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Hitler, Vol. 1: 1889-1936 Hubris

(Hitler #1)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  3,525 ratings  ·  156 reviews
Ian Kershaw's HITLER allows us to come closer than ever before to a serious understanding of the man and of the catastrophic sequence of events which allowed a bizarre misfit to climb from a Viennese dosshouse to leadership of one of Europe's most sophisticated countries. With extraordinary skill and vividness, drawing on a huge range of sources, Kershaw recreates the worl ...more
Kindle Edition, 880 pages
Published (first published 1998)
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Jochen Träm Honestly, the very detailed description of, well, pretty much everything is in my perspective one of the major selling points of Kershaw's work. YMMV.
Tom Allen I have not read Kershaw's book yet, but I am likewise a newcomer to reading about this period of history. I just read Evans' Third Reich in Power (the…moreI have not read Kershaw's book yet, but I am likewise a newcomer to reading about this period of history. I just read Evans' Third Reich in Power (the second book in his trilogy) and can offer some thoughts. Evans seems to try to describe how the Nazis affected every aspect of life during their rule. He begins by describing the courts and the law under the Nazis, then discusses art, education, religion, the economy, etc. He winds up the book with a section titled" Road to War". While I found myself questioning how representative the narrative accounts were as presented throughout the book, each section seemed to provide a reasonable conclusion about how the Nazis ruled Germany. The bottom line seems to be that the Nazis essentially dominated every aspect of life. Their nationalistic goals had support among the populace but their methods were nothing short of insane, dictatorial, and perverse in achieving the restoration of the German spirit. Evans' TRIP leads to the conclusion that F.A. Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" (written in the wake of World War 2) was a pretty fair assessment of what happens when government becomes too powerful and too centralized.(less)

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4.37  · 
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Claude Lanzmann, who directed the famous Holocaust documentary Shoah, once said that any attempt to explain Hitler is an "obscenity." This, of course, has not stopped a generation of authors from attempting to do just that.

Of course, Lanzmann's statement is fatuous bluster. More to the point, there isn't a historical topic on earth that is out-of-bounds. And for good reason. Neglecting Hitler's story makes him into something more than he was. He wasn't the antichrist; he wasn't some sort of mon
Lewis Weinstein
UPDATE 4/25/16 ...

The balance of the book is as good as the beginning. A superb overview of the Hitler years through 1936. Kershaw is both factual and opinionated, which I find refreshing.

UPDATE 3/22/14 ...

I have now read the chapters concerning the early months of the Hitler regime, during which Hitler destroyed all opposition and established Nazi control over all public and private organizations. It is frightening how easily and how quickly this transformation took place. It is also evident th
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A towering literary and scholarly achievement by Ian Kershaw showing extraordinary insight into Hitler’s rise to power, internal struggles within the regime, policy-making and governance, and every minutiae of the regime. I would recommend several other books by prominent historians or primary source documents about the Nazi Regime first as a primer, such as the Kershaw’s The Hitler Myth, and Gellately’s Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in the Third Reich to get a bit of the sense of the tim ...more
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military
Kershaw's book is the best I have encountered at helping the reader to understand how someone like Hitler was able to become the supreme ruler of Germany. The book starts out as an excellent biography of Hitler's early years, but in the mid-1920s it changes into more of a sociological history of Germany between the wars: why the Weimar Republic failed, what average Germans cared about, and what it was about Hitler's message that resonated with the people and why. Hitler himself is such a cipher ...more
The first of a two-volume biography, Kershaw has given us a magisterial study of Hitler which far surpasses Fest's effort of the 1970s, good as that was. Kershaw has taken good advantage of the work which has been done since then, displaying an impressive range of research from which he draws conclusions that are cogently argued. He looks not only at the man himself, but also at the conditions which gave rise to him, placing him in context—not depicting him as an inhuman monster, but showing the ...more
Frank Stein
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As many know, Adolf Hitler was a failed artist. What this book brings out, however, is that he retained the habits of a fin-de-siecle bohemian for his entire life. When this son of an martinent middle-class Austrian customs official first moved to Vienna, he refused to work for his keep. He relied on loans from an aunt, later a small orphans pension, and periodic sponging off friends. He spent much his meager funds attending the opera (usually Wagner), and most of his time declaiming monologues ...more
P.J. Sullivan
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

This book gives a good account of Hitler's highly improbable rise to power, but does not resolve the question of why Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor. It says that Hindenburg initially refused, until ex-chancellor Franz von Papen convinced him that Hitler would be harmless as chancellor. He could be safely contained, said von Papen, "boxed in" by conservatives in the cabinet and by Hindenburg himself. It was thought that political responsibilities would tame the Nazis. That is Kershaw's v
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
Heavy going in places and short on his personal life, but a very detailed account of each part of Hitler's development. Fascinating are the opportunities to stop his rise and the perfect storm of the economy, Versailles and a contemporary German appetite for authority that delivers him to power. It's terrible, and compelling.
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You have to realize what you are getting into when you pick up this book. It's the first volume of a two-volume biography of Hitler, so you already know it's going to be unpleasant. In addition, however, it's extremely detailed, and you get a lot of names and places that you are unfamiliar with thrown at you. I think what would have been useful was a glossary of names and German words used in the book. At one point, the author starts using the word "Lander" (with an umlaut). I had no idea what t ...more
Christian Holub
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: know-your-enemy
So, yes, I did pick up this book after the election. Hitler/Trump parallels have abounded for awhile now (thanks to their shared love of minority-targeting rhetoric, talent for propaganda, lack of political experience, and oh yeah, Nazi followers). At the very least, one has to admit that our new president has authoritarian leanings, so I thought it'd be worthwhile to read up on the most dangerous authoritarian leader of the 20th century.
It was worth it. I found more eerie little Trump/Hitler p
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kershaw is at first sight an odd choice to write a biography because as a structuralist he is more inclined to look towards power structures, organizations etc to explain historical events rather than the "great man" approach to history.

However, what at fist sight would appear to be a disadvantage turns out to be of major benefit. We get both a detailed account of Hitler's life, but also a very sure footed and insightful explanation of German political history from the end of the First World War
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm struggling to recall reading a better biography than Ian Kershaw's first volume on Hitler. This book skillfully places Hitler into the context of his time and place, stripping away the myths promulgated by his subject, his subject's admirers and contemporary enemies, and by those who've stumbled in their attempts to understand how an unemployable, draft dodging crank succeeded in convincing a nation in crisis to place itself under his care. Never before has Hitler's rise seemed so chancy, so ...more
Andrea Samorini
L'abbiamo preso a servizio.
Franz von Papen (fine di gennaio 1933)

Stiamo ingabbiando Hitler.
Alfred Hugenberg (fine di gennaio 1933)

Predico solennemente che quest'uomo maledetto farà sprofondare il nostro Reich nel baratro e getterà sulla nostra nazione un carico indicibile di sofferenze. Le generazioni future vi malediranno nella tomba per ciò che avete fatto.
Ludendorff al presidente del Reich Hindenburg (fine di gennaio 1933)

All’inizio di ogni capitolo ci sono delle citazioni del periodo in esam
John Conquest
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Better than the first volume of the Richard Evans series tbh.

A shame about the dearth of available-in-general information on the Vienna years as they are maximum comfy and followed by the funnier if decidedly less comfy two decade where Hitler bullycides every conservative, reactionary, and socialist on his way to the Reichstag.

Kyle Thompson
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am very interested in Adolf Hitler and the Nazi/Third Reich history, so I figured that this would be a good book to learn more about Hitler, why he did what he did, how he became Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor of Germany, and what the Nazi's were all about. I would say that the latter two were more fulfilled than the "personal" study was.

Since I have already read many books on Adolf Hitler, e.g. Adjutant's and secretaries diaries, Albert Speer's "Inside the Third Reich", and a couple of others, I
I put down my general thoughts on the historiography of the 'Hitler Problem' here, which may prove useful to some, along with the comment section:

I then, instead, decided to listen to this book (audible). It is superb, and shows known of the imbalances that I feared Kershaw's work would demonstrate. It is a more advanced book than Evans' excellent trilogy, in that I think the reader will profit most who knows the material fairly well -- since Kershaw's jud
Oct 16, 2012 marked it as intermittently-reading  ·  review of another edition
This is supposed to be the best, and, for some reason, I'm feeling drawn towards yet another round with Der Führer.
Brendan Hodge
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hitler and the Nazi movement are often used as a warning for what we must avoid, but not necessarily with a lot of context as to the specific history which created Hitler and allowed him and his movement to take power. Kershaw's exhaustive treatment is consistently engaging. I'm eager to finish the second volume as well.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book. It is a very concrete and very readable exploration of Hitler's rise to power, explicitly addressing and deconstructing various broad "explanations" (such as Hitler was mad genius, he was a puppet, he was a rube who happened to be in the "right" place at the right time). This motivation is further framed by the broader question of whether history is an irresistible current that sweeps us all along or whether specific individuals can alter that course. Kershaw's answer t ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed biography of Hitler's life until his rise to power in 1936. Sir Ian Kershaw, an expert on the Nazi Party and Hitler, explains that he came to the idea of writing a biography backwards. "Biography had never figured in my intellectual plans as something I might want to write. I had been much more drawn to social history," says Kershaw in his introduction.

Kershaw concentrates on key turning points during Hitler's life, whether it is entering the army, being mentored by Capt. Karl Mayr, o
Martijn ter Haar
Die Hitler, wat een eikel was dat.

Dat klinkt als een open deur, maar wat haarscherp blijkt uit dit eerste deel van Ian Kershaws biografie is dat kleine Adolf al onuitstaanbaar was. Kershaw is te veel een wetenschapper om de man allerlei psychologische aandoeningen op te plakken, maar een narcist was Hitler zeker en autistische trekken waren hem ook niet vreemd: hij had geen tot weinig interesse in mensen en kon extreem monomaan zijn in zijn interesses als antisemitisme en Wagner (hij ging een op
Katie Magoun
There is no doubt that this is the definitive biography of one of the most detested human beings history has yet produced. I found myself hoping to capture a glimpse of humanity in Hitler. Something to illustrate that there was humanity buried under the dark depths. I didn't find it. Any author knows that engaging a reader involves creating likable (if not loveable) characters, and there is nothing to like here. This is hardly Kershaw's fault, per se, however, it consequently leaves the narrativ ...more
Leonard Armstrong
I have read a number of popular, multi-volume or extra-length biographies. (Manchester's "The Last Lion" series; McCullough's "John Adams"; Lewisohn's "The Beatles: All These Years") Although all these books have impressive reviews, I've felt the same way about all of them: they are seriously in need of editing. The length comes from a huge volume of minutiae and, in some case, author speculation. In short, all these books could lose anywhere form one third to one half the volume without a signi ...more
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hitler
Kershaw answers the question of how such a man as Hitler could have led a nation into the abyss. He exposes the hollow core of Hitler's being that enabled him to appeal to different segments of German society. His absolute certainty in his infallibility convinced many that he had all the right answers. Hitler's tendency for procrastination and his uninterest in the administration and mechanics of governance enabled him to distance himself from objectionable actions of his followers. Kershaw is b ...more
Alan Vecchio
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it was really poorly written. The author's syntax was incredibly awkward and often confusing. He was very prone to writing long, run-on sentences that often were an entire page long. So, why did I slog through 1200 pages of this book; The author produced an incredibly detailed portrayal of Hitler and the country and people he destroyed. I have read a lot about WWII and about Hitler but never before got such an intimate and detailed portrait ...more
Fabian Scherschel
An excellent biography. Well written and scientifically sound almost everywhere. This is probably the definitive biography of Hitler. The whole book is fascinating, but the very first chapters on his youth doubly so. Kershaw deals with a lot of silly myths about the man and soundly refutes a lot of them. The key to understanding Hitler, and ultimately the Second World War is understanding that Hitler was human and that his followers were human. The fact that he wasn't a mythical monster makes th ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Others have given more lengthy reviews and considering I finished this book literally minutes ago, I am feeling too lazy to say what others have already said about this book in their reviews. I would rate Hitler the man zero stars of course, but that is not why I read these kind of books. I take an interest in understanding how people's minds at both ends of the extremes because I think it helps us to understand ourselves. This is probably the most complete account I've ever read of this time pe ...more
Marik Casmon
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this first of a two-volume biography of Hitler over the last week and found it a fascinating story, one which I still don't understand, having never lived through anything like the social chaos that existed in Germany in the 1920s until the re-occupation of the Rhineland, which is where the first volume ends. The book is almost totally about Hitler's political career, and it's an amazing story. I thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to experience it firsthand. I'm going to read the sec ...more
Scott Miller
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so much more than a Hitler biography. It also is a history of Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, an era that tends to be overshadowed by the war itself. Kernshaw, for example, does a terrific job of showing the chaotic conditions in Bavaria as rival political groups fought in the streets. Kernshaw treats Hitler as he should, letting the facts speak for themselves. Throughout he uses telling bits of detail to provide a full portrait of the man. All in all, its a wonderfully written ...more
Ted Haussman
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A really excellent character study and explanation of how Hitler, a shirker and a failure in his young life until service during WWI, was able to rise from obscurity into adulated hero. I had trouble at times with Kershaw's writing style and complicated sentences, but overall a masterful job explaining the many moving parts which caused Hitler to gain the blind faith of an adoring Germany. At times, it is hard to believe it all happened, yet it did. Looking forward to reading the follow-on, Neme
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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

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