Miriam Cosic reviews 'Hitler: A biography, volume I: Ascent, 1889–1939' by Volker Ullrich and translated by Jefferson Chase

Miriam Cosic reviews 'Hitler: A biography, volume I: Ascent, 1889–1939' by Volker Ullrich and translated by Jefferson Chase

Hitler: A Biography: Volume I: Ascent, 1889–1939

by Volker Ullrich, translated by Jefferson Chase

Bodley Head, $59.99 pb, 998 pp, 9781847922861

There is a point of view that says we shouldn't humanise a tyrant such as Adolf Hitler since that reduces the symbolism, the power of his name as a synonym for pure evil, and can lead to excuses and to relativism. Another argument holds that we must understand the psychology and sociology of the individual's rise to power if we are to recognise, and prevent, such developments in the future. The former position is a quasi-religious juxtaposition of good and evil, often held, understandably, by historians of the Holocaust. The latter is the more disinterestedly scholarly and pragmatic approach to political history.

Despite the millions of words written about him since his death by suicide on 30 April 1945, and the ubiquity of imagery spread by everyone from historians to neo-Nazis to pop culture, few comprehensive biographies have been written about Hitler. Read Ian Kershaw's magisterial work (1991) and Joachim Fest's more psychological take (1974) for a thorough overview of the man and his times. Experts add Konrad Heiden and Alan Bullock. These authors' works offer not only multiple perspectives but points of view from the 1930s onwards. Given that Hitler died seventy-one years ago, is there any need to revisit his life?

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in October 2016, no. 385
Miriam Cosic

Miriam Cosic

Miriam Cosic is a Sydney-based journalist and critic. She is the author of two books.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.