The Will to Power
German historian Volker Ullrich has written a long (1008 pages in the print edition) and at times dense book about the first 50 years in the life of Adolf Hitler. He tells the story of how a draft dodging (failure to timely register for the Austrian draft), vegetarian, art-loving, ballet loving, cinema-loving and music loving bohemian of Vienna and Munich became the mass-murderer of Europe and defined the evil of anti-Semitism. So much for stereotyping characteristics that are usually associated with the Left. It is quite a story and it is more about the how, not the why, this World War I corporal seized power over all of Germany.
In Ullrich’s view Hitler’s success was due not only to his ability as an orator, especially for radio, but also due to his photographic memory, his ability to read people and audiences and above all he was a great actor. He really knew how to fool people and fool them he did. He fooled the German aristocracy, the German general staff, the leading industrialists, the leadership of the conservative parties, British Prime minister Neville Chamberlain and above all the German people. At the time of Munich the Germans were just as pro-peace as were the British and were not prepared for war to Hitler’s chagrin. He so convinced the populace that he was a man of peace and he thus had run a propaganda campaign to prepare for the war to come.
Ullrich goes into great detail in what I characterize as “the game of thrones” in Hitler’s move for power in January 1933. After being almost written off in late 1932 after a major electoral defeat, Hitler regroups by magnificently playing the German political chessboard in merely a month. By July of 1933 he nearly has full power over Germany and he consolidates his seizure of power with the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934 when he purges the S.A. power structure from the Nazi party.
The book end in April 1939 at the celebration of Hitler’s 50th birthday and after he peaceably reoccupied the Rhineland, annexed Austria, took over Czechoslovakia and had Lithuania cede Memel to Germany. From then on additional territory would come through war with Poland being the next stop.
My rating of four stars is that the book is difficult for the lay reader, but for the professional historian and I would give “Hitler: Ascent” five stars.