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Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939
(Volume 1)
by Volker Ullrich
1008 pages
Knopf
Release Date: September 6, 2016

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Many who enjoy great biographies are already familiar with the classic biographies of Adolf Hitler including Joachim Fest’s 1973 “Hitler,” John Toland’s 1976 “Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography” and Ian Kershaw’s more recent “Hitler” (a nearly 1,000 page abridgement of a two-volume series published between 1998 and 2000).

Serious students of Hitler will have also read Konrad Heiden’s 1930s vintage “Hitler: A Biography” and Alan Bullock’s “Hitler: A Study in Tyranny” from 1964.  Some might wonder whether another study of Hitler is useful or necessary. The answer, at least according to most critics, is Yes!

This first volume of Volker Ullrich’s series was published in German in 2013 and recently translated into English. I’m not sure when the second volume will be available. But once I’ve completed my current journey through the best presidential biographies I plan to read these biographies of Adolf Hitler.

Third-party reviews and links (subscription may be required for some sites):

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From the publisher:

“A major new biography—an extraordinary, penetrating study of the man who has become the personification of evil.

For all the literature about Adolf Hitler there have been just four seminal biographies; this is the fifth, a landmark work that sheds important new light on Hitler himself. Drawing on previously unseen papers and a wealth of recent scholarly research, Volker Ullrich reveals the man behind the public persona, from Hitler’s childhood to his failures as a young man in Vienna to his experiences during the First World War to his rise as a far-right party leader. Ullrich deftly captures Hitler’s intelligence, instinctive grasp of politics, and gift for oratory as well as his megalomania, deep insecurity, and repulsive worldview.

Many previous biographies have focused on the larger social conditions that explain the rise of the Third Reich. Ullrich gives us a comprehensive portrait of a postwar Germany humiliated by defeat, wracked by political crisis, and starved by an economic depression, but his real gift is to show vividly how Hitler used his ruthlessness and political talent to shape the Nazi party and lead it to power. For decades the world has tried to grasp how Hitler was possible. By focusing on the man at the center of it all, on how he experienced his world, formed his political beliefs, and wielded power, this riveting biography brings us closer than ever to the answer.

Translated from the German by Jefferson Chase.”

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