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Capsule Review

Hitler: A Global Biography

In This Review

 Hitler: A Global Biography
Hitler: A Global Biography
By Brendan Simms
Basic Books, 2019, 704 pp. Purchase

Too many books are written about Hitler. Many are amateur efforts, and even those that aren’t rarely add anything new. Yet this vivid and painstakingly researched volume revises fundamentally how historians ought to view the geopolitical motivations of the Nazi leader. Simms argues that Hitler did not see the Soviet Union as the primary obstacle to his expansionist ambitions. From the start, his real enemies were the United Kingdom and the United States, the victors of World War I, the conflict that had decisively shaped his worldview. These countries were (from Hitler’s perspective) racially pure “Anglo-Saxon” superpowers that possessed significant air and naval power, lorded over colonies, and molded the “plutocratic” system of international finance. Hitler’s supposedly controversial strategic choices—such as diverting military resources to the Balkans, declaring an apparently needless war on the United States, launching a brutal attack on the Soviet Union, and even attempting to exterminate the Jews—were far more rational than most critics allow, given his often idiosyncratic assumptions. All these actions were part of a larger mobilization of resources and popular support for an inevitable war of attrition against the Anglo-Saxons. Some will dispute this thesis. Nevertheless, the book is engaging and essential reading for anyone interested in Hitler’s policymaking.

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