Sunday, November 12, 2017

Vox Popoli: Book Review: HITLER IN HELL

Summary: Hitler in Hell is one of the most important books of the year. As America drifts to fascism, we must understand what happened to Germany. Books like this can help us avoid taking a dark path like they did. It can happen here, in some form.

The fall of Germany to fascism was one of the epochal events in western history. Fascism, in its many forms, is endemic to western societies. But Germany, a center of culture and science, should have been the most resistant of nations. How did it fall so far, so fast? These answers might help us prevent this infection from flaring up again.

An ancient adage says that you do not understand a situation unless you can explain how each party saw it. The countless histories of WWII ignore one perspective: Hitler’s. How would he explain his actions? What methods brought him to total rule of the largest nation in Europe and conquests unrivaled since Napoleon?

Based on a stupendous amount of research, Martin van Creveld has given us some answers in his newest book, Hitler in Hell.

“The method I chose was to try to get into his skin, as far as possible, so as to understand what made him tick. …Where there were gaps, I used what knowledge and understanding I thought I had in an attempt to close them. …I tried to understand Hitler’s actions, views, and thoughts as I think he, observing the past and the present from Hell, would have explained them.”

This is the ultimate celebrity bio, the extreme version of a “how to” book. Hitler started with nothing, joined the Nazi party when it was little more than a sewing circle, took command of Germany at the depths of the Great Depression, and led it to the fastest recovery in the world. This book explains how he did it. So much of the 20th century followed paths that he blazed. If only he had stopped there.

The book is important in two senses. First, the tides of fascism are rising again in Europe and America. Screaming Nazi! Nazi! Nazi! probably doesn’t help. It is like a disease. We need to understand it better. Causes, contagion, and cures. History, in the form of Hitler’s words and deeds, is a useful guide.

Second, Hitler’s story is rich with useful lessons about building organizations and changing the course of nations. It is one of the most insightful and practical guides to success I have seen. Seeing events through Hitler’s eyes makes learning from him easier, since Hitler’s monstrous deeds make objective analysis of — let alone learning from — them almost impossible.

It's a solid, detailed review. Read the whole thing there.