Stella

THE HITLER VIRUS: The Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler

Peter Wyden, Author . Arcade $27.95 (340p) ISBN 978-1-55970-532-5

The virus referred to in the title of this uneven but passionate book is the staying power of Hitler and his ideology, a half-century after the end of WWII. Wyden (Stella), who, as a child, escaped from the Nazis before the war, focuses on many of the usual suspects in Germany in addressing Hitler's legacy: skinheads on trial for murder; "New Right" historian Eric Nolte, who says, "I don't consider [Hitler] the embodiment of evil"; Judge Rainer Orlet, notorious for lenience with neo-Nazis. He highlights Germans who continue to celebrate the Führer's birthday and those (numbering about 150,000 annually) who visit his refuge at Berchtesgaden. He records, with obvious rancor, his interviews with Holocaust deniers such as British historian David Irving (himself the subject of another new book, D.D. Guttenplan's The Holocaust on Trial, Forecasts, Apr. 23). At times, he vacillates between an optimistic conviction that Germany has learned its lesson and a fear that neo-Nazism will have its day. Wyden is at his best in uncharted territory, i.e., ordinary people's continuing fascination with Hitler. After spending time with some of the visitors to Berchtesgaden, Wyden is disturbed by, but unable to discern what lies behind, their fascination. For local tourist officials, it is clearer: Hitler "is their star" and "their migraine. They prize him but cannot officially admit it." The Hitler virus seems almost epidemic in Wyden's account, and his portraits linger in the mind. (Wyden died before the volume was completed; his publisher, with the collaboration of his widow, completed the manuscript.) (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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