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 the 20th century.
Ian Kershaw's Hitler brings us closer than ever before to the character of the bizarre misfit in his 30-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 and 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.
©1998 Ian Kershaw (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
A superb performance with excellent pronunciation of the many technical terms and titles. A feat of endurance to listen to, given the content, but well worth sticking with it.
This exhaustive, occasionally exhausting, biography of Adolf Hitler certainly delivers value for money in terms of sheer content, and despite the author's complaints at having to squeeze his two original volumes into one, frequently wanders off into what seem like minutiae, for instance reciting lists of people who were present at particular meetings, only for that to be entirely irrelevant to what happens next or even much later.
Hitler's early years seem to drag interminably at points; once established as a snobbish spendthrift with no talent for art, we are toured through every minutely-discovered detail of the man's early life, again with little real resonance later on. The actual events of WWII play surprisingly little part in the tale, with the author seemingly content to piece together the complex jigsaw of political events, rather than speculate on how Hitler's/the regime's reaction to setbacks might have affected decisions. In this, his devotion to evidence is meticulous, forensic even, and his critical scalpel sharp. The research has obviously been thorough, the access to exclusive sources clear in every authorly flourish.
That makes the main flaw with this autobiography - Kershaw's virtual dismissal of Hitler's manifest drug addiction and complete lack of understanding of/disinterest in what daily injections of crystal methamphetamine and/or cocaine (and other powerful drugs) would be doing to Hitler's brain - even more unforgivable than it ends up being.
One recent documentary mentions proof of 800 (!!) injections over the course of Dr Theodor Morell's intimate association with Hitler, including almost daily in the last few years. This alone - leaving aside anything Hitler was taking and failing to document during his mysterious absences, or any prior psychological conditions - would explain virtually every observed behavioural quirk, from insomnia to the 'Parkinsons Disease' symptoms (though he may have had this also of course). It is not difficult to believe that much of the leadership's sociopathy, dissociative narcissism, paranoia, lack of empathy and careless cruelty have their roots in the regime's endemic drug abuse.
While Kershaw's description of Nazi Germany as a kind of balanced, teetering chaos, with warring factions constantly competing and "driving towards the Fuhrer" is indeed compelling (and probably highly accurate), his failure to grasp the significance of Hitler's reliance on such destructive substances (and the addiction of millions of Germans, including much of the Wehrmacht, to commercially-produced amphetamines) is disappointing from such a well-regarded academic.
Yes, the print version is wonderful but is heavy going, Prefer the audio version
The chapters dealing with Hitler's early life. Fascinating to see the future Nazi leader as he lives the life of a wastrel and layabout.
Found the narration to be excellent all round
The chapter dealing with the holocaust and the awful suffering that was planned and inflicted on innocent people.
This is a one volume abridgement of Kershaw's original two volume set, even still it is the best biography of Hitler. Goes some of the way to explaining how Hitler came to rule in Germany and how he was able to cause the suffering he did. Extremely glad to have this available to us in the UK.
A masterful piece of work that recounts how a failed and insignificant artist from Austria could come to power and lead a civilised country to war and encourage many to plummet the depths of inhumanity. Using a range of evidence from historical events and recounts of eyewitnesses the text flowed and keep me engrossed from start to finish.
I find the narrator was excellent and kept my attention throughout.
This book is clearly an incredible piece of work. However, I found the level of detail almost too much for an audio book and feel it would be more easily digested on the printed page. Unfortunately, this situation is not helped by the choice of narrator. In addition to mangling the pronunciation of a number of simple words Damian Lynch sounds like he is reading out a shopping list most of the time.
Time well spent? yes, of course. The subject matter is fascinating and told with a uniquely unbiased tone. My one critique would be the narrator's unfamiliarity with the text which seemed to cause unnecessary gaps when ending sentences or pronouncing longer words and an altogether deadpan recital.
Attention to detail. Being able to flesh out the myth into a personable man whilst avoiding the full-on supervillain approach of some others
Perhaps someone more theatrical, capable of engaging with the listener just a little better.
Definitely, I think this would make a great film that stands alone from most other depictions of the man.
Don't get me wrong, the narration was just fine, but there were times I was being spoken at rather than being engaged with.
This story had me really hooked all the way through and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who would like to know the facts about Hitler.
Despite this being a massive listen of over 44 hours I found it never flagged. I’ve read or listened to a number of books about the First and Second World Wars but only had a sketchy knowledge of Hitler’s early life. It is extraordinary how a lazy not very talented young man became a pivotal person of the 20th century. It is evident that he always had an overwhelming belief in his own abilities and latterly a sense of destiny. However, these early chapters show that there was no hint that he would attain the pinnacle of political power nor what was the basis of his pathological hatred of the Jews.
There are a number of ‘if only’ moments in his life that might have altered the history of the 20th C, but I come away with the depressing belief that he was not alone in his desire to avenge the outcome of the First World War nor that the Jews would have been spared persecution. Hitler was a megalomaniac who channeled these grievances and toxic beliefs. It is horrifying that so much barbaric cruelty, not just on the Jews, could be perpetrated by so many people in a number of western countries in the 20th century.
An outstanding biography excellently narrated including many German words that sounded authentically voiced.
44 hours well used to try and craft your own understanding of evil incarnate.
Great research, read well and kept me gripped until the end *** SPOILER ALERT *** he dies.
"Well written, good performance."
I've been waiting for this book to appear on Audible for a long time. It was well written and well researched. I particularly liked the fact that Ian Kershaw contrast common explanations for the rise of Hitler with his own theories.
Damian Lynch has a pleasant voice to listen to and a good command of german pronunciation. A captivating book and a joy to listen to.
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