Ian Kershaw – Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris
Another book I read due to my recent interest in populism. This is the first of a two-part work, generally considered the definitive Hitler biography. Kershaw’s approach is that individuals matter, but larger cultural and economic forces are more important for explaining how the Third Reich and its atrocities were possible.
Hitler was not an interchangeable cog. But the times matter, not just the man. Hitler would have been just another mostly harmless drudge without wounded post-WWI German pride, worldwide depression, and intellectual fads including left and right totalitarianism, progressive eugenics theory, and a widespread casual acceptance of racism.
This opening volume traces Hitler’s birth and childhood through his World War I experience, artistic failures and radicalization in Vienna, and his political rise. It ends when he is firmly established as Chancellor, ready to make war again. Despite Kershaw’s institutions-over-individuals approach, he gives Hitler ample personal attention, and the effect is chilling on both levels.