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Book review History Politics

Zweites Buch. Adolf Hitler (1928)

Where Mein Kampf is a sprawling, ill-organised rant overflowing with hateful conspiracy theories, Zweites Buch is a succinct, mostly cogent, well-reasoned statement of Adolf Hitler’s foreign policy views. The ongoing German-Italian crisis regarding the South Tyrol has motivated Hitler to critique Germany’s current foreign policy, and develop a suitable alternative. This he does in the context of considering abstractly the proper motives and goals of any nation’s foreign policy. Zweites Buch is an aetiology of politics itself. If Mein Kampf was an endless parade of Hitler’s destructive delusions and obsessions, Zweites Buch is a glimpse into the mind of an astute politician, a committed if misguided patriot, and a man both “logical and fanatical,” as one observer put it. Zweites Buch puts antisemitism and antibolshevism mostly on the backshelf, and articulates the broad points of the policies Hitler was soon to enact. This analysis of problems and potential solutions – of economics, international rivalries and inequities, and fierce competition over limited natural resources – is a unique window into an important mind, and remains relevant in global politics today

Categories
Biography Book review History Politics Psychology

A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler: His Life & Legend. Walter C. Langer, US Office of Strategic Services (1943/1944)

A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler is of historic value to students of personality and of psychoanalysis. Historians have questioned the validity of its sources; the contemporary reader will be amused by the explicit focus on psychosexual development; several of the report’s conclusions are dubious at best; its terminology varies widely from those of contemporary psychopathology. Nonetheless, the Analysis offers plausible reconstructions of Hitler’s history and self-image, and constitutes an imaginative reconstruction of Hitler’s psychological economy.

Categories
Book review History Politics

The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich (1969). William L. Shirer

This monumental tome doesn’t just document the rise of the Nazis and the lifespan of the Third Reich – it also traces the roots of Nazism deep in German history. With meticulous research and mostly able narrative, Shirer offers compelling portraits of Hitler and his closest associates – from the competent and passionate Goebbels, to the vain and bungling Ribbentrop. Notwithstanding frequent back-and-forths in time, a prejudice against German culture as exceptionally repressive, and pejoratives typical of the time but nonetheless distracting to a contemporary reader – this is an impressive work of scholarship, accessible to a lay audience, and a comprehensive introduction to the Third Reich.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Hitler Was My Friend: Memoirs of Hitler’s Photographer (1955). Heinrich Hoffman

Hoffman’s memoirs offer an entertaining glimpse at life in the Nazi inner circle, and at Hitler himself. A light, brisk, anecdotal narrative chronicles Hoffman’s own artistic career, and the course of his professional relationship and personal friendship with Hitler. This modest, self-avowedly apolitical work nevertheless offers some key insights into Hitler and his associates, and makes for entertaining light reading.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Look Who’s Back. Timur Vermes (2012)

What if Adolf Hitler came back to life in contemporary Germany? How would he go about getting a platform to work his way back to power? *Look Who’s Back* captures Hitler’s single-minded drive and prosy voice to present us with a personable if misguided leader. Vermes analyses the dynamics of profit-driven viewer-hungry media, and of a politically disenfranchised populace, in the (re)making of an extremist.

Categories
Biography History Politics

I Was Hitler’s Buddy (1939). Reinhold Hanisch. Article in New Republic

This short memoir by a fellow vagrant from Hitler’s prewar homeless days in Vienna provides insights into how early experiences with destitution and hopelessness shaped a tyrant.

Categories
Biography History Politics

The Young Hitler I Knew (1953). August Kubizek

Kubizek’s memoir constitutes one of the few reliable sources of Hitler’s years in Linz, and in Vienna before penury made Hitler homeless. Kubizek’s account is sympathetic but balanced. Combining character analysis with narrative of shared ideas and adventures, it provdes not only insights into the gestation of a tyrant — but a delightful read.

Categories
Biography Book review History Politics

Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography (1976). John Toland

“My book has no thesis, and any conclusions to be found in it were reached only during the writing, perhaps the most meaningful being that Hitler was far more complex and contradictory than I had imagined. ‘The greatest saints,’ observes one of Graham Greene’s characters, ‘Have been men with a more than normal capacity for evil, and the most vicious men have sometimes narrowly evaded sanctity.’ Deprived of heaven, Adolf Hitler chose hell – if, indeed, he knew the difference between the two.”

Categories
Book review History Politics Psychology

Civilisation and Its Discontents. Sigmund Freud (1930)

In this long essay, Freud examines the puzzling phenomenon of individuals in civilised societies pointing to civilisation as the root of all evil. If you want to discover the meticulous, erudite, prescient scientist behind the caricature that Freud has become in contemporary culture – this succinct, clearly-reasoned analysis marrying history and psychology is a good starting-point.

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Book Excerpts & Overview History Philosophy

Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introduction to: Poststructuralism

“Existing meanings are not ours to command. When we use a language, we inherit & reproduce, usually unintentionally, the language’s cultural legacy & moral attitudes… This is the way in which language as it exists necessarily imposes limits on thought.”