Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski

It's somewhat hard to know where to categorize this latest effort on the part of Nagorski. His previous book on the Battle for Moscow was a clearer history of the clash between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, although evident were plenty of problems in its presentation. "Hitlerland", however, attempts to focus solely on eye-witness accounts, which more often than not are pure speculation and anecdotal evidence, at best. For those unfamiliar with inter-war Germany, Hitler, or the Third Reich, this is not the place to start. Readers should have some basic knowledge of the time period, including the events and personalities in question (aside from just Hitler). The real problem is the limited context that is offered in the midst of all the recollections Nagorski brings together. There are interesting ideas, facts, and other bits of information, but there is a consistent lack of in-depth context to give them further meaning beyond the anecdotal. For instance, there is mention made of William Shirer who writes about the Army being required to swear an oath to Hitler in the aftermath of Hindenburg's death. No mention is made of this not being Hitler's idea but of the Defense Minister. Additionally, Nagorski allows his eye-witnesses to speak too often without really questioning what they have to say, taking them at their word and even positing dubious questions that should in truth be avoided as this is not a tabloid, this is history, or at least it should be. In the end this is an interesting attempt, although its 'originality' is readily marred by the above, but an attempt with numerous faults that leave the reader with more questions than answers and with a story that lacks true closure.

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