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Kirkus ReviewsAn American historian explores the interplay of culture and politics that favored the rise of Hitler in the city he transformed into the headquarters of the Nazi movement.
Large (History/Montana State Univ.), author of five previous books about modern German history and editor of another two, is one of the figures helping to reestablish narrative history as an intellectually respectable genre. His new book tells the story of Munich as the scene of Nazism's birth and rise. When Hitler—who had failed to establish himself as an artist in Vienna—arrived in Munich in 1913, the city had a reputation for bohemian and avant-garde culture, which accommodated Hitler's image of himself as a rebel. But he also thought of the city as an emphatically German setting, as opposed to international and multiethnic Vienna. Against the background of this inner contradiction in Munich's double identity—xenophobic backwater and progressive metropolis—Large constructs his grim tale, which includes Munich's violent experiment in communism (191819), Hitler's thwarted Beer Hall Putsch (1923), and his brutal rise to the German chancellorship in Berlin (1933). His tale ends with the entry of American soldiers into the defeated Bavarian capital, but Large also appends an epilogue in which he ponders, among other things, the Allies' problematical policy of "denazification." According to Large, General Patton, the military governor of Munich and Bavaria, believed that denazification was ill advised, for "ex-Nazis no longer presented a danger in comparison with the communists. Postwar Allied policy, he declared, was persecuting `a pretty good race' and opening German lands to `Mongolian savages.' " Eisenhower relieved Patton of his duty, but his policy of tolerance toward former Nazis prevailed.
A readable, informative, and solid book. Large does not startle us with new discoveries or ideas, but he does look at this piece of history from a unifying perspective that is both illuminating and significant.