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--Kirkus Reviews "An outstanding study... All the huge, and terrible moments of the early Nazi era are dissected...but the real strength of this book is in disentangling the personal story of man and monster."
--The Guardian (U.K.)
For all the literature about Adolf Hitler there have been just four seminal biographies; this is the fifth, a landmark work that sheds important new light on Hitler himself. Drawing on previously unseen papers and a wealth of recent scholarly research, Volker Ullrich reveals the man behind the public persona, from Hitler's childhood to his failures as a young man in Vienna to his experiences during the First World War to his rise as a far-right party leader. Ullrich deftly captures Hitler's intelligence, instinctive grasp of politics, and gift for oratory as well as his megalomania, deep insecurity, and repulsive worldview. Many previous biographies have focused on the larger social conditions that explain the rise of the Third Reich. Ullrich gives us a comprehensive portrait of a postwar Germany humiliated by defeat, wracked by political crisis, and starved by an economic depression, but his real gift is to show vividly how Hitler used his ruthlessness and political talent to shape the Nazi party and lead it to power. For decades the world has tried to grasp how Hitler was possible. By focusing on the man at the center of it all, on how he experienced his world, formed his political beliefs, and wielded power, this riveting biography brings us closer than ever to the answer. Translated from the German by Jefferson Chase.
- ISBN-13: 9780385354387
- ISBN-10: 038535438X
- Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Inc
- Publish Date: September 2016
- Page Count: 998
- Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.7 x 9.55 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.25 pounds
Inside the Reich's rise
When it comes to book titles, it’s hard to think of one more ominous than Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939. The first of a two-volume project by German historian and journalist Volker Ullrich, this is a sprawling and ambitious attempt to explain how a man from humble beginnings with few accomplishments well into adulthood could morph into a ruthless dictator whose name has become a universal insult.
With the millions of words that have been written about Hitler, why another biography? In his introduction, Ullrich notes that more than 15 years have passed since the last important work on Hitler, with much research occurring in the meantime on him and surrounding figures. Moreover, Ullrich contends, a wealth of new material has appeared, including newly public notes and speeches. And finally, Ullrich sets out to challenge conventional wisdom that Hitler was a man of “limited intellectual horizons and severely restricted social skills” and shed more light on his private life, including his relationships with women and his social interactions.
Ullrich aggressively makes his case, noting that Hitler devoured books on a wide variety of topics during his struggling artist years in Vienna and Munich and that he led a varied social life, albeit one intertwined with his political activities. (Friends such as Winifred Wagner, daughter-in-law of the composer Richard Wagner, had the added bonus of advancing his political interests.) As for Hitler’s relationships with women, including mistress Eva Braun, Ullrich valiantly attempts to sort fact from myth (and downright gossip) but stops short of lurid speculation.
At more than 1,000 pages, with a readable translation by Jefferson Chase, Hitler: Ascent is no quick read. That’s for the best, as this is a book to be studied with one eye toward the past and the other toward the future—and Volume 2.