The Hitler Book
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 9 Aug 2010
Full Title: The Hitler Book: The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin from the Interrogations of Otto Günsche and Heinz Linge, Hitler's Closest Personal Aides
Immediately after the end of WW2, Joseph Stalin expressed an interest in learning of his one-time ally-of-convenience turned bitter enemy Adolf Hitler, particularly to the cause of his death. Soviet intelligence scrambled to gather information, and most of the information came from Hitler's personal aides Heinz Linge and Otto Günsche. Rather than merely an analysis of Hitler's final days, however, those in charge quickly recognized that the information they had extracted from the two was enough to compile a biography of Hitler between the mid-1930s and 1945.
The Hitler Book began with the German dictator in the mid-1930s, relatively new to power. Given that this book was written by the NKVD with Stalin as the primary audience, Hitler was portrayed as a capitalist who allied with wealthy industrialists to take over Eastern Europe. Such claims were said to be from Linge and Günsche, who were captured by the Soviet Union after the war and brought to the Russian capital of Moscow, divulging such information upon torture or the product of the liberties that the NKVD editors had taken. If one could ignore such obvious "editorials", however, this book could be viewed as a great insight of the personal side of Adolf Hitler during his years of power, viewed from an angle that we largely had not seen before. While we often read of his military decisions and involvement in the Holocaust, Hitler's daily life was far less familiar to us, and The Hitler Book filled this gap. His relationship with Eva Braun, the companionship of his dog Blondi, the daily luncheons with his court of friends and their wives, and his dependency to the drugs that his personal physician Dr. Theodor Morell gave him daily were all intimately described as observed by low level functionaries Linge and Günsche who were with Hitler as much as the high ranking officials like Hermann Göring and Albert Speer and military high command officers such as Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl.
That was not to say that the book contained no mention of military matters, however. Hitler's outburst at Heinz Guderian and Keitel's timidness before Hitler were likely over-dramatized in an attempt to please Stalin, but taken in with a grain of salt, this book reflected the German leader's style in the meddling of the campaigns and some of the happenings that led to the various successes and failures on the battlefields of the European War.
As hinted previously, the book also suffered significantly from the fact that it was originally written by the NKVD with political motives. While Hitler was without a doubt considered a warlord, the fact that Germany and the Soviet Union joined forces to invade and partition Poland, as well as the negotiations with Germany for the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, were completely ignored. Similar to most works of the Soviet era, Anglo-American contributions to the European War, both in terms of the invasion of Italy and France as well as the contribution of war materials to the Soviet Union with Lend Lease, were downplayed. Last but not least, as Stalin engaged his own anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist policies in the late 1940s, the Holocaust as a whole was hardly mentioned even though millions had died as the result, despite that most those who died were of areas within Soviet influence after the war.
As this book was a translation, naturally, the Soviet view points and distortions could not be blamed on the editors/translators Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl. Additionally, they must be commended for the excellent translation that made the book such an easy read in English. As I reviewed this title in its audio book form, I must also comment that narrator Michael Prichard did a great job reading the book.
I highly recommend The Hitler Book for that the intimate descriptions of Hitler showed him as an individual rather than the personification of Nazi Germany that we were more often presented. Nevertheless, it must be read with the understanding that the material largely came from evidence given under torture, and the material edited to suit the liking of Stalin.
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