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The Good Times Are Killing Me

I'm a nerdy girl with too much time on her hands, and too many books on her to-read pile.

Currently reading

Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm
Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm, Lucy Crane, Walter Crane
Natasha Wimmer, Roberto Bolaño

Hitler: A Biography

Hitler - Ian Kershaw After months of being immersed in the life of a man thought of by many as the purest example of evil, today I can finally say: IT’S OVER!!!! But don’t get the wrong impression: My sense of release comes not from closing a horrible book, but from ending a fantastic biography about a terrible subject. If you ever want to read a thoroughly researched account of Hitler’s life and not feel like you’ve just found the perfect cure for insomnia, this is the book for you. This is the edited version of the author’s original two-volume biography, which I expect to own sometime in the future. (and read, perhaps) The biggest accomplishment of this book, apart from the exhaustive research done to write it, is the presentation of Hitler as a real human being. Unlike popular opinion and several dubious History Channel documentaries, Hitler wasn’t the antichrist or a heartless monster set on invoking demons from other dimensions, nor did he fantasize daily with the destruction of the human race like a real-life Dr. Doom. No. He was a man who loved his mother dearly, liked animals, was a vegetarian, and felt in every cell of his being that Germany deserved better. Of course, “better” in his vocabulary meant complete domination over Europe and the eradication of what he saw as the agents of Germany’s defeat on World War I (that is, Jews and bolshevism), but better all the same. The man liked music, had a true passion for architecture, and was nice to children. Hitler was also lazy and narcissistic. His pride made him think of himself as entitled to the best life could offer, and was devastated when the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna didn’t accept him in his drawing class. He had little talent or patience for daily work, and spent much of his time as Fuhrer before the war watching movies, attending to concerts, and sleeping. Not the first picture that comes to mind when talking about the “prince of darkness” huh? That attempt to humanize a man that so many of us are accustomed to seeing as the devil incarnated made me feel even worse about the insensitivity he displayed to millions of victims, (foreign and German) and reminded me of many other leaders that, in order to fulfill their goals, sacrifice the lives of many without blinking an eye (Stalin, anyone?). It also allowed Kershaw to examine the role of many other Nazi members (like Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann, Ribbentrop, and many more) in what ended up being Germany´s ultimate defeat. In their drive to increase their power and influence and “work towards the Fuhrer” they had a heavy hand in plenty of the horrors committed by the Third Reich, even if later most of the survivors tried to attribute to Hitler superpowers and think of themselves as mindless (and blameless) drones. That’s other important point made by Kershaw: Even if without Hitler there would have been no war, or at least not one like the world was witness to, he wasn’t alone or the only responsible party in this whole business. Anti-Semitism wasn’t Hitler’s invention, nor was he the only one who blamed every German misery on the Jewish people. He was a powerful orator, but that alone didn’t put him at the top. His position as Fuhrer required the help of a lot of people, and even the silence of millions of citizens that, tired of being humiliated and maintained in a permanent state of poverty, didn’t see anything wrong with Hitler’s ideas or actions until bombs started to fall on their own houses. And speaking about bombs, Kershaw doesn’t ignore the fact that allied troops bombed indiscriminately many German cities, killing thousands of civilians in the process. The many violations committed by soviet soldiers to women and children are also mentioned, contributing to a construction of the war that puts blame on all sides for many injustices and unnecessary deaths, although it only dwells on those long enough to present their impact (or lack of) on Hitler. I think my heart broke a little every time I read about a new death, specially knowing that they were the consequence of a leader’s pride and unlimited ambition. There is so much more in this biography that I would like to write about, (like Hitler’s mounting paranoia, his relationship to women and with Jews before his involvement in politics, the “final solution” development, from shipment to Madagascar to total annihilation, etc.) but it’s better if you do the deed and read the book. Even knowing how everything ends, the part of this biography that deals with the war reads like a thriller, and it’s everything but boring. That’s a really good point when referring to a subject that could be as dry as sandpaper right?