’I go with the certainty of a sleepwalker along the path laid out for me by Providence’ Adolf Hitler, 14 March 1936
More than half a century after his suicide and the destruction of his entire movement, Hitler continues to prey on the modern mind to a degree which is quite unique. The sheer scale of the evils he unleashed on the world have made him a demonic figure without equal in modern history.
Ian Kershaw’s Hitler allows us to come closer than ever before to a serious understanding of the man and of the catastrophic sequence of events which allowed a bizarre misfit to climb from a Viennese doss-house to leadership of one of Europe’s most sophisticated countries.
With extraordinary skill and vividness, drawing on a huge range of sources, this biography re-creates the world which first thwarted and then nurtured the young Hitler - from his Habsburg provincial roots to pre-War Vienna, from the crucible of the Great War to the toxic political world of 1920s Bavaria.
As Hitler’s seemingly pitiful fantasy of being Germany’s saviour attracted more and more support, Kershaw brilliantly conveys why so many Germans adored him, connived with him or felt powerless to resist him. At so many points the German élites could have prevented Hitler’s rise but each time they misjudged the monster in their midst, until it was too late.
The book ends in 1936 with the march into the Rhineland. Through this extraordinary coup Hitler gained an unassailable hold over both the German people and the German military. Looking back on his astonishing triumphs Hitler now fully believed in his own cult: there was nothing he could not achieve. With Germany now firmly (and willingly) under his heel, he turned his eyes to the wider world.