Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Adolf Hitler by John Toland

Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, John Toland. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014. e-book, 1337 pps.

     A good historian is much like a good scientist, following the evidence and being prepared to dump out pet notions when necessary.  I didn't like history much in school. I never understood why I should memorize all those dates when I could easily look them up as needed. Textbook history pales in comparison to the ways in which my dad endeavored to make history come alive to me. I saw all of the places on the east coast that George Washington slept, every place that was someplace in D.C. and Philly, several battlefields, and many history happened here places that escape the common man. As an adult, I discovered history on television. Housemate was quick to point out where Hollywood had gotten things wrong. Gradually, I started reading books by "real" historians which weren't the canned syrupy textbooks of my youth. John Toland is indeed a "real" historian.  Adolf Hitler includes footnotes at the end of each chapter, pages of additional notes, and an extensive bibliography.

     It took me quite some time to plow through Adolf Hitler. 
Toland begs for a careful reading. Soon enough, my top reading speed dwindled to a leisurely pace. And I learned much stuff from this book.

     I knew that Hitler had a dog whose name was Blondi but I didn't know that there was no e on the end of the name. I knew Blondi got the cyanide first but not why or who suggested it. I'd heard the rumors that Hitler escaped to Argentina but not who perpetuated such gossip. I knew that Hitler was a whack-job but not the total details. Adolf Hitler delivered all of the details.

     One of the things that we ought to remember when looking back is that European Jews had a huge problem with p.r. long before Hitler's Nazis came to round them up. In the days of Martin Luther, antisemitism was evident. His own writings reflect seven suggestions on what is to be done about the Jewish population. Martin Luther was a man of his times. The relations between Christians and Jews were not good in the early1500s. Jews were despised as the killers of Christ. Martin Luther used quotes from Scripture to justify his prejudice. His hatred may have bordered upon the fanatical. The seven points of Martin Luther were pretty much the ones that Hitler put into motion. 

     Hitler started out as an art student in Vienna. After serving a tour and being wounded, his meglo-mania took over and he started delivering speeches. Germany fell under his spell in spite of his known proclivities to sudden outbursts of rage and (at first) his dismal clothing. The irony that was Hitler dictated that he not marry and not appear to be carrying on with Eva Braun because such things would not be seemly yet his direct orders delivered Jews to resettlement ghettos and then to the death camps. Hitler's hatred of the Jewish population was fanatical, although there is some question as to how much of that particular hatred was at the core of Hitler the young man and how much developed in the aftermath of his political meglo-mania. Hitler really could have been someone great. Instead, he is a mark of shame in the annals of human history.

sapphoq reviews says: John Toland's Adolf Hitler is a careful and exacting study of Hitler. For history buffs and those who appreciate detail, highly recommended.

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