The Hitler of History

John Lukacs, Author, Shelby Hearon, Author Knopf Publishing Group $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-679-44649-1
Historian Lukacs has demonstrated in many of his 15 previous books that he is an original thinker. The concept of this new book is brilliant: the volume presents a history of the evolution of knowledge about Hitler by studying the biographies and biographers who have attempted to explain the hold he had on the German masses. In his preface, Lukacs is both clear and modest: clear in explaining that he is not yet another Hitler biographer but rather an historian producing a history of Hitler biographies; modest in conceding that there are so many biographies that ""a pretense of completeness would be both mistaken and improper."" Unfortunately, the brilliant concept is not brilliantly executed and neither the clarity nor the modesty of the preface prevail throughout the text. Hundreds of compound-complex sentences and much untranslated German make for laborious reading, and Lukacs too often dismisses biographers without offering the evidence that would support his own interpretation. Despite the flaws, the book is a worthy effort. Even the most obsessed amateur scholar is unlikely to have read even half the biographies Lukacs has read, partly because so many of them are in languages other than English. Furthermore, each of the episodes in Hitler's career that Lukacs has chosen to explicate is worth attention. Was Hitler a revolutionary or a reactionary? Was he a successful statesman and war strategist? What was Hitler's primary motive for murdering Jews? Is there any validity to the contemporary Hitler rehabilitation movement? These are just some of the questions with which Lukacs wrestles. History Book Club selection. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-375-70113-9
Open Ebook - 190 pages - 978-0-307-76561-1
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