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The Greatest Warlord

David Blackbourn: Hitler, 22 March 2001

Hitler, 1936-45: Nemesis 
by Ian Kershaw.
Allen Lane, 1115 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9229 8
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... power-structures? The argument between ‘intentionalists’ and ‘structuralists’ is where Ian Kershaw came in. Originally a historian of medieval England, he switched tracks in the 1970s to work on the pioneering Bavaria Project led by Martin Broszat, which examined the attitudes of ordinary Germans during the Third Reich. His 1983 book on ...

Working towards the Führer

Wolfgang Mommsen: Hitler, 19 August 1999

Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris 
by Ian Kershaw.
Allen Lane, 845 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 7139 9047 3
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... of a major European nation with a sophisticated culture and a firmly established legal order. Ian Kershaw has set out in his biography to solve this puzzle and is well equipped to do so: he is thoroughly at home with the new research that has been going on since the opening of the East European archives and, more important, was a member of the late ...

Blame It on Mussolini

R.W. Johnson: The Turning Points of the Second World War, 29 November 2007

Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World 1940-41 
by Ian Kershaw.
Allen Lane, 624 pp., £30, June 2007, 978 0 7139 9712 5
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... the various actors, and the way these were transformed by the shifting tides of the war itself, Ian Kershaw gives a far stronger sense of the open-endedness of things. Very little about the war was inevitable. Many of the biggest decisions were, by most counts, irrational, even crazy: Britain’s to fight on against hopeless odds; Germany’s attack on ...

Into Dust

Richard J. Evans: Nazis 1945, 8 September 2011

The End: Hitler’s Germany 1944-45 
by Ian Kershaw.
Allen Lane, 564 pp., £30, August 2011, 978 0 7139 9716 3
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... table. Not so in 1944-45. Why not? Most wars between states in the modern age, according to Ian Kershaw, end with an agreed peace as soon as one side concedes defeat. It is possible to think of major exceptions to this rule, from Napoleon’s France in 1814 to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq two centuries later. Sometimes, too, there is regime change ...

Hopping in His Matchbox

Neal Ascherson: Hitler as a Human, 2 June 2016

Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 
by Volker Ullrich, translated by Jefferson Chase.
Bodley Head, 758 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 1 84792 285 4
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... historian to seize on the ‘working towards the Führer’ interpretation seems to have been Ian Kershaw. Each in the procession of immense tomes of Adolf biography claims to be ‘definitive’, but Kershaw’s two volumes, ‘Hubris’ and ‘Nemesis’, still dominate more than 15 years after their ...

Hooked Trout

Geoffrey Best: Appeasement please, 2 June 2005

Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain’s Road to War 
by Ian Kershaw.
Allen Lane, 488 pp., £20, October 2004, 0 7139 9717 6
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... significance even by so accomplished a book as this. Its author is unlikely to be disappointed. Ian Kershaw’s purpose has not been to write a full biography, or to rehabilitate a politician he considers to have been unjustly neglected. Instead, by examining in great detail one specimen of a particular species, he has made another foray into a ...

Still messing with our heads

Christopher Clark: Hitler in the Head, 7 November 2019

Hitler: A Life 
by Peter Longerich.
Oxford, 1324 pp., £30, July 2019, 978 0 19 879609 1
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Hitler: Only the World Was Enough 
by Brendan Simms.
Allen Lane, 668 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 1 84614 247 5
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... the distinction seems (at least to Knausgaard) impossible to deny. Hence the rage he directs at Ian Kershaw, the author of the classic English-language biography. Knausgaard accuses Kershaw of adopting a dismissive attitude towards the young Hitler, of failing to warm to the passion and innocence of his subject. This ...

Rule by Inspiration

John Connelly: A balanced view of the Holocaust, 7 July 2005

The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy 1939-42 
by Christopher Browning.
Arrow, 615 pp., £9.99, April 2005, 0 09 945482 3
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... groped their way from one evil to a greater evil. Quoted on the jacket of the hardback edition, Ian Kershaw calls Browning ‘one of the world’s leading historians of the Holocaust’. Actually, Browning’s position is unique. He alone takes us from the ‘ordinary’ killers to the extraordinary deed, exhausting the archives but projecting ...

Nazi Votes

David Blackbourn, 1 November 1984

The Nazi Machtergreifung 
edited by Peter Stachura.
Allen and Unwin, 191 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 04 943026 2
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Stormtroopers: A Social, Economic and Ideological Analysis 1929-35 
by Conan Fischer.
Allen and Unwin, 239 pp., £20, June 1983, 0 04 943028 9
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The Nazi Party: A Social Profile of Members and Leaders 1919-1945 
by Michael Kater.
Blackwell, 415 pp., £22.50, August 1983, 0 631 13313 5
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Beating the Fascists: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933 
by Eve Rosenhaft.
Cambridge, 273 pp., £24, August 1983, 9780521236386
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... misleading picture. The ceremonial pathos and irrationalism of the Nazi appeal were real enough. Ian Kershaw, also writing in the Stachura volume, notes the mysticism which fired one convert to the NSDAP: ‘On April 20, in Kassel, for the first time I heard the Führer Adolf Hitler speak in person. After this, there was only one thing for me, either to ...

It can happen here

Alan Milward, 2 May 1985

Hitler and the Final Solution 
by Gerald Fleming.
Hamish Hamilton, 219 pp., £12.95, January 1985, 0 241 11388 1
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Hitler in History 
by Eberhard Jäckel.
University Press of New England, 115 pp., $9.95, January 1985, 0 87451 311 1
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Albert Speer: The End of a Myth 
by Matthias Schmidt, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Harrap, 276 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 245 54244 2
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... elsewhere in German society. But as the best study of public opinion in the Third Reich, that of Ian Kershaw on Bavaria, a traditionally anti-semitic area, tells us with grim precision, to the population as a whole the massacre of the Jews ‘was of no more than minimal interest’. Anti-semitism was a force, not one of the strongest ones, in political ...

I and My Wife

Bee Wilson: Eva Braun, 5 January 2012

Eva Braun: Life with Hitler 
by Heike Görtemaker, translated by Damion Searls.
Allen Lane, 324 pp., £25, October 2011, 978 1 84614 489 9
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... Joachim Fest claimed that Hitler was unable ‘to lead an everyday life’, while more recently Ian Kershaw claimed that Hitler was devoted to playing the part of Führer to the extent of lacking a personal life. ‘Do we not thereby dehumanise him,’ Görtemaker asks, ‘and as a result let him escape our critical understanding?’ Görtemaker argues ...

Barely under Control

Jenny Turner: Who’s in charge?, 7 May 2015

... Birmingham City Council had already ordered an inquiry, to be headed by the education consultant Ian Kershaw. Gove nevertheless announced his own inquiry, bigger and certainly more inflammatory, as a result of his decision to select Clarke, a former head of counter-terrorism for the Metropolitan Police, to lead it. Clarke’s report was published just ...

Your Soft German Heart

Richard J. Evans: ‘The German War’, 14 July 2016

The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939-45 
by Nicholas Stargardt.
Bodley Head, 701 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 1 84792 099 7
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... the diverse and changing attitudes to victory and defeat. The most notable of these accounts, Ian Kershaw’s The End, pointed to Hitler’s stubbornness and charisma, the ingrained sense of duty felt by officers and civil servants, the widespread (and justified) fear of the Red Army, and the sharp increase in the terror exercised on the military and ...

After Kemal

Perry Anderson, 25 September 2008

... killed Scheubner-Richter been a foot to the right, history would have taken a different course,’ Ian Kershaw remarks. Hitler mourned him as ‘irreplaceable’. Invading Poland 16 years later, he would famously ask his commanders, referring to the Poles, but with obvious implications for the Jews: ‘Who now remembers the Armenians?’ The Third Reich ...


Fredric Jameson, 8 November 2018

My Struggle: Book 6. The End 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 1153 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 84655 829 0
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... Hitler before the fateful departure for Munich. This is ostensibly a reply to the first volume of Ian Kershaw’s now canonical biography, and quite rightly takes issue with a literary and formal problem raised by biography in general, and Kershaw’s in particular – viz the inevitable projection backwards onto the ...

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