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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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... was translated into action by subordinates, or did he stand on top of a ‘polycracy’ of competing power-structures? The argument between ‘intentionalists’ and ‘structuralists’ is where IanKershaw 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 ...

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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... it is difficult to see how a man with such absurd and insubstantial views could ever have taken charge of a major European nation with a sophisticated culture and a firmly established legal order. IanKershaw 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 ...

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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... the end of the First World War, recognition that the war was lost led senior generals to the negotiating table. Not so in 1944-45. Why not? Most wars between states in the modern age, according to IanKershaw, 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 ...

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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... that too much TV history has turned it into. Instead, by focusing on the strategic choices facing the various actors, and the way these were transformed by the shifting tides of the war itself, IanKershaw 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 ...

Hopping in His Matchbox

Neal Ascherson: Hitler as a Human

1 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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... could last for days, unable to make his mind up until prompted by his worried inner circle. The first historian to seize on the ‘working towards the Führer’ interpretation seems to have been IanKershaw. 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 ...

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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... the seventh Marquess of Londonderry, who died in 1949, will not be moved up the scale of historical significance even by so accomplished a book as this. Its author is unlikely to be disappointed. IanKershaw’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 ...

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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... he did. In the case of the young Hitler, already himself but not yet the author of a genocidal war, the distinction seems (at least to Knausgaard) impossible to deny. Hence the rage he directs at IanKershaw, 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 ...

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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... the Nazis were not rulers who could force their will on circumstances; they were fallible humans who groped their way from one evil to a greater evil. Quoted on the jacket of the hardback edition, IanKershaw 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 ...

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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... swastikas creating an atmosphere of gaudy, sinister theatricality. It is a compelling but potentially misleading picture. The ceremonial pathos and irrationalism of the Nazi appeal were real enough. IanKershaw, 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 ...
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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... that his intentions, if such they were, could have been carried out without sympathy and support from elsewhere in German society. But as the best study of public opinion in the Third Reich, that of IanKershaw 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 ...

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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... Subsequent historians have often been curiously willing to perpetuate this notion. In the 1970s, Joachim Fest claimed that Hitler was unable ‘to lead an everyday life’, while more recently IanKershaw 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 ...

Barely under Control

Jenny Turner: Education: Who’s in charge?

6 May 2015
... Park View and the other two schools, Nansen and Golden Hillock, which made up its academy trust. Birmingham City Council had already ordered an inquiry, to be headed by the education consultant IanKershaw. 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 ...

Your Soft German Heart

Richard J. Evans: ‘The German War’

13 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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... diaries and correspondence, especially field-post letters to and from soldiers at the front, to chart the diverse and changing attitudes to victory and defeat. The most notable of these accounts, IanKershaw’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 ...

Itemised

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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... much intelligence and erudition (there is a bibliography at the end) through the life of the young Hitler before the fateful departure for Munich. This is ostensibly a reply to the first volume of IanKershaw’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 ...

After Kemal

Perry Anderson

25 September 2008
... to a shot while holding hands with Hitler in the Beerhall putsch of 1923. ‘Had the bullet which killed Scheubner-Richter been a foot to the right, history would have taken a different course,’ IanKershaw 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 ...

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