Hitler 1889 1936 Essay

937 words - 4 pages

In his preface, Kershaw admits that he too was a reluctant biographer, arriving at the writing of a biography of Hitler from 'the wrong direction'. Here Kershaw's sympathies for the 'structuralist' approaches to Nazi rule become apparent. 'Structuralis ts' challenge the 'intentionalist' argument that Hitler can be seen as the 'programmatist' implementing systematically his ideological objectives. The 'structuralists' do not deny the centrality of Hitler to Nazism, rather they focus on the 'struct ural' context of decision making and the role of 'traditional elites' in running the Third Reich and Hitler's inability (or unwillingness) to keep this chaos in check. This shift in emphasis has, inevitably, tended to downgrade the importance of Hitler wh o, in Hans Mommsen's famous phrase, was in some respects a 'weak dictator'.These historiographical tensions provide an insight into Kershaw's approach and explains why Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris constitutes a different type biography to the more traditional approach found in Bullock's masterpiece (Hitler: A Study in T yranny, 1952; rev. ed., 1964) or Jochim Fest's brilliant analysis of the psychological forces driving Hitler's character (Hitler, 1974). Moreover, Kershaw is less interested in the inner psychology or the private life that one finds in recent p opulist works such as Rosenbaum's Explaining Hitler. The Search for the Origins of his Evil (New York, 1998); mercifully he also pulls back from controversial psychoanalytical speculation that underpinned so many abysmal psychobiographies of the 19 70s. Kershaw is more concerned to analyze the nature of Hitler's power; how he gained power and how he used it - or was allowed to use it by those around him. Thus for Kershaw, Hitler provides a vehicle to allow him to write an analysis of the wider socia l and political forces in Germany. To this end, Kershaw is shrewd enough to look seriously at secondary sources like Goebbels' diaries to glean meaningful insights into Hitler's thinking and his actions.Familiar tools of analysis such as his thesis of 'working towards the Fuehrer' remain central to Kershaw's methodological framework. This is the notion Kershaw claims was at the very core of the Nazi regime; that galvanized Hitler's followers to transl ate his broad ideological guidelines into action in the Third Reich. Surprisingly, however, Max Weber's theory of 'charismatic leadership', so prominent in Kershaw's previous work on Hitler, is less conspicuous in this volume (although in his preface Kers haw does acknowledge its influence on his thinking). A disappointing omission from this reviewer's point of view is Kershaw's cursory account of Hitler's views on propaganda. In Mein Kampf, Hitler devoted two (perceptive) chapters to the study and practice of propaganda - as much time and space therefore as he devotes to Jews, Bolshevism and 'living space' - central planks of his 'world view'. Convinced...

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