Triumph of the Will


by Joachim C. Fest, translated by Richard Winston and Clara Winston
A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 844 pp., $15.00

Hitler: Legend, Myth and Reality

by Werner Maser, translated by Peter Ross and Betty Ross
Harper & Row, 433 pp., $12.50

Hitler's War Aims: The Establishment of the New Order

by Norman Rich
Norton, 548 pp., $14.95

The Evolution of Hitler's Germany: The Ideology, the Personality, the Moment

by Horst von Maltitz
McGraw-Hill, 479 pp., $12.95

Hitler Close-Up

by Heinrich Hoffman and Henry Picker, compiled by Jochen von Lang, translated by Nicholas Fry
Macmillan, 223 pp., $9.95

Sieg Heil! An Illustrated History of Germany from Bismarck to Hitler

by Stefan Lorant
Norton, 352 pp., $14.95

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler; drawing by David Levine

The Hitler Wave still rolls. Living rooms and movie houses resound to the Badenweiler March, to the ill-recorded shrieks of that accent from Austria’s Appalachians. Month by month, new Chapters One address themselves to the subject of that impious, unknown somebody who rifled his way into the petticoats of Maria Anna Schicklgruber and dealt Hitler a father. The books are now clearly divided into at least two groups. One is Hitlerology which, while usually served up as “debunking the myths which surround the figure of,” in fact strongly reinforces the myth that would make Hitler the only proper focus of attention in the Third Reich.

The other part of the Hitler wave deals with more interesting material, the growing body of work which tries to reconstruct the continuities of German history, and which suggests that social and institutional changes were taking place in Germany between 1933 and 1945 that owed little to Hitler’s ideology or character but none the less engendered much of the landscape of the two German republics today. As Professor Barraclough has written here, “Whereas liberal historians were more interested in the roots of Nazism and how it came about…the younger generation is concerned with what Nazism was, with seeing how it actually operated after 1933…” (NYR, November 2, 1972).

Good luck to the American students who turn up asking for SA and police files in small German towns which had almost forgotten that they still kept them! But there is a caution to enter as well. The old roots-of-Nazism problem is being gradually abandoned by the best historians before it has been solved to anything like general agreement. Granted by most students: it is not enough to summarize all the fetid little racists who may or may not have influenced Hitler in Vienna and Munich. But it must also be granted that studies of voting and allegiance patterns, class by class, land by land, in the Weimar Republic are not going to answer the question of why Nazism happened either. Because, in this case, the question of how is not enough. Why becomes a new question when the quantity of unsolved hows passes a critical limit and suffers a change of quality. This process is still taking place in studies of Germany in the twentieth century.

Almost a year ago, Professor Alan Bullock wrote in these pages that “[Hitler’s] personal life was meager, banal, and boring, and (more important) throws little if any light on his place in history…. Once Hitler becomes absorbed in politics [the personal-psychological method] proves to lead nowhere.” This is a warning against all sorts of industrial diseases of Hitlerology, from the Great Undescended Ball Game to collating defeats on the Ostfront against the anti-flatulent injections Hitler received from Dr. Morell. But it should not be taken to mean that Hitler’s personality and its effects can be discarded as a serious subject for…

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