By Gordon A. Craig
Oxford University Press, 1978, 825 pp.
Many fine historians have grappled with the tormented history of Germany during the last century and a half. Fritz Stern's brilliant, searing books on Bismarck's Jewish banker, Gerson von Bleichroder (Gold and Iron, 1977), and on The Politics of Cultural Despair (1961) that preceded Hitler, Peter Gay's Weimar Culture (1968), J. P. Stern's analysis of Hitler's character and leadership (Hitler: The Fuhrer and the People, 1975), the recent and (beyond all the polemics) complementary books of Daniel Goldhagen (Hitler's Willing Executioners, 1996) and Saul Friedlender (Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1997) on Nazi anti-Semitism come immediately to mind. Craig's merit is nevertheless distinct. This history of Germany from Bismarck's imperious rise to Hitler's Getterdemmerung is a masterly, profound, and indispensable synthesis. Both Olympian and engage, attentive to all aspects of Germany's history, always perceptive and incisive, Craig provides, in particular, an account of Hitler's regime that, in a limited space, tells us all we need to know. I wish there were equally satisfying books covering the same period dealing with French and British history.