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The Hitler of History

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In this brilliant, strikingly original book, historian John Lukacs delves to the core of Adolf Hitler's life and mind by examining him through the lenses of his surprisingly diverse biographers.

Since 1945 there have been more than one hundred biographies of Hitler, and countless other books on him and the Third Reich. What happens when so many people reinterpret the life of a single individual? Dangerously, the cumulative portrait that begins to emerge can suggest the face of a mythic antihero whose crimes and errors blur behind an aura of power and conquest. By reversing the process, by making Hitler's biographers--rather than Hitler himself--the subject of inquiry, Lukacs reveals the contradictions that take us back to the true Hitler of history.

Like an attorney, Lukacs puts the biographies on trial. He gives a masterly account of all the major works and of the personalities, methods, and careers of the biographers (one cannot separate the historian from his history, particularly in this arena); he looks at what is still not known (and probably never will be) about Hitler; he considers various crucial aspects of the real Hitler; and he shows how different biographers have either advanced our understanding or gone off track. By singling out those who have been involved in, or co-opted into, an implicit "rehabilitation  of Hitler," Lukacs draws powerful conclusions about Hitler's essential differences from other monsters of history, such as Napoleon, Mussolini, and Stalin, and--equally important--about Hitler's place in the history of this century and of the world.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Sep 29, 1997 – Historian Lukacs has demonstrated in many of his 15 previous books that he is an original thinker. The concept of this new book is brilliant: the volume presents a history of the evolution of knowledge about Hitler by studying the biographies and biographers who have attempted to explain the hold he had on the German masses. In his preface, Lukacs is both clear and modest: clear in explaining that he is not yet another Hitler biographer but rather an historian producing a history of Hitler biographies; modest in conceding that there are so many biographies that "a pretense of completeness would be both mistaken and improper." Unfortunately, the brilliant concept is not brilliantly executed and neither the clarity nor the modesty of the preface prevail throughout the text. Hundreds of compound-complex sentences and much untranslated German make for laborious reading, and Lukacs too often dismisses biographers without offering the evidence that would support his own interpretation. Despite the flaws, the book is a worthy effort. Even the most obsessed amateur scholar is unlikely to have read even half the biographies Lukacs has read, partly because so many of them are in languages other than English. Furthermore, each of the episodes in Hitler's career that Lukacs has chosen to explicate is worth attention. Was Hitler a revolutionary or a reactionary? Was he a successful statesman and war strategist? What was Hitler's primary motive for murdering Jews? Is there any validity to the contemporary Hitler rehabilitation movement? These are just some of the questions with which Lukacs wrestles. History Book Club selection.
The Hitler of History
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Europe
  • Published: Oct 28, 1997
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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