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Weimarama

Richard J. Evans, 8 November 1990

Male Fantasies Vol. I: Women, Floods, Bodies, History 
by Klaus Theweleit, translated by Chris Turner, Erica Carter and Stephen Conway.
Polity, 517 pp., £35, May 1987, 0 7456 0382 3
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Male Fantasies Vol. II: Male Bodies: Psychoanalysing the White Terror 
by Klaus Theweleit, translated by Chris Turner, Erica Carter and Stephen Conway.
Polity, 507 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 7456 0556 7
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... Since its appearance in Germany in 1977, Klaus Theweleit’s psychoanalytical study of fascist literature has graduated from the status of a cult work to that of a classic. Rereading it in English, a decade after my first, rather sceptical perusal, it is easy to see why. Much of what made Theweleit’s book so startlingly original in the mid-Seventies has since become relatively conventional in literary and historical studies, from the Foucaultian analysis of literary discourse, and the exploration of the political history of the human body, to a feminist perspective on sex and power ...

Thank you, Dr Morell

Richard J. Evans: Was Hitler ill?, 21 February 2013

Was Hitler Ill? 
by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle, translated by Nick Somers.
Polity, 244 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 0 7456 5222 1
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... In May 1941, after the sudden flight to England of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, who had deluded himself that he could persuade the British to make peace, a joke went round Berlin. ‘So you’re the madman,’ Churchill says to Hess. ‘No,’ Hess replies, ‘only his deputy!’ That Hitler was insane was something many Germans came to believe in the later stages of the war ...

Short Cuts

Richard J. Evans: Rewritten History, 2 December 2021

... We won’t allow people to censor our past,’ Robert Jenrick, then communities secretary, said in January. ‘It is our privilege in this country to have inherited a deep, rich, fascinating and yes, often complex, past. We are mature enough as a society to understand that and to seek to pass it on, warts and all. To do otherwise would leave our history and future diminished ...

The Demented Dalek

Richard J. Evans: Michael Gove, 12 September 2019

Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry 
by Owen Bennett.
Biteback, 422 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... We’ve​ got form, Michael Gove and I. ‘Richard Evans may hold a professorship,’ he told the Daily Mail in 2014, after I had attacked him for claiming that Britain had fought the First World War for democracy, ‘but these arguments, like the interpretations of Oh! What a Lovely War! and Blackadder, are more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate ...

A Most Irksome Matter

Richard J. Evans: Murder in 18th-century Hamburg, 6 July 2006

Liaisons Dangereuses: Sex, Law and Diplomacy in the Age of Frederick the Great 
by Mary Lindemann.
Johns Hopkins, 353 pp., £23.50, May 2006, 0 8018 8317 2
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... If you wanted intelligent conversation in 18th-century Hamburg, there was no better place to go than Dreyer’s coffee house, where the professional and cultural elite gathered to discuss the latest ideas of the Enlightenment in an atmosphere far removed from the inns and bars of the waterfront. Here you could read the international press and discuss the state of the world ...

Who remembers the Poles?

Richard J. Evans: Between Hitler and Stalin, 4 November 2010

Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin 
by Timothy Snyder.
Bodley Head, 524 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 224 08141 2
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... of other historians have written recently, and more perceptively, about this same topic, from Richard Overy in The Dictators to Robert Gellately in Lenin, Stalin and Hitler – some, like Norman Davies in Europe at War 1939-45, from a similar perspective to Snyder’s own. Despite the widespread misapplication of Hitler’s statement about the ...

Let’s Learn from the English

Richard J. Evans: The Nazi Empire, 25 September 2008

Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe 
by Mark Mazower.
Allen Lane, 726 pp., £30, June 2008, 978 0 7139 9681 4
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... As a young man, Adolf Hitler became a devotee of the music-dramas of Richard Wagner, and spent much of his meagre income on tickets for performances of Lohengrin and other pseudo-medieval fantasies. Historians have spent a good deal of energy trying to trace the effects of this youthful passion on the later dictator’s ideas and beliefs ...

Lobbying

Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Aristocratic Go-Betweens, 17 March 2016

Go-Betweens for Hitler 
by Karina Urbach.
Oxford, 389 pp., £20, July 2015, 978 0 19 870366 2
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... like so many other members of the political class in Britain, or did they become, as the title of Richard Griffiths’s illuminating book on the subject puts it, ‘fellow-travellers of the right’? Given the passionate commitment of George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the Allied cause and the crucial role they played in bolstering morale during the Blitz by ...

One nation, two states

Richard J. Evans, 21 December 1989

... Events are moving fast in East Germany. Over the past couple of weeks, the popular revolution, instead of settling down to a period of quiet preparation for free elections, has been gaining momentum. As many people predicted, the regime of Egon Krenz did not last very long. What toppled him was not, however, the fact that nobody could forget his role in rigging the local elections earlier in the year or his ostentatious endorsement of the Chinese authorities’ massacre of the students in Tiananmen Square ...

‘Equality exists in Valhalla’

Richard J. Evans: German Histories, 4 December 2014

Germany: Memories of a Nation 
by Neil MacGregor.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £30, November 2014, 978 0 241 00833 1
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Germany: Memories of a Nation 
British Museum, until 25 January 2015Show More
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... Twenty-five years​ after the fall of the Berlin Wall, two major exhibitions in London take stock of German identity, history and memory, each in its own way providing a powerful reminder of the legacies of a contested past in the culture of the reunited Germany of today. One of them, the beguiling exhibition at the British Museum curated by Barrie Cook, displays objects of many kinds, from the wooden sculptures made in the late 15th century by Tilman Riemenschneider to the metallic icon of the Volkswagen Beetle, in order to address the question of Germany’s fragmented sense of itself across the ages ...

The Wonderfulness of Us

Richard J. Evans: The Tory Interpretation of History, 17 March 2011

... One of the under-appreciated tragedies of our time has been the sundering of our society from its past,’ Michael Gove announced at the Tory Party Conference last October: Children are growing up ignorant of one of the most inspiring stories I know – the history of our United Kingdom. Our history has moments of pride, and shame, but unless we fully understand the struggles of the past we will not properly value the liberties of the present ...

Spot and Sink

Richard J. Evans: The End of WW1, 15 December 2011

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 
by David Stevenson.
Allen Lane, 688 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 0 7139 9840 5
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... In November 1918, after more than four years in the trenches, Adolf Hitler was in hospital away from the front, temporarily blinded by a gas attack. As he was recovering, he was told of Germany’s surrender and the overthrow of the kaiser. ‘Again,’ he later wrote, ‘everything went black before my eyes.’ And so it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations; in vain the hunger and thirst of months which were often endless; in vain the hours in which, with mortal fear clutching at our hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; and in vain the death of two million … Was it for this that these boys of 17 sank into the earth of Flanders? Was this the meaning of the sacrifice which the German mother made to the fatherland when with sore heart she let her best-loved boys march off, never to see them again? Like many others in Germany, Hitler struggled to find an explanation for Germany’s apparently sudden collapse ...

Disorderly Cities

Richard J. Evans: WW2 Town Planning, 5 December 2013

A Blessing in Disguise: War and Town Planning in Europe, 1940-45 
edited by Jörn Düwel and Niels Gutschow.
DOM, 415 pp., €98, August 2013, 978 3 86922 295 0
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... In 1941, the architect Hans Stosberg drew up ambitious plans for a new model town, with monumental public buildings grouped around a main square, and leafy boulevards branching off a central avenue which led to the factory complex that would provide the bulk of the work for a population of 80,000. There were to be twelve schools, six kindergartens, twenty sports fields, swimming pools, offices, banks, shops and a number of satellite settlements, every one of them constructed around a main square and equipped with similar public buildings and modern amenities ...

Cite ourselves!

Richard J. Evans: The Annales School, 3 December 2009

The Annales School: An Intellectual History 
by André Burguière, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Cornell, 309 pp., £24.95, 0 8014 4665 1
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... As a graduate student in the 1970s, looking around for new approaches to history that would enable me to do something different from my teachers’ generation, I spent a lot of time with my fellow students discussing the relative attractions of British Marxist historians like Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill and E.P. Thompson, German neo-Weberians such as Hans-Ulrich Wehler and Jürgen Kocka, American students of social inequality like Stephan Thernstrom, advocates of a social-anthropological approach such as Keith Thomas, partisans of a politically committed history of everyday life like Raphael Samuel and the History Workshop, and more besides ...

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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... We still​ do not know what Germans thought they were fighting for,’ Nicholas Stargardt announces at the outset of his ambitious and absorbing new book, ‘or how they managed to continue their war until the bitter end.’ This is not for want of trying: numerous historians have analysed German opinion and behaviour at every stage of the Second World War, using above all the Meldungen aus dem Reich, the regular confidential reports on civilian morale made by SS Security Service and local and regional government officials, together with 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 ...

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