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The Hitler of History


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About the Author

John Lukacs was born in Hungary and came to the United States in 1946. Now emeritus, he has been a visiting professor at various universities. The recipient of the 1991 Ingersoll Prize, he is the author of eighteen other books. He and his wife live in Chester County, Pennsylvania.


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.)

Since 1945 there have been over 100 biographies of Adolf Hitler. Depictions of the dictator have ranged from the anti-Christ to a man who really did nothing wrong, whose staff caused all the evils. The late noted historian Lukacs (e.g., Destinations Past, LJ 6/15/94) has not written a biography of Hitler but a history of the history of the knowledge we have of Hitler by examining his major biographers. Through the analysis of writers in Germany, England, and the United States, Lukacs wrestles with such problems as where Hitler's ideas were shaped, his racism, his obsession with Jews, and other problems facing anyone studying the leader of the Third Reich. Along the way, he discusses the admirers and defenders of Hitler and Hitler's place in history. This is an important book for anyone wishing to delve seriously into the literature of Hitler. While not an easy work to read, it should be in all academic and large public libraries.‘Dennis L. Noble, Sequim, Wa.

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