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Hitler's Private Library


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A brilliant and deeply resonant exploration of Hitler's reading habits; a unique exploration of his life; and a landmark in the study of the Third Reich.

About the Author

Timothy W. Ryback is the author of The Last Survivor- Legacies of Dachau, a New York Times Notable Book for 1999, and he has written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He is the co-founder of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in The Hague and the Deputy-Secretary General of the Academie Diplomatique Internationale in Paris, where he currently lives.


Hitler's personal library of over 16,000 volumes was picked clean by American troops. But Ryback found 1,200 of Hitler's volumes in the Library of Congress and other caches scattered through the U.S. and Europe. By looking at the books Hitler read (sometimes obsessively, judging from marginalia and other signs of wear and tear), Ryback paints an unusually vivid and nuanced portrait of the dictator. Among the authors and works Hitler was most interested in were Shakespeare (in translation), whose grand historical subjects, Hitler felt, made him superior to Schiller and Goethe; Henry Ford's anti-Semitic The International Jew; adventure novelist Karl May; Dietrich Eckart's interpretation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt; works of the occult and esoterica; and Thomas Carlyle, particularly his biography of Frederick the Great. Ryback (The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau) offers a unique view of Hitler's intellectual life. 47 photos. (Oct. 22) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Elegantly written, meticulously researched, fascinating * Ian Kershaw *
Lively and entertaining survey of the dictator's reading ... a wealth of fascinating detail -- Richard Overy * Sunday Telegraph *
Enlightening -- Clive Sinclair, Book of the Week * Independent *
Ryback has made an original and interesting contribution to the study of this monster, not least by showing that, in some respects, he was just like many of the rest of us -- Simon Heffer * Daily Telegraph *
Ryback's...volume is unique in its focus on a limited number of books and in the forensic attention he lavishes on them -- Bertrand Benoit * Financial Times Review *

One can probably deduce from a private book collection aspects of its owner's worldview, formative influences, interests, and preferences. The known remnants of Adolf Hitler's personal library, consisting of 1200 volumes, were uncovered recently in the rare books storage of the Library of Congress by Ryback (cofounder & codirector, Inst. for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, Austria; The Last Survivor). Through examining the more significant titles and analyzing notations and marginalia, Ryback traces a path of thoughts that occupied Hitler throughout his career and the key phrases borrowed from his reading that he incorporated into his writing, public words, and actions. The book collection reflects Hitler's deep but erratic interest in religion and theology, a fascination with magic and the occult, a curious attention to a particular interpretation of Henrik Ibsen's epic poem Peer Gynt, and an admiration for Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, the works of Shakespeare, and Henry Ford's The International Jew. Ryback's audacious and original exploration adds valuable context and another way to try to fathom, as he writes, "one of most impenetrable personalities of modern history." Recommended particularly for academic libraries and history collections as well as larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/08.]--Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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