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A Gutter Subject

Neal Ascherson: Joachim Fest, 25 October 2012

Not Me: Memoirs of a German Childhood 
by Joachim Fest, translated by Martin Chalmers.
Atlantic, 316 pp., £20, August 2012, 978 1 84354 931 4
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... a lonely, even disabling experience. This may be a way of understanding the enigmatic character of Joachim Fest, the German historian, journalist and editor who died six years ago. His Berlin family belonged to the Bildungsbürgertum – roughly, the well-educated middle class – and rejected Hitler and National Socialism from the very first moment. They ...

Favourite without Portfolio

Jonathan Meades: Designs for the Third Reich, 4 February 2016

Hitler at Home 
by Despina Stratigakos.
Yale, 373 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 300 18381 8
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Speer: Hitler’s Architect 
by Martin Kitchen.
Yale, 442 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 300 19044 1
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... as minister of armaments, Fritz Todt, whose pessimistic candour may have cost him his life. In Joachim Fest’s estimation, ‘his sense of reality particularly distinguished him in Hitler’s entourage.’ He had been in the habit of telling Hitler what Hitler didn’t want to hear, specifically that the war on the Eastern Front was unwinnable. A ...

The Big Show

David Blackbourn, 3 March 1983

‘Hitler’: A Film from Germany 
by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, translated by Joachim Neugroschel, introduced by Susan Sontag.
Carcanet, 268 pp., £9.95, December 1982, 0 85635 405 8
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... it is of conceits, Syberberg shows an Olympian contempt for predecessors such as Erwin Leiser and Joachim Fest who have addressed the same subject through a documentary mode. It is implied that they are merely part of the grubby Hitler industry – ‘our Disneyland’. Instead we are presented with a film spectacle in which the Third Reich itself is ...

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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... counted 120,000 pieces of work on Hitler. We have had serious biographers, like Alan Bullock and Joachim Fest, and we have had psycho-historians who put the Führer on the couch or seemed to think that there was some point in counting his testicles (the evidence suggests two). There have, in fact, been as many Hitlers as there are ways of explaining the ...

Hitler at Heathrow

E.S. Shaffer, 7 August 1980

The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler 
edited by Michael Unger.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £4.95, March 1979, 0 7156 1356 1
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The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. 
by George Steiner.
Granta, 66 pp., £1.50
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Young Adolf 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £6.95, November 1978, 0 7156 1323 5
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... Adolf Hitler should have been so vital to its forging. His most authoritative German biographer, Joachim Fest, discussing ‘Hitler and Historical Greatness’, while acknowledging with Hegel that world history is not played out on ‘the true site of morality’, and with Burkhardt that we grant ‘a strange exemption from the ordinary moral code to ...

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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... written in Hitler’s lifetime, and go on through the works of Alan Bullock, Eberhard Jäckel and Joachim Fest to reach Ian Kershaw and now Ullrich’s large, steady book – again, the first of two projected volumes. So is it really Hitler’s personality and private life that we still need to know about? Who he was, and why he did what he did, must ...

Hitler’s Teeth

Neal Ascherson: Berlin 1945, 28 November 2002

Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 490 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88695 5
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... now took almost for granted. In an otherwise mean-minded review in Der Spiegel, the historian Joachim Fest complains that Beevor is out of his depth when he tries to generalise about postwar German feelings and politics: this is a fair criticism, and Beevor’s gifts also desert him when he tries to be clever about Hitler’s psyche. The famous last ...

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 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 ...

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