I read this while recently on holiday. It is quite an old edition – 1960s – and I wonder if it has been updated since. I read it on the recommendation of Clive James, mentioned as it was in passing somewhere in his astonishing and entertaining Cultural Amnesia.

It is a good book, if a bit less of a biography and more of a history. The author makes this clear in his introduction; he approaches Hitler the man through the events and actions of his life. This works well, particularly if, like me, you are shaky on the chronology and detail of Nazism.

The best bits of the book are, however, those where the author steps back from describing events and chews over what Hitler was thinking, and why.That Hitler was a loony is not really open to question. But it is interesting to learn that his beliefs, that he formulated in his early years in Vienna, were reinforced in his middle years by his reading. This was because he displayed, proudly as he describes it in Mein Kampf, a huge tendency to what we might today call ‘confirmation bias’. He says that the correct way to read and study is to pick out and digest the bits that support your point of view. Which means his mind was not, by definition, ever going to be changed. His prejudices would simply be reinforced.

We all do this to some extent. People buy newspapers or read blogs with which they feel some affinity. We always want our views to be validated. He just took it to an extreme, as he did with almost everything else.

Other points well made are that the Nazis rose to power under the cloak of legality – Hitler was careful to ensure that whatever they did, they could at least claim it was legal. And, as is well known, they were popular. They won elections.

Adolf Hitler. Crazy name, crazy guy.

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