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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 ...

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Adding to the enormous literature on Hitler, prolific British biographer and novelist Wilson (Dante in Love) focuses as much on the man and his relationships as on his actions and times, for instance, devoting as much attention to the Führer’s friendship with British aristocrat Diana Mitford as to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. Similarly, Wilson devotes more space to the years 1924–1929, when the Nazi Party was in eclipse, than to the WWII years. Wilson engages in some facile comparative history that lends a measure of ordinariness to Hitler. In one case, he makes the untenable statement that Hitler “in his racial discrimination was simply being normal”—this because the U.S. and Britain were “racist through and through”—and that Hitler “was an embodiment, albeit an exaggerated embodiment, of the beliefs of the average modern person.” Wilson uses Hitler as an excuse for a backhanded slap at the Enlightenment—the godless age that gave birth to the “modern scientific” outlook that, Wilson believes, led in turn to Hitler. Given the monumental impact of Hitler on modern history, this far too short, superficial biography fails to measure up to its subject. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
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.”

Kirkus Reviews
“[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).”

“[A] sharply focused capsule biography…. A portrait as disturbing as it is succinct.”
“This well-crafted book cuts to the chase and reveals surprising facts about one of the most reviled figures in history…. A fascinating book that underscores the fact that even in a modern era enamored with progress and rationality, the darkest elements of society can sometimes fester and become the most seductive.”
Express (London)
“Wilson has opted for brevity and sharp metal, skewering and brilliantly dissecting Hitler bare in a book you can almost read in a sitting. Wilson cuts to the dark heart of the matter…. A stimulating triumph of the mind.”
The American Prospect
“[The] lesser-known facts, the telling details for which Wilson has a keen eye, are what make this biography stand out…. Wilson, whenever der Führer threatens to become a caricature of the madman with which we are all familiar, drops in a detail that, as hard to accept as it may be, reminds us that Hitler was a human being with many of the same joys, difficulties, and sorrows as the rest of us. For a brief biography of one of the largest figures of the 20th century, the inclusion of such detail is an accomplishment…. A.N. Wilson’s biography provides a succinct, quick-reading introduction to Hitler that deftly manages the essentials, and, in its truly terrifying accomplishment, begins to bring the human being behind the monstrous Führer back to life.”

Wall Street Journal

“Provocative…. Noting how much Hitler depended on his speeches (even ‘Mein Kampf’ was dictated), Mr. Wilson calls him the ‘most hypnotic artist of post-literacy.’ Like today’s radio talk-show ‘entertainers,’ Hitler knew there was something about the spoken word that could galvanize millions. Rather than focus on Hitler’s ideology, the biographer brilliantly singles out his subject’s style of attack.”
Mail on Sunday
“[An] entertaining, short biography…. [Wilson] bring[s] a witty, novelist’s insight into what made Hitler tick. He seems to understand Hitler’s character in a way many historians never could.”

BostonGlobe“Distilling his own career-long study into a tight, rapid-fire volume that is both portrait and warning, Wilson delivers a statement on Hitler that is insightful.”

“As Europe convulses over seemingly unpayable debts and other economic troubles, British novelist and journalist A.N. Wilson offers Hitler, which explores the worst byproduct of such European paroxysms.”

New York Times Book Review “[Wilson] evocatively catalogs the qualities of the young Hitler…. All this Wilson captures with cool wit and an appropriate deadpan sneer. Wilson is also effective when he recreates Hitler’s rise to political prominence…. [He] makes palpably real for readers the cataclysmic effects of economic collapse. He rightly stresses the centrality of anti-Jewish rhetoric and policy to Hitler’s popular appeal. Wilson is also impressively pointed in his account of the world’s indifference, even deliberate inattention, to the plight of Europe’s Jews. The sections on diplomacy are deft and full of dramatic flair and original judgments.”

Asbury ParkPress 
“Wilson’s biography of the Führer and his ascent to power is short, but concise and well researched…. [Wilson’s] analysis ducks in and out of paragraphs like a talented prize fighter and gives fresh analysis of an old, but unforgettable subject.”
The Courier-Journal 
“A.N. Wilson’s book is an excellent primer on one of the most horrendous figures yet to live.”
Hitler is a slender but insightful volume about the evil instigator of World War II and the murderer of millions.”

Library Journal
Is a new Hitler biography necessary? This short volume's "Select Bibliography"—listing 17 earlier biographies—would suggest not. Even the half-awake history student has absorbed at least the outline of this tale: failed art student and layabout becomes the 20th century's "ultimate horror-tyrant," as Wilson puts it. Wilson (Tolstoy: A Biography), a journalist and prolific biographer and novelist, has erected a bare scaffolding of the much-considered life of this "Demon King of history" in order to offer some incisive judgments. For instance, he argues that Hitler and Goebbels each derived from their Catholic upbringing a "system of control" on which the entire Nazi edifice was modeled. Atop this scaffolding sits a provocative final chapter in which Wilson confronts readers with the notion that Hitler might not have been such an utter anomaly. Hitler, Wilson says, "believed himself to be enlightened and forward-looking, non-smoking, vegetarian, opposed to hunting, in favor of abortion and euthanasia." Sound like anyone you know? VERDICT Wilson does not uncover new facts about Hitler's life. He provides instead a brisk overview capped by a "Final Verdict," the title of his unsettling last chapter—one that may raise discussion among its readers.—Sebastian Stockman, Emerson Coll., Boston, MA
Kirkus Reviews
The award-winning journalist, biographer and novelist offers a short, often-pugnacious biography of the Führer. Wilson (Dante in Love, 2011, etc.)--who has written a novel about Hitler (Winnie and Wolf, 2008) and who in 2009 announced his return to the Christian faith he'd abandoned for atheism--finds in Hitler an avatar for a century that turned away from God and embraced Darwin. "He believed in a crude Darwinism," writes the author, "as do nearly all scientists today, and as do almost all ‘sensible' sociologists, political commentators and journalistic wiseacres." Wilson concludes his otherwise sensible biography with the observation that Hitler was just like the rest of us--only more so. The author appears to attribute to atheists and "the liberal intelligentsia who control the West" most of the blame for World War II--and for the perils of today--though he never gets around to mentioning the wars and other horrors visited on people because of religion. His tendentiousness aside, he 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). He has few kind words for Churchill (crediting him with a "brutal mind") and also takes some shots at Americans, noting that we named one climactic action the Battle of the Bulge because we didn't bother to learn local place names. Wilson declares that Hitler's greatest gift was his ability to dazzle and motivate crowds (and, of course, his mad ambition), and he traces our current fondness for political pageantry to the Nazis' mass gatherings. The author's salty certainty both enlivens and diminishes his work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465031283
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 774,631
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2012

    The author has an agenda

    Hitler is easily the most fascinating character of the 20th Century, and biographies of him abound. There is little to recommend this one.
    There is little new here, but there is much to suggest the author has a personal agenda to push.
    There is understandably a great deal of speculation about Hitler's sex life and his religious views. We will almost certainly never know either with certainty.
    But Wilson falsely attributes Hitler's moral faults to Darwin's theory of evolution. He also insists that Hitler hated Christianity.
    These are common, even dreary, accusations of evangelical Christians. But they are simply not true.
    Hitler was a Roman Catholic, although it is not clear how devout he was. But he was clearly on good terms with the Vatican, and he invoked religious imagary on a routine basis. German troops in WWII wore belt buckles with "God With Us" on them.
    Hitler also denounced Darwin and his theory of evolution. It is a bald-faced lie to say otherwise.
    Wilson also downplays Hitler's sexual peculiarities. Although he correctly dismisses the common speculation that Hitler was homosexual, he ignores the diary of Hitler's niece, who committed suicide, which clearly indicates that Hitler was, at the least, very kinky.
    Me. Wilson clearly has an agenda here, and I'm guessing it's a religious agenda. Better to suggest that such a monster was an atheist than admit that a good Catholic, with the Vatican turning a blind eye, could perform great atrocities.
    There are many other biographies of Hitler. Don't waste your money on this one.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    &star the cool smart guy &starf

    That what my pen name suppose to look like

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014


    He needs help or something

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013


    Yeah he deinitely is. He deserves it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Hate hitler

    He is for sure in hell.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012


    I enjoyed it very much very insightful

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 6, 2012

    If you like books on Hitler - easy read and interesting.

    This was an easy read but interesting and I learned a few things I did not know.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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