The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler
Leading Millions Into The Abyss
By Laurence Rees
Ebury Press – £25.00
That ever more books are being written on and about the ever-ghastly Adolf Hitler, nigh substantiates the substance, not to mention the partial reasoning, behind the title of this book. For as destructive (and responsible for the death of pushing fifty million) as he was, people still want to read about him. Learn about him. Perhaps try and come to some sort of terms, if not at least understand, the reasoning behind just some of his hateful ideology.
I have to confess, the more I read, the more I discover, the less I want to understand. The less I want to be tinged by even a micro-iota of such hatred. Such madness. Such vile and deeply entrenched, self-loathing, not to mention selfishness. And lets not make any bones about it: Hitler was indeed a soulless, selfish, total madman, of one of the most utmost, of paranoiac persuasions to have ever graced the earth. Or, to quote from the chapter ‘False Hope and the Murder of Millions’: ‘’It all reveals Hitler, as Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote, as the ‘coarsest cruellest, least magnanimous conqueror the world has ever known.’’
This very readable and refreshingly new book by Laurence Rees, writer, director and producer of the BBC TV Series The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler – Leading Millions Into The Abyss more than substantiates this.
If anything, it touches on a number of contrasting areas with regards Hitler, which are not often addressed, let alone considered or analysed. For instance, in the astonishingly profound, and at times perplexing chapter, ‘The Man Who Will Come,’ Rees confronts the then German susceptibility of ‘the idea’ of leadership, by quoting George Orwell’s ‘’brilliant review’’ of Mein Kampf: ‘’The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him. One feels it again when one sees his photographs – it is a pathetic, dog-like face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a rather more manly way it reproduces the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that that is how Hitler sees himself.’’
Interestingly, the (preposterous) notion of Hitler thinking of himself within the parameters of providence and religiosity, is further brought to bear when the author himself writes: ‘’The hordes of Germans who travelled – almost as pilgrims – to pay homage to Hitler at his home above Berchtesgaden; the thousands of personal petitions sent to Hitler at the Reich Chancellery; the pseudo-religious iconography of the Nuremberg rallies; the fact that German children were taught that Hitler was ‘sent from God’ and was their ‘faith’ and ‘light;’ all this spoke to the fact that Hitler was seen less as a normal politician and more as a prophet touched by the divine […]. So, most likely, Hitler was using what he saw as the ‘ingenious’ device of a supernatural being in order to justify his own actions. If he was following ‘Providence’ then his actions could only be questioned by that ‘Providence’ – certainly never by mere mortals. And since he was the only route to this ‘Providence’ then he could do whatever he liked and claim divine support.’’
The above is a very interesting, although not often deliberated upon concept; which in itself, places The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler above many other books written about him. That the focus of these 401 pages never steer very far away from that which the title proclaims, only reiterates the (dark) charismatic persuasion with which Hitler not only sought to rule, but the fundamental ethos by which he continued to rule throughout his entire tenure as leader of Germany.
Rees touches on as much quite early in the book (‘Developing A Vision’), where, in referring to the aforementioned Mein Kampf, he writes: ‘’The book certainly does present a coherent vision of the world, albeit it a horrifying one. To Hitler, we live in a cold universe where the only constant is struggle. And if you cannot win in this struggle then you deserve to die.’’
The preposterous ramblings of a madman?
The egotistical warblings of a lunatic?
Either way, according to acclaimed writer and historian Antony Beevor, this book is ‘’a fascinating study.’’
I couldn’t agree more.