Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist, and the Plot for the Third Reich

Steven Sage, Author . Carroll & Graf $28 (370p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1713-2

Sage, a former research fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, reveals that Hitler's life followed a "script" based on his reading of three Ibsen plays—An Enemy of the People , The Master Builder and Emperor and Galilean . Sage argues that these were "systematically adapted by the Führer over the course of decades. He paraphrased their lines and restaged highlights of their plots while assigning himself the starring role in this grand drama. Sage pays lip service to the influence of Wagner on Hitler, but it was the Norwegian Ibsen, he says, whose words Hitler cribbed. Sometimes, Sage nails his target, and he is always interesting on the Nazis' obsession with paganism, but there are moments when his examples of Hitler's reliance on the playwright seem stretched (e.g., "when the script called for a death the real life character would perish," including six million Jews)—while ignoring the extent to which the dictator acted opportunistically or reacted instinctively to events. Even so, the book is well placed to benefit from this year being the centenary of Ibsen's death and the increased attention that entails. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
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