The Death of Democracy

Benjamin Carter Hett. Holt, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-16250-2
Hett, an associate professor of history at Hunter College and CUNY, persuasively challenges familiar arguments that the rise of Nazi Germany was an inevitable consequence of abstract forces like racism, militarism, and capitalism. Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933 was, he argues, a political gambit orchestrated by “a small circle of powerful men... who sought to take advantage of his demagogic gifts and mass following to advance their own agenda.” This cabal of businessmen, generals, and administrators held Hitler and his message in contempt and were confident they could use and discard him, detaching him from his base and shepherding his followers into a conventional right-wing authoritarian system. Hett’s page-turning account lays out the dire consequences of their simultaneously underrating Hitler’s ability and grievously overestimating their power. He demonstrates that Hitler played a deeper game, exploiting his opponents’ narrow self-interests and using sophisticated sleight of hand to score and build on seemingly inconsequential successes. The increasing bewilderment of this cabal defies conventional explanation, but Hett concludes with a possible clue: the “incongruous innocence” of a society unable to imagine that the worst could happen. Scholars and general readers alike will learn something from Hett’s credible analysis of right-wing power brokers’ role in Hitler’s ascent. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 04/17/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-250-21086-9
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-7352-3483-3
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-7352-3481-9
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