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Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris (Hitler #1)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  3,089 Ratings  ·  132 Reviews
Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris
Noted for his excellent structural explanation of the Third Reich's political culture in The Hitler Myth, eminent historian Ian Kershaw shifts approach in this innovative biography of the Nazi tyrant. The first of a two-volume study, Hubris is far from a simple rehearsal of "great man" history, impressively exploring the historical forces that tran
Hardcover, 1st American, 912 pages
Published 1999 by Norton (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.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Christian Holub
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
Martin Middleton
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hitler: Hubris is an indepth and comprehensive look at Hitler up until 1936. However, it does tend to give very little information at the end on 1935-36, probably because it was analysing Hitler and the changes in his disposition and so on, and not the actual Third Reich.

The book argues that it was not because of Hitler's allegedly "remarkable" features that he rose to power in Germany but instead, it was a mixture of luck, deteriorating economic conditions, political radicalisation and help in
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
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: already-read
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
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
Michael Mcclanahan
Very good read. The reason I liked this book is that it really did a good job chronicling Hitler growing up as a starving artist and how through living in horrid conditions he rose to become so appealing to a country that was reeling from WWI and desperate to find an identity. It also does a great job of showcasing just how idiotic he is and the fabrications and anti Semite attitude shaped his distorted world view. If you like reading history and especially about Europe in the early 1900s this b ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hitler's birth, youth and rise to power are profiled by Kershaw in the first of his two volume biography of the Nazi ruler. No political genius, lazy, socially maladroit, and not terribly bright, his sole talent seems to have been as an amazingly charismatic public speaker whose ability to whip his audiences into an almost rapturous state was enough to make him the leader of Germany as the book ends.
Kathy Ridges
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a large tome to review suffice to say it is a gem. You can really lose yourself in the 1930's and feel as if you were almost there. It is heavy on the political aspect and how Hitler and the Nazis rose to power. Social history is also written about making it a very comprehensive study indeed. I have yet to read part 2.

I think he takes a detached and fair view of the whole proceedings.
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the best, most thoroughly researched biography I've read about Hitler's life.

Researched in the late 1990's, and published in 1999, with records recovered from former Soviet East Germany, the diaries of all the Nazi officers who kept them were primary sources along with letters, memos, texts of speeches, etc., that the East Germans kept and preserved.

If you are interested in how Hitler grew up and came to power, this book and its sequel are must-reads.
Robert M.
Apr 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Horrendous. Nothing but a rehash of political correctness and vitriol. Couldn't come anywhere near finishing this alleged biography by a writer with no respect for his subject. Do not waste your time with this unless you merely want to reinforce your own ignorance. Read Toland's excellent biography instead.
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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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