Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939

Hitler Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker UllrichEach biographer of Hitler had tried to explain Adolph Hitler, looking for the incident or psychological trauma that created this monster in human form. Accordingly, Hitler has become a creature of mythic evil, a Sauran or Cthulhu in human form. Wisely, Ullrich dispenses with the search for a magic bullet or origin story that accounts for Hitler’s deep hatreds, but focuses instead on the facts of Hitler’s life. In this thoughtful and insightful biography, the author manages to separate the man from the myths.

In clear prose, Ullrich provides the most detailed and cogent timeline of Hitler’s rise to power that I’ve ever read. At so many twists in the road, Hitler should have been stopped, but wasn’t. People always underestimated the former Austrian corporeal with the strange mustache. Strangely, the more accurate contemporaneous views of Hitler was that of Charlie Chaplin’s 1941 film The Great Dictator. Recognizing the threat Hitler posed to the civilized world, Chaplin made this poignant plea in the film’s conclusion:

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.

No one really listened. Most people either dismissed Hitler as a troublesome clown or–even worse–thought to use him for their own political ambitions. When the unthinkable happened and Hitler was named Chancellor, it was too late.

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