A ruthless dictator who saved his country from economic ruin only to nearly destroy it—and an entire people—in his quest for world domination, Adolf Hitler forever changed the course of history. In this masterful account of Hitler’s life, biographer A.N. Wilson pulls back the curtain to reveal the man behind the mythic figure, shedding new light on Hitler’s personality, his desires, and his complex relationship with the German people.
While Hitler maintained that his life had been characterized by “struggle” from its very beginnings, Wilson shows that the reality could not have been more different. Hitler grew up in middle-class comfort and, as a young man, lacked ambitions of any sort besides a vaguely bohemian desire to become an artist. And while the Hitlerian mythos holds that he forged his skills as a leader during the First World War, Wilson explains the truth: Hitler spent most of the war as an office boy miles from the front lines, and only received his cherished Iron Cross because of his slavishness to the officers he served. The army gave him a sense of purpose and brotherhood, however, which continued to inspire Hitler once the war ended.
Hitler left the army with no skills, contacts, or money—and yet, within fourteen years, he would become chancellor of the German nation. Wilson describes the story of Hitler’s ascent as one of both opportunism and sheer political shrewdness. He possessed no real understanding of the workings of government but had a prodigious knack for public speaking, and found that a large number of Germans, despairing at their country’s recent defeat and terrified by the specter of international communism, were willing to listen to the right-wing fantasies that had taken root inside his head. Allying himself with the extremist German Workers’ Party (soon renamed the National Socialist Party), Hitler offered many Germans a seductive vision of how the country might raise itself back up and reclaim its rightful place at the center of world politics.
Wilson shows that, although Hitler’s bid for power stalled at first, he soon gained traction with a German public starved for hope. Using his skills as a manipulator, Hitler found himself first at the head of the Nazi Party, then at the helm of the German nation. Wilson explores the forces that allowed Hitler to become Chancellor of Germany, and later to march Germany into total war. He examines Hitler’s increasingly virulent anti-Semitism and his decision to implement the Final Solution to exterminate European Jews, and he considers Hitler’s tactical successes—and failures—in World War II. Wilson also reveals a great deal about how Hitler’s personal life affected his time as Germany’s leader, from the lasting pain caused by the death of his mother and the suicide of his young niece to his poor health and addiction to the drugs prescribed by his doctor. As Wilson demonstrates, Hitler the Führer was not so different from Hitler the bohemian: lazy, moody, and hypersensitive, he ruled more through intimidation and the mystifying force of his personality than through any managerial skill or informed decision-making. His story—and that of Germany—is ultimately a cautionary tale. In a modern era enamored with progress, rationality, and modernity, it is often the darkest and most chaotic elements of society that prove the most seductive.
Hitler’s unlikely rise to power and his uncanny ability to manipulate his fellow man resulted in the deaths of millions of Europeans and a horrific world war, yet despite his colossal role in world history, he remains mythologized and, as a result, misunderstood. In Hitler, A.N. Wilson limns this mysterious figure with great verve and acuity, showing that it was Hitler’s frightening normalcy—not some otherworldly evilness—that makes him so truly terrifying.
About A.N. Wilson
A.N. Wilson is a renowned British journalist and author. He is the author of several acclaimed biographies, including Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Jesus, and Paul. He taught for seven years at Oxford before becoming a journalist. A frequent contributor to the Daily Mail, the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator, and The Observer, Wilson lives in London.
Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
“In the best short biography of Adolf Hitler for three decades, A. N. Wilson goes straight to the essentials to explain what made the Fuhrer the phenomenon he was. His conclusions make fascinating, if occasionally uncomfortable, reading even two-thirds of a century after Hitler’s death.”
Robert Gellately, author of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe
“A. N. Wilson is a born biographer and has an eye for the telling detail. In a book written with verve, insight, and imagination, he gives us a fresh look at Hitler. The story he tells is bound to interest and surprise even those who think they already know and understand this most curious historical figure, one who against all odds rose to become leader of Germany and then promptly brought about the greatest catastrophe in European history.”
“[Wilson] provides a useful, even entertaining, life of Hitler. He revisits the expected events – his rise, his incarceration, Mein Kampf, his vicious henchman, his anti-Semitism, his enormous prewar popularity (not just in Germany), his poor military judgment, his women, his fall and death – and adds some nasty details (he couldn’t control his farting; he was lazy and dressed oddly).”
‘Hitler’: From The Murderous To The Mundane
NPR Book Review – March 28, 2012 (Excerpt)
In the new biography Hitler, A.N. Wilson describes the Nazi dictator as the “Demon King of history” — who instigated the Holocaust and forced the world into a second world war — but also as an ordinary, even boring man.
“We like to distance ourselves from anything to do with him because he was an essentially evil character,” he tells NPR’s Neal Conan. “But actually, many of the ideas that he had and expressed were very ordinary ideas, and they were ideas that more or less everybody had at that time.”
Wilson argues that many of the modern attitudes toward racism, homophobia and political correctness in the Western world are a direct response to who Hitler was and what he represented. Wilson talks with Conan about the ways Hitler’s role in history is mythologized and misunderstood. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS
A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
The Bleeding Hills is available at Amazon.Com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Nobel, and any other good bookstore.