The Hitler of History

In This Review

The Hitler of History

By John Lukacs
Alfred A. Knopf, 1997
279 pp. $26.00
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This thought-provoking, probing, and often provocative book is not a biography but a discussion of biographies and memoirs and an attempt to address many of the mysteries or questions about Hitler. Lukacs shows that he was both reactionary and revolutionary -- a revolutionary populist, moved by hatred, in a democratic age. He states that Hitler was much more a nationalist than a racist and produces some startling quotations asserting that "there is no such thing as the Jewish race," and that "the German Volk contained several races." His chapter on the Jews, however, adds little to the huge literature. Lukacs deems Hitler's qualities as a statesman insufficiently studied and offers a defense of many of Hitler's strategic decisions in World War II, when, he believes, Hitler adopted a "Frederician" strategy -- that is, inspired by Frederick the Great, and focused on winning by defeating one of the main enemy's powers. This leaves out some of the irrational policies that contributed to Germany's defeat, such as the treatment of the populations of occupied Ukraine. As for the Germans, he emphasizes their support of and affection for Hitler, if not for the Nazis.