THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLES: The Lives and Times of Hitler's Inner Circle

Anthony Read, Author . Norton $29.95 (984p) ISBN 978-0-393-04800-1

As the Götterdämmerung for Hitler's Germany approached in April 1945, the surviving members of the Führer's inner circle of bureaucrats were still competing for his favor and conspiring, each in his own furtive way, to succeed him. Why anyone aspired to preside over the ruins is less a mystery after reading Read. From the unpromising beginnings of Nazism in the 1920s, ambitious misfits gathered around Hitler, whose demagogic genius in exploiting the humiliation of WWI's defeat seemed likely to propel him to power. Each was, in Read's words, "totally besotted" with Hitler and "bitterly jealous" of his attention to others. Not all survived the Darwinian struggle for favor and succession. Ernst Röhm was murdered by fellow Nazis. Rudolf Hess took a solo flight to captivity. Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated. But three of the original disciples—Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler—remained to the end, competing for power even when, with defeat imminent, the prize had lost all value. Four latecomers also hung on for dubious glory: the foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop; chief architect and war production genius, Albert Speer; Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann; and Adm. Karl Dönitz, whom no one expected to be anointed Hitler's successor. That the internecine rivalries persisted beyond the end suggests the warped minds of Hitler's crew of bureaucratic criminals. Despite his penchant for cliché ("the ripest of plums suddenly dropped into the Nazis' laps, completely out of the blue"), Read (coauthor of The Fall of Berlin , etc.) tells the story of two decades of assiduous jockeying for power in luridly absorbing if overwhelming detail. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Open Ebook - 1008 pages - 978-1-4481-1425-2
Paperback - 984 pages - 978-0-7126-6416-5
Paperback - 984 pages - 978-0-393-32697-0
Hardcover - 984 pages - 978-0-224-06008-0
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