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Hitler: A Biography

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,125 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
“The Hitler biography of the twenty-first century” (Richard J. Evans), Ian Kershaw’s Hitler is a one-volume masterpiece that will become the standard work. From Hitler’s origins as a failed artist in fin-de-siecle Vienna to the terrifying last days in his Berlin bunker, Kershaw’s richly illustrated biography is a mesmerizing portrait of how Hitler attained, exercised, and ...more
ebook, 1152 pages
Published January 18th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1991)
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May 22, 2014 AC marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fascism

There is a tendency to treat this book as if it were simply the latest encyclopedia article (albeit a long one) on Hitler, rather than as what it is -- viz., part of a long, historiographical polemic on the nature of Nazism and its relation to German history. It is necessary in reading this, in other words, to properly contextualize Kershaw's positions vis-a-vis other scholars.

So, to contextualize:

Ian Kershaw ( was a student (and a disciple) of...

Martin B
Jun 01, 2014 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, nonfiction, history
Sometimes when I spend too much time reading on the minutiae of the Third Reich, it starts to look strange in my head--like when you look too long at your own hand or ponder the spelling of your own name too long and it begins to seems weird and unreal. I'm not saying that I doubt the facts of the era any more than I doubt my own name or the existence of my hands, just that those facts begin to feel surreal and unbelievable despite their familiarity. This book does nothing to alleviate that feel ...more
A long, slow read, but well worth the effort. I read this after finishing Richard J. Evans three volume history of the Third Reich. Basically, what I have learned from these two authors is that everything I thought I knew about Hitler was pretty much wrong. We live in a world where people seek simple solutions to complex problems, and there is nothing simple about the methods whereby Hitler rose to power. He and his minions maintained control over Germany for twelve years by being absolutely rut ...more
Rose Boehm
Dec 22, 2013 Rose Boehm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This will be a pivotal book for me. So far it keeps me enthralled. For so many years now I have put my German-ness into a big box and sat on it. Except for once (in my first book I relate the German story as seen from a child's POV) I never truly examined what happened in Nazi Germany. I felt like a kid who'd rather avoid the place where the ghosts dwell at night, whistling in the dark.

So, watch this space. I am gobbling it up right now. Shall tell you what I found when I finish. So far it's the
After months of being immersed in the life of a man thought of by many as the purest example of evil, today I can finally say: IT’S OVER!!!! But don’t get the wrong impression: My sense of release comes not from closing a horrible book, but from ending a fantastic biography about a terrible subject. If you ever want to read a thoroughly researched account of Hitler’s life and not feel like you’ve just found the perfect cure for insomnia, this is the book for you. This is the edited version of th ...more
After reading 300 pages of a 956 page biography of Hitler, I decided I couldn't bear another page of minutia about this essentially boring person. I realized that evil people are not necessarily interesting in any way.

Kershaw's scholarship is incredibly extensive and his prose is professional. He deserves 5 stars on both those counts.

However, descriptions of what Hitler wore when he made this speech or that got to be a bit much, as did mention of every location of every speech he made. Every per
Artiom Karsiuk
Mar 24, 2015 Artiom Karsiuk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, who'd have thunk it? It turns out that Hitler was merely a misunderstood soul and his pure intentions were simply misinterpreted: he actually loved puppies, painting double rainbows and riding ponies. *Psych!* Nah... he was a delusional megalomaniac and a genocidal racist bigot.
As with any political biography, I had no business reading this book [because my knowledge of history and politics is laughable], but I am Russian and live in a post-Soviet state, so the name "Hitler" carries a lot
Terri Lynn
The author Ian Shaw wrote this huge biography of Adolf Hitler from birth to death with many details I did not know before such as his mother being a battered wife and Adolf being abused himself. I learned much about why he thought as he did and his motivations. Surprising facts- Hitler adored his mother and singlehandedly took on her care when he was 18 she was dying of cancer when he took care of the household, her and her health needs, and his sister; said that he loved her above all people an ...more
Nicolas Bateman
Apr 06, 2013 Nicolas Bateman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
A dark descent into the abyss of history and politics. This book made me shiver as much as (if not more) any of Mr King's nightmares. Sir Ian Kershaw masterfully brings us face to face with the facts in a very engaging but surprisingly objective way. I would maybe tend to be slightly critical of the syntax than can sometimes become quite disturbing and misleading, but all in all this is The book you should read if you want a better and rounded understanding of this dark(est) period of history.
Jan 19, 2016 Top rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, faction, english
This book represent comprehensive and fascinating overview of Hitler's life starting from lazy and failed artist in Vienna to the Chancellor of Germany that steered the whole world into one of history's bloodiest wars ever fought.

One of the book's most important aspects is the fact that it is all the time informative but in same time so easy to read.

Author never denies Hitler's undoubted evilness but considers thought-provoking discussions especially involving those that helped Hitler into power
Aug 21, 2012 Christoffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An excellent biography of Hitler. Highly readable. On the other hand, Kershaw presents nothing new - and maybe it's not much more to say about one of history's most important figures. Fortunately Kershaw stays clear of the temptation to explain Hitler with traditional and higly suspectable myths - that Hitler was homosexual, incestuous, psychopathic or asexual.
Apr 06, 2015 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Condensed single-volume edition of the brilliant two-volume original (I got the condensed version as an Audible audiobook). It's the first book I've ever read that makes Hitler understandable not a one-dimensional cartoon character of pure evil, but rather an unspectacular sociopath who felt like an unrewarded genius but just happened to stumble into an environment where his shallow worldview, stunted personality and astonishing speaking skills coincided with a radicalized moment in history wher ...more
Ricardo Serra
Dec 28, 2015 Ricardo Serra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Acabou! Demorei mais de 2 anos a ler este livro, e apesar de ter sido uma ardua tarefa, dou-a por muito bem empregue. Claro está que nestes 2 anos e enquanto dissecava a vida de Hitler, li inumeras obras, a intervalar. Mas voltava sempre a Hitler e ao seu genio demoniaco. A obra tem tanto de extensa e pesada como de fascinante. Desde a sua infancia, com o seu gritante insucesso escolar ao abandono dos estudos, as suas inumeras tentativas falhadas para entrar na Academia de Belas Artes; a tentati ...more
Miguel Carvalho
Sep 01, 2015 Miguel Carvalho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aproveitei os fascículos oferecidos pelo Expresso para ler esta biografia em partes durante cerca de 1 mês e meio. É um trabalho de 850 páginas no livro original, um trabalho rigoroso e exaustivo do autor, mas sobre uma das mais enfadonhas e entediantes figuras da história mundial (para registo biográfico claro), uma vez que desde o fim da Primeira Guerra até ao seu suicídio (oops, spoiler alert!!) a sua linha de pensamento foi sempre assente num mesmo tipo de discurso baseado num ódio visceral ...more
Spencer Warner
This is easily the best, most complete book I have ever read. It took a very long time to do so (seeing as it is essentially 2 books in one) but in the end I found it an enjoyable read despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen at every turn.
What is scary, as is the case with all books of this time period, is how Hitler was at best a bigoted racist but the circumstances and the compliance of the time enabled him o become for a short time the most supreme overlord the world has ever se
Aug 20, 2012 Lizixer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-finished
Of all the monstrous people the twentieth century threw up, it is Hitler's rise to power than raises the most questions for me. Kershaw's masterly short study of how he became so powerful and why the German people supported him goes a long way to answering those questions.

There's, of course, no one neat answer. Germany's democracy was fragile with the Depression causing widespread misery. Huge life denying political ideologies mixed up with largely uncontested theories of social Darwinism and e
Aug 30, 2009 F.R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ian Kershaw wrote two books about Hitler: ‘Hubris’ and ‘Nemesis’ and this volume is a bringing together of those tomes – albeit with the notes and some of the context removed, as well as other textual adjustments. As such this possibly isn’t the best version to review (certainly the lack of context means it would be handy to know the broad strokes of the story already).

However even in this form it remains a remarkable achievement, as Kershaw demonstrates how such an oddball, with extreme beliefs
Oct 20, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No opinion yet. The introduction suscinctly describes the focus of this book of 1100 pages. The book is effectively written, but I'm not sure I can take that much Hitler. We'll see.

Imagine this scenario. I put aside books about Alexander Herzen and the history of Populism and early socialism in Russia, because they began to bore me. So what do I do? I pick up a biography of Adolph Hitler, a man who has never interested me over much. Go figure.

I've just taken up Kershaw's biography again - now on
Mar 23, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hitler is perhaps the most significant figure of the 20th century, simply for the impact and lasting effects of his existence. Would the world today be the same place, for better or worse, if not for Hitler? It's an impossible question to answer, but it's hard to think of another public figure who had the same devastating impact on world events.

And yet the man himself is so little known and so little understood. I cannot say I really had any better idea of who he really was or why he did things
Feb 11, 2015 Hina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason i was able to tolerate such a huge boring book was because i have a soft spot in my heart for Hitler... :3
This book had nothing new in it,I skipped a lot of pages.. -.-
Loved last 250 pages with pics.. it was like watching a movie.. ^.^
Why wasnt the whole book like that? it would have been more interesting.. -.-
Mar 06, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Having recently read Hitler's Mein Kampf I wanted to read this celebrated biography.It is very well written and maintained my interest throughout - it's a long book!

Hitler's rise to power was stranger than fiction - a poor Austrian with little education, no influential connexions and very few friends - the archetypal loner.But here was a supremely gifted propagandist with the ability to captivate and motivate an audience, whether near or far. His work was admittedly made very much easier as a re
Gustavo Nascimento
Muito boa biografia, embora não tenha lido outras biografias de Hitler esta é bastante detalhada, parecendo bem completa sem ser monótona. Me esclareceu bastante como foi possível o nazismo que parecia inicialmente um partido ridículo chegar a ser quase uma unanimidade na Alemanha: governos democráticos corruptos que não atendem às necessidades básicas da população criam o ambiente perfeito para o desenvolvimento de governos autoritários que prometem moralização e soluções rápidas .
Foi meu prim
David Brown
Dec 23, 2011 David Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive and fascinating account of Hitler's life from a lazy and failed artist watching time go by in Vienna to the Chancellor of Germany that steered the country into one of history's bloodiest wars ever fought. My knowledge of Hitler prior to this was average but Kershaw's book has a lot to offer. He never denies the undoubted evil of Hitler but considers thought-provoking discussions especially involving those that helped Hitler into power and allowed him to stay there. At times the boo ...more
Freyja Vanadis
Jun 25, 2010 Freyja Vanadis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who's interested in Hitler or World War 2
This is a monstrously huge book that's going to take me forever to read, but so far it's well worth it. Very informative with lots of insights into possible reasons why Hitler may have believed and acted as he did.

Okay, I finished the book and I was actually sad that it ended. Even though it was long and full of information, I found it fascinating. Hitler wasn't quite the man he portrayed to the world. His image was different than the real flesh and blood human being. And even though he wasn't c
Anis El
Hitler the dictator had many lives.Hitler was a very racist and mean person. He was the nazies chief Hitler was also a very strict person who would not like to be talked about. He would kill people who were not blond with blue eyes. Hitler was normally good he was an artist that loved to draw houses.Hitler went into a art university and told him he needed to draw other things so they sent him to an architecture university and he quit. Hitler is now one of the worst guys every known on earth.

Kaitlyn Lange
In the book Hitler,Ian Kershaw's main purpose is to inform. Throughout the whole book he feeds you facts, and bits of historical information. He wants you to know what Hitler was really like and who he really was. A major theme of this book was Hitler's power. The author would often relate subjects back to Hitler's need for supremecy, and even concluded that the Holocaust was a result of Hitler's craving for power. This book was written as an exposition because the author explained and analyzed ...more
Logan Doyle
Sep 11, 2014 Logan Doyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first saw the two volume version of this book at Chapters. I don't normally feel anxiety, but the thought of taking on that daunting task flushed my head in red warmth.

I was relieved and elated to see a condenced 1200 or so page single volume released. It feels wrong to say I was excited to receive HITLER for Christmas, but I was.

The book didn't disappoint. Perhaps Kershaw's charactorization of Hitler as a youth left an imprint on me for the remainder of the book, but I was left with the bur
Oct 12, 2012 Brent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just began Book I entitled "Hubris." So far very good. This is a portrait that examines the structures within society around Hitler, the circumstances that brought him into a position that enabled him to become the leader he became. I love how the book emphasizes that Hitler was not a tyrant. He was a man of the people. It was a rule based upon charisma.
Razvan Zamfirescu
Este, de departe, cea mai bună biografie a dictatorului pe care am citit-o până acum și cred că este una dintre cele mai complexe biografii scrise vreodată.
Ian Kershaw este un istoric care are marele defect de a nu lăsa nicio piatră nerăsturnată și de a te adânci în evenimentele istorice pe care ți le povestește. Nu face rabat de la nicio informație, niciun detaliu, oricât ar părea acesta de neînsemnat.
După cum ziceam, este cea mai bună biografie a dictatorului pe care am citit-o. Spun asta pent
Stephen Huntley
Jan 11, 2015 Stephen Huntley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A big read (1,000 pages) but manages to intrigue, bewilder, terrify and infuriate right up to the last page. I wanted to get an insight into how a modern, sophisticated and complex society could willingly rally behind a man who would ultimately be responsible for killing 50 million people and devastating the lives of most Europeans. As a young man he was a pathetic, friendless, untalented nobody. That is the scary part. And why I'm going to be much more wary of those political extremists who see ...more
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Pritzker Summer R...: Biography 1 5 Aug 20, 2013 07:14AM  
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Professor Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian, noted for his biographies of Adolf Hitler.
Ian Kershaw studied at Liverpool (BA) and Oxford (D. Phil). He was a lecturer first in medieval, then in modern, history at the University of Manchester. In 1983-4 he was Visiting Professor of Modern History at the Ruhr University in Bochum, West Germany. From 1987 to 1989 he was Professor of Modern Histor
More about Ian Kershaw...

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“Following a meeting with Hitler, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, a man who had 'courageously criticized the Nazi attacks on the Catholic Church' - went away convinced that Hitler was deeply religious.” 4 likes
“Strasser hoped to replace the Programme of 1920. In November, he took the first steps in composing the Community’s own draft programme. It advocated a racially integrated German nation at the heart of a central European customs union, the basis of a united states of Europe.” 0 likes
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