Social Sciences: Hitler | April 1, 2013

Rees, Laurence. Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss. Pantheon. Apr. 2013. 368p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307377296. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780307908131. HIST

Rees (former creative director, history programs, BBC;; Auschwitz: A New History) builds on his earlier BBC television documentaries and their companion books, also authored by him, to reflect on why so many Germans willingly followed Hitler to destruction. This book also accompanies a BBC documentary. Rees adroitly points out that prior to 1918 few would regard Hitler as possessing charisma; he was not good at debating politics (preferring instead to yell at those who disagreed with him) and lacked the ability to connect emotionally. Yet by 1933 Hitler’s intransigence was depicted as visionary political principle, while his inability to form emotional bonds was now described as one of the qualities of an inspired leader whose complete devotion to his people placed him above ordinary human connections. Rees situates this transformation from lost soul to charismatic leader both in Hitler’s own innate political sense and in the unique circumstances of the Weimar Germany in which the dictator evolved. Rees moves easily from the broad themes of German politics and economics to the individual voices of those who supported and opposed Hitler. VERDICT Incorporating most of the latest scholarship on Hitler, Rees provides valuable insights here into a topic that is not new. For all readers who study the Nazi era.—Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll., OH

Sherratt, Yvonne. Hitler’s Philosophers. Yale Univ. May 2013. 328p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300151930. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780300183757. HIST

Hitler’s strategy for ruling Europe was two-pronged—military force coupled with an extensive reworking of the philosophical and cultural bases of German thought. He cabbaged parts of Kant, Nietzsche, Darwin, and other luminaries to create the conceptual underpinnings of National Socialism. Many academics, like Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, eagerly cooperated; others such as Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt were exiled, imprisoned, or murdered. Sherratt (British Academy Researcher in Philosophy, Univ. of Oxford; Continental Philosophy of Social Science) has angrily surveyed the Nazi destruction of this segment of Europe’s intellectual elite, here combining source and contextual interpretation with vignettes of selected collaborators (in Part 1) and opponents and victims (in Part 2). She concludes by examining the postwar experiences of those German academics who survived the war. Many prospered despite having collaborated with the Nazis, and others simply went on with their interrupted lives. VERDICT Not all readers, even of works on Hitler, will be interested in German philosophy and philosophers, but Sherratt’s approach is biohistorical rather than analytic. Cultural historians will be absorbed by this study of the easy adoption of the Nazi meme among a coterie of intellectuals who might have been expected to know better. Useful as part of philosophy or ethics curricula.—Edwin Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS