In This Review

Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship
Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship
By Brigitte Hamann
512 pp, Oxford University Press, 1999

Hamann combines a careful, well-documented account of Hitler's life as a young man in Vienna before World War I with a sociopolitical history of the Hapsburg capital during those years. She focuses on the myriad factors and people that influenced young Adolf: pan-German politicians and pamphleteers such as Georg Schonerer and Guido von List; anti-Semites like Karl Hermann Wolf and Viennese Mayor Karl Lueger; the tensions among German Austrians, Jews, and Czechs; the stimulating musical scene (thanks to composers such as Richard Wagner); and an art world busy exploring sexuality. In his years as a poor painter living in a men's hostel, Hitler absorbed all of this but did not publicly express anti-Semitic beliefs until he decided on a political career after the war. Hamann describes a man with a passion for music, the theater, and architecture but indifferent to literature and women. His excellent memory allowed him to store a grab bag of ideas and symbols, but these did not fall into place until much later. Rarely have so many fragments of absurdity been combined into so explosive and calamitous an ideology. Hamann must be congratulated on her critical and discriminating approach to her sources and the fascinating double story she tells.