great Man theory in which it is argued that history is created and shaped by the great personalities of history and instead believes that the structure of the society creates the environment which molds and creates the “great men”. Thus, in this argument, Hitler did not create the Third Reich and the associated Nazi tyranny so much as the structure of the German society at the time gave Hitler, as an opportunist, the chance to become dictator. But, if societal forces, rather than individuals, are responsible for great events there seems to be less need for biographies of those individuals and Mr Kershaw states as much at the start of the book. Thus this becomes a very different kind of biography, concerned with societal background as much as with Hitler and, as Mr Kershaw states, the blame for the human tragedy that was the Second World War comes to rest not on Hitler alone but has to be shared by the general intolerant and hateful society that existed in Germany during this period.

None of this means that the life and character of Hitler is ignored. I have read a great many books on the Second World War and the times leading up to The Third Reich and none of them have provided me with the wealth of information contained in this book. Here you will find details about Hitlers time in Landsberg Prison, the negotiation process that resulted in Hitler becoming Chancellor, the arguments involved in defining the German Racial Laws and much else, none of which I have seen in other books.

The book also does a wonderful job of describing Hitler’s early life, his years as a purposeless vagrant in Vienna, his change during his time in the German Army during World War I and how he was shaped and largely created by the years after the end of that war. The creation of the Nazi Party, the years during which it struggled, gained a niche in the German political scene and grew, the other people involved in the party development and their relationships with each other, are described in considerable detail.

While there is a thicket of information about people who do not normally get written into books like this (philosophers, writers, economists and so on), the book never loses the center of it’s attention. Hitler is always there, often being forced by circumstances to take actions, and the descriptions of societal forces never overshadow the subject of the book. It is hard to see how any other biography could be more interesting, more instructive or more compelling. This is a long book and only covers the period up to the occupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Still I found that it moved very quickly and frequently I had a hard time putting the book down. The narration is first class and a good match for the writing and the book is long enough to include information describing details normally left out of historic overviews. Rather than being a negative, the amount of detail clarified a lot of events and made me more interested in buying the second volume.

There is one negative. Sections of the book include considerable psychoanalysis of Hitler and his actions and sometimes they seem to degenerate into “psycho-babble”. With no live person to put on the psychoanalysis’s couch this seems like a futile and silly endeavor. It seems, at times, more than a bit annoying but the book is so complete and so well written and narrated that it seems worthy of at least 5 stars. I highly recommended for those with an interest in this period in history.

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Essential reading for students of history

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would recommend this audiobook. We must understand how this complete failure of an individual was able to become the leader of a highly sophisticated and cultured nation, and lead into both moral and military destruction.

What did you like best about this story?

The part of the story which I was least unaware of, was the way in which political elites in Weimar Germany completely misread both Hitler and the Nazi party, and thought they could co-opt them.

Have you listened to any of Graeme Malcolm’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Have not listened to any of the narrator's other performances.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This is a period of history which is extremely sobering and to hear the things Hitler espoused and then implemented is upsetting. The sheer scale of suffering inflicted as a result of this one individual is difficult to comprehend.

Any additional comments?

As unpleasant as it may be, we must study and try to understand as best we can how this man and his regime came into being. Also it should give a person pause before throwing around the word Nazi when engaged in arguments. By reading this book you realize just how monstrous Hitler and the Nazi's were.

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A chilling portrait.

I had read the second volume of this biography of Hitler when it was first published, but never got around to reading this first part. It was worth the wait. I was unable to stop listening to it for long. Ian Kershaw shows how Hitler's youthful sloth, vanity, and self-importance blossomed after WW I in the anger and fear omnipresent in Germany. Evolving from a small time agitator ("the drummer") to a charismatic leader in the political maelstrom of the Weimar Republic, Hitler found himself embodying the hatred and violence many Germans from every class wished to unleash against their fellow citizens and the world. In "working towards the Fuhrer", as reported by Kershaw, local leaders were given the freedom to commit the many crimes against humanity which have made the Third Reich the exemplar of evil in the world. Kershaw shows how Hitler through his megalomania and psychological acuity was able to use hatred of foreigners and religious minorities to mobilize the economic anxieties of unemployed and impoverished citizens into a program of military and diplomatic confrontation with the outside world. To paraphrase the author's final sentence, Germany in its hubris was about to be led to the abyss. The reader is left to draw any current parallels by himself.

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facinating!

he navigated from a broken home, living in the street with no ambition, military evasion, 3-years in prison to chancellor with 98.1% votes with an evil platform! How can that happen!?

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Best of the best.

If you put all of the great works on Hitler together, including Fest, Shirer, Evans and Toland, on the top of the list would be Kershaw’s work. It is superb.

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Learn History Easily

When I was in school they taught history through the eyes of the school system and those in charge. This book was very informative well read by the reader and it has anew slant on the history that I learned at school. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in History. AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

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And lightning

This book gives a great account of Hitler's rise to power not as a political genius, but as a person who was pushed up by a complicit Germany.

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finally clarity

Evil comes in many forms none more so than Hitler. Those of us who don't want to ignore history need to know how he came to power. Many people have attempted to tell his story but the justifiable loathing all of us have for him made it difficult to write and read.
The goal for me in reading this was to get the full story. Other authors who have tried failed.
Conditions in Germany at the time were one reason why hatred was able to rise to the level it did.
Another was a thirst for. revenge against those who defeated them. This book tells the full story of the power grab.
Then it tells the tale of the military build up that made world war 2 not only possible, but inevitable. The narration of this book is almost perfect and is worth your time and your credit.

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Ultimate Biography on Hitler

This is the most in depth and thorough biography of Adolf Hitler. Ian Kershaw delves into the life one of histories most evil and complicated dictators. He takes great pains to separate fact from fiction so that the reader can really understand Hitler as a man. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in or studying the Second World War.

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Brilliant

Takes you above the noise and delivers a 30000 foot perspective of the many published works on Hitler.

1 person found this helpful