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Fri Aug 28, 2020, 11:32 AM

In the Second Volume of 'Hitler,' How a Dictator Invited His Own Downfall (Timely book review)

New York Times
By Jennifer Szalai
Aug. 26, 2020

The impulsiveness and grandiosity, the bullying and vulgarity, were obvious from the beginning; if anything, they accounted for Adolf Hitler’s anti-establishment appeal. For Germany’s unpopular conservative elites, Hitler’s energy and theatrics made him an enticing partner when they appointed him chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933.

But anyone who thought the Nazis would be content with their share — that Hitler would rise to the occasion or be hemmed in by it, becoming a dignified statesman who sought compromise — was summarily purged from the system that conservatives assumed they controlled. An utter impossibility had become the indomitable reality. The Weimar Republic had become the Third Reich. It would take another world war, a genocide and millions of dead before the dictatorship finally collapsed in 1945, a full 12 years after Hitler was invited into power.

In the second and final volume of his biography of Hitler, Volker Ullrich argues that the very qualities that accounted for the dictator’s astonishing rise were also what brought about his ultimate ruin. “Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945” arrives in English four years after the publication of “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939.” It’s a biographical project that consumed eight years of Ullrich’s life and “took a definite psychological toll,” he writes in his introduction to the second volume. Like the British historian Ian Kershaw, who divided his own two-volume biography of Hitler into “Hubris” and “Nemesis,” Ullrich suggests that the Hitlerian regime was capable of only two registers: euphoria and despair. Hitler was shrewd about seizing power, but he was too restless and reckless to govern. A Third Reich that cultivated peaceful stability was simply unfathomable.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/26/books/review-hitler-downfall-volker-ullrich.html

Some quotes from the review:

At first, Hitler’s standard approach — lying, blaming others and launching surprise attacks — made for a successful wartime strategy.

The military commanders who voiced no objections to the Polish invasion balked when Hitler decided to go to war with the West, reassuring one another that they were determined to “put the brakes” on any disaster that was unfolding. But they were all intention and no action.

To read “Downfall” is to see up close how Hitler lashed out — compulsively, destructively — whenever he felt boxed in. He had the instinct of a crude social-Darwinist who also liked to gamble, experiencing the world only in terms of winning and losing.

Hitler was a scattershot, undisciplined leader, prone to tardiness and meandering monologues, but the one unwavering constant was his virulent, fanatical anti-Semitism.

He doubled down on his own pitilessness, even toward his own people, saying that if they didn’t fight “they deserve to die out.”

Following Hitler’s lead, Goebbels treated the Germans like chumps to be duped. “There are so many lies that truth and swindle can scarcely be distinguished,” he noted

And on and on. I hope you understand why I posted this in GD.

The book:

Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945
By Volker Ullrich
Translated by Jefferson Chase
Illustrated. 838 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $40.

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Reply In the Second Volume of 'Hitler,' How a Dictator Invited His Own Downfall (Timely book review) (Original post)
Mike 03 Aug 2020 OP
The Velveteen Ocelot Aug 2020 #1
frazzled Aug 2020 #2
The Velveteen Ocelot Aug 2020 #3

Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Fri Aug 28, 2020, 11:36 AM

1. Sounds kind of familiar; I can't quite put my finger on it....

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Fri Aug 28, 2020, 11:47 AM

2. The downfall, unfortunately, came way too late

So take no solace from the fact that these maniac authoritarians all eventually fall. The damage done was so vast, so incomprehensible, so grotesque, that his downfall a dozen years after his rise is merely a footnote, an irrelevancy. And remember, his influence lives on, in places across the globe, in gullible, amoral, disturbed people who follow his precepts to this day.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #2)

Fri Aug 28, 2020, 11:51 AM

3. That's what I'm worried about.

I don't get any comfort imagining Trump ranting in his bunker and getting ready to shoot himself while above him the country is in ruins. He's already done enormous damage and I dread to think what he could do if he isn't gone soon.

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