Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 9 Sep 2019
Despite the mountains of works devoted to Adolf Hitler, accounts of his earlier years sourced from anything beyond his semi-biographical and semi-fictional Mein Kampf remained difficult to come by. Author Thomas Weber made the attempt to present an analysis of the formation of Hitler as a politician with Becoming Hitler, and it was an excellent one. He questioned popular notions that were based on accounts from Mein Kampf without being challenged sufficiently. For instance, while we generally pictured the WW1-era Hitler as a brave and fearless soldier delivering messages from trench to trench, Weber raised the question that, if Hitler was attached to the regimental headquarters, would not he be treated as a Etappenschwein (rear echelon pig) by his comrades, visiting the front lines only occasionally? In similar vein, he challenged our image of Hitler immediately after WW1 as a fervent nationalist; instead, he exposed Hitler as an opportunist without strong political conviction, having no qualms working for the short-lived Soviet republic in Bavaria, and then immediately after turning his former fellow political commissar comrades into the succeeding right-leaning government. While Hitler was without a doubt to later become master politician, his narrative of his professional formative years, as we have long come to accept, seemed to contain much fiction. Weber's analysis of the evolution of Hitler's anti-Semitism, ie. its transformation from commonplace bias to a racial theory, was arguably the most interesting portion of the book to me.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. The reader, Alex Hyde-White, performed admirably.
Becoming Hitler had been the most enjoyable new work on Hitler that I had come across in recent years, and the theories presented by the author had been most thought provoking.
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944