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In the summer of 1939 Hitler was at the zenith of his power. The Nazis had consolidated their authority over the German people, and in a series of foreign-policy coups, the Führer had restored Germany to the status of a major Continental power. He now embarked on realising his lifelong ambition: to provide the German people with the living space and the resources they need In the summer of 1939 Hitler was at the zenith of his power. The Nazis had consolidated their authority over the German people, and in a series of foreign-policy coups, the Führer had restored Germany to the status of a major Continental power. He now embarked on realising his lifelong ambition: to provide the German people with the living space and the resources they needed to flourish and exterminate those who were standing in the way – the Bolsheviks and the Jews. Yet despite the initial German triumphs – the quick defeat of Poland, the successful Blitzkrieg in the west – the war set in motion Hitler’s downfall. With the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the entry of the United States into the war later that year, Nazi Germany’s fortunes began to turn: it soon became clear that the war could not be won.As in the earlier volume, Volker Ullrich offers fascinating insight into the personality of the Führer, without which we fail to understand the course of the war and the development of the Holocaust. As Germany’s supreme military commander, he decided on strategy and planned operations with his generals, involving himself in even the smallest minutiae. And here the key traits – and flaws – of his personality quickly came to the fore. Hitler was a gambler who put everything on one card; deeply insecure, he was easily shaken by the slightest setback and quick to blame his subordinates for his own catastrophic mistakes; and when he realised that the war was lost, he embarked on the annihilation of Germany itself in punishment of the German people who had failed to hand him victory.In September 1939, Hitler declared that he would wear a simple military tunic until the war was won – or otherwise, he would not be there to witness the end. On 30 April 1945, as Soviet troops closed in on his bunker in Berlin, Hitler committed suicide; seven days later, Germany surrendered. Hitler’s murderous ambitions had not just destroyed Germany: they had cost the lives of tens of millions of people throughout Europe.


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In the summer of 1939 Hitler was at the zenith of his power. The Nazis had consolidated their authority over the German people, and in a series of foreign-policy coups, the Führer had restored Germany to the status of a major Continental power. He now embarked on realising his lifelong ambition: to provide the German people with the living space and the resources they need In the summer of 1939 Hitler was at the zenith of his power. The Nazis had consolidated their authority over the German people, and in a series of foreign-policy coups, the Führer had restored Germany to the status of a major Continental power. He now embarked on realising his lifelong ambition: to provide the German people with the living space and the resources they needed to flourish and exterminate those who were standing in the way – the Bolsheviks and the Jews. Yet despite the initial German triumphs – the quick defeat of Poland, the successful Blitzkrieg in the west – the war set in motion Hitler’s downfall. With the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the entry of the United States into the war later that year, Nazi Germany’s fortunes began to turn: it soon became clear that the war could not be won.As in the earlier volume, Volker Ullrich offers fascinating insight into the personality of the Führer, without which we fail to understand the course of the war and the development of the Holocaust. As Germany’s supreme military commander, he decided on strategy and planned operations with his generals, involving himself in even the smallest minutiae. And here the key traits – and flaws – of his personality quickly came to the fore. Hitler was a gambler who put everything on one card; deeply insecure, he was easily shaken by the slightest setback and quick to blame his subordinates for his own catastrophic mistakes; and when he realised that the war was lost, he embarked on the annihilation of Germany itself in punishment of the German people who had failed to hand him victory.In September 1939, Hitler declared that he would wear a simple military tunic until the war was won – or otherwise, he would not be there to witness the end. On 30 April 1945, as Soviet troops closed in on his bunker in Berlin, Hitler committed suicide; seven days later, Germany surrendered. Hitler’s murderous ambitions had not just destroyed Germany: they had cost the lives of tens of millions of people throughout Europe.

30 review for Hitler: Volume II: Downfall 1939-45

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    An absolute masterpiece follow-on to the first volume, Hitler: Downfall is an unflinching account of WWII in all its gore, brutality, and horror. It is also the biography of the 20th century’s most notorious dictator. Without fanning the flames of the current political shift towards the far right, I will just say that the last chapter about Hitler’s legacy should be required reading in high schools across America and Western Europe. Adopting a fact-based assessment of the why behind the abject d An absolute masterpiece follow-on to the first volume, Hitler: Downfall is an unflinching account of WWII in all its gore, brutality, and horror. It is also the biography of the 20th century’s most notorious dictator. Without fanning the flames of the current political shift towards the far right, I will just say that the last chapter about Hitler’s legacy should be required reading in high schools across America and Western Europe. Adopting a fact-based assessment of the why behind the abject darkness of the Holocaust and Operation Barbarossa might make people question some of the more ignorant and opportunist revisionist garbage that populists in 2020/2021 continue to spin. If we try to ignore or rewrite the past, we will be forever inevitably bound to repeat its errors.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A masterful finish to the previous volume. The making of the modern world passed through the crucible of the Second World War and Volker Ullrich, through two volumes, details the machinations that led to Hitler’s rise and World War II (the progeny of its prosecutor). Essential reading to anyone interested in the conflict that is, in my opinion, the most consequential collision of force and terror between human beings in history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Although essential reading after the first book and obviously the two need to be read together, I didn't find this one quite as fascinating. There was just too much going on so that it was as much a book about the Second World War (and I have already read many books on that) as about Hitler himself. While it was interesting to read about Hitler's physical and mental decline, I didn't learn as much about the man himself as I did in the first book. Still a solid 4 stars though and the two books to Although essential reading after the first book and obviously the two need to be read together, I didn't find this one quite as fascinating. There was just too much going on so that it was as much a book about the Second World War (and I have already read many books on that) as about Hitler himself. While it was interesting to read about Hitler's physical and mental decline, I didn't learn as much about the man himself as I did in the first book. Still a solid 4 stars though and the two books together are a 5 star essential read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 is the conclusion to Volker Ullrich’s two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler. In this volume, Ullrich examines the significant military events that reversed the fortunes of the Third Reich during World War II, as well as the physical and mental decline of its Führer, Adolf Hitler. Volker Ullrich utilizes numerous archival documents to chronicle these events in meticulous detail. Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 is a captivating and enthralling read. “We must keep our eyes on Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 is the conclusion to Volker Ullrich’s two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler. In this volume, Ullrich examines the significant military events that reversed the fortunes of the Third Reich during World War II, as well as the physical and mental decline of its Führer, Adolf Hitler. Volker Ullrich utilizes numerous archival documents to chronicle these events in meticulous detail. Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 is a captivating and enthralling read. “We must keep our eyes on the personality of the man, with all his characteristic proclivities and behavioral traits yet without losing sight of the historical circumstances and conditions that allowed for his mercurial rise.” “If his life and career teaches us anything, it is how quickly democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle of separating civilisation and barbarism actually is; and what human beings are capable of when the rule of law and ethical norms are suspended and some people are granted unlimited power over the lives of others.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Wasley

    These massive 2 volumes represent an astonishing achievement. It is no surprise to read that it took the author 8 years to complete and took a definite psychological toll. For me, this is historical research and writing at its finest. Easily, a 5-star reading experience.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David C Ward

    Not quite as good as the first volume because the war takes over the narrative. The rise of AH is more biographically compelling. The best sections are the summary analytical chapters on topics ranging from life in AH’s circle to the stage managing of the final days as well as the summing up of the whole career. A achievement by Ullrich and having finished it he can now, as he writes in his forward, move on to more pleasant topics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    This was a long, hard read, but one worth the trouble. While the star rating on Goodreads offers choices of three stars, "I liked it", or four stars, "I really liked it", those epithets don't really fit with the experience of reading about Hitler's unparalleled career of criminality, murder and destruction. I've been in Germany for over 20 years and I decided to read this two-volume biography to better understand the place where I live and where my children are growing up. It's a sobering read, This was a long, hard read, but one worth the trouble. While the star rating on Goodreads offers choices of three stars, "I liked it", or four stars, "I really liked it", those epithets don't really fit with the experience of reading about Hitler's unparalleled career of criminality, murder and destruction. I've been in Germany for over 20 years and I decided to read this two-volume biography to better understand the place where I live and where my children are growing up. It's a sobering read, and Ullrich pulls no punches in tracing Hitler's rise through the shady circles of the Nationalist Right to Führer, powered by vested interests in politics and business who thought they could control and use the Munich demagogue to their own ends. The way that Hitler captured and held the imagination of the German public, and how that public was not merely a vassal but an active participant in the monstrously criminal endeavour of the Third Reich, is described in unflinching detail. Far from being an aberration that pulled German history off course through his unique and bizarre personality, Ullrich argues that Hitler, for all his oddity was a logical continuation of a bellicose and morally stunted strain in German society that marked its imperial phase from the nineteenth century onwards. Of the two books the first, which traces Hitler's rise, is a more riveting read, and provides a rounded portrait of the stunning absence that is Adolf Hitler. The more you know about the man, the less you understand. But you do come to see how this cipher, this chameleon cut-out, managed to climb his way to the very top of the tree by means of his intelligence, his ruthlessness and his penchant for the all-or-nothing gamble. The second book is inevitably a more deadening and grim piece, in which the second world war is narrated from the invasion of Poland to Hitler's suicide in a Berlin bunker. Hitler becomes a function of the war he unleashes and the wider picture disappears to be replaced by endless exposition of battles, strategy and other military matters. Which is not to say that Ullrich ignores the monstrous crimes of Hitler, his acolytes and the German military machine. The Holocaust is handled in considerable and harrowing depth, as is the active participation of the Wehrmacht in the murderous and racist attack on the Soviet Union. These books are a painful testimony to how easily a seemly civilised society can be perverted and transformed into a monstrous killing machine. As such they tell a story that is clearly relevant to our world today, wherever you might be.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is the second volume of Volker Ullrich’s two volume Hitler biography. I read the first volume when it came out in 2013 but had to wait until last year for the second volume. The last few years have been good ones for H bios, with new one volume bios by Longerich and Simms, as well as shorter works on the seizure of power or the end of the Nazi regime after the failed assassination plot of July 20, 1944. While new archives have been opened in recent years, one has to wonder about the demand This is the second volume of Volker Ullrich’s two volume Hitler biography. I read the first volume when it came out in 2013 but had to wait until last year for the second volume. The last few years have been good ones for H bios, with new one volume bios by Longerich and Simms, as well as shorter works on the seizure of power or the end of the Nazi regime after the failed assassination plot of July 20, 1944. While new archives have been opened in recent years, one has to wonder about the demand for new studies on H in the context of current political dynamics. Ullrich certainly recognizes this in tying together his analysis in this volume. The book is well written, thorough, and thoughtful. The illustrations are nice too. You have to give some credit to the historians, such as Ullrich, who venture into these projects when so much as already been written, especially by first rate historians. It is not as if there are many spoilers to drop on the story line! So what are the punchlines here? To start with, Ullrich begins with the intuition that H’s early years are of relatively little value in understanding what came later, after he turned 30, and began his world changing career. So, the key to understanding H’s biography is to focus on how he interacted with other to create his career. This is not an entirely new position, but it is effectively presented here. The result is that the story line becomes long and complex and involves the development of the party, the regime, the diplomacy, and the war that ended in 1945. The good news is that such a focus moves away from longstanding arguments about H’s personality traits who do not strike me as readily resolvable. The bad news is that such a focus leads to a long book and challenges the reader to ask what activities are crucial for an H bio and which take the book more into a broader story of the party, the Nazi state, and the war. Once the book moves into the story of his behaviors, the issue seems to be how to add something new to the long recognized stories that H was the locus of party activity and that his personal skills in speaking, political infighting, and symbolic posturing. H’s achievements early in his career and as leader up until early 1939 are widely recognized, along with his personal determination, “grit”, and other personal characteristics that allowed him to flex his will. Ullrich argues that the behaviors and postures that were so successful in times of flux led to downfall and failure after H’s initial successes. The political “divide and conquer” strategy that worked in gaining power did not promote success when physical results mattered and there were needs for real accomplishments rather than symbolic coherence. Battles needed to be won, supplies needed to be delivered, and local problems needed to be addressed and the results mattered. In this context, H was not such a good manager when the chips were down. He often did not like details but at the same time would not delegate to his local commanders who needed to respond effectively and promptly to local demands. This led to dangerous inefficiencies and increasingly poorer results. As the Nazi empire grew, there were too many balls in the air and too much to coordinate for good results to be obtained. In critical situations, while H was a good leader he ended up being a poor manager and the same skills that fueled his initial successes were behind the failures that overcame the regime after the attack on the USSR failed to be wound up before the first winter. Of course the time and context needed to be in sync with H’s actions and when they were not, poor results soon followed. Ullrich’s key argument is that while there were causes and consequences on many levels, it was H that was critical for what happened. This is especially true for the Holocaust. Depending on how the war, and especially the Eastern War, progressed, the Holocaust could have had different details. Without H, however, there would have been no Holocaust. Ullrich’s ties this to H’s management style as well. While there do not appear to be complete and conclusive “paper trails” to the holocaust, Ullrich argues that H made his preferences known and that his minions engaged in their own focused decision making by moving in directions they believed were intended by H. An implication of this is that as the Eastern War went poorly, the effect was to stimulate the holocaust as it developed as a war to gain results even when battlefield results were not available. Ullrich does a good job developing the internal struggle for power in the regime, as H’s underlings struggled for power and recognition, which led in turn to increasingly fragmented and ineffective policies as the war went badly. Ullrich, in his concluding chapter, does a good job of placing H into the context of what other historians have written and how Germany has thought about Hitler and the Nazis in the years following 1945. Overall, this is a fine book. While I am hesitant at picking a “best” H bio, this book is clearly one of the best in a crowded field of books written by first rate historians.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan Paxton

    For a book I've eagerly awaited since the first volume, I was a bit let down. Volume One is probably the best Hitler biography yet; Ullrich teased out a lot of new information and utilized it ably. This book feels...rushed. Little really new, and it also is spottily translated, although the same translator worked on the first volume. The index is an atrocity; I understand that indexes are done last and in a hurry (I've done indexing; I know), but this one is utterly useless (look at the indexing For a book I've eagerly awaited since the first volume, I was a bit let down. Volume One is probably the best Hitler biography yet; Ullrich teased out a lot of new information and utilized it ably. This book feels...rushed. Little really new, and it also is spottily translated, although the same translator worked on the first volume. The index is an atrocity; I understand that indexes are done last and in a hurry (I've done indexing; I know), but this one is utterly useless (look at the indexing under "Hitler, Adolf" for a fine example. No, you don't index BY YEAR instead of BY SUBJECT). I might add to Ullrich that you can't make fun of Norman Ohler and then make extensive use of his book Blitzed. Don't get me wrong; this is still very good. The summing up in the last chapter stands on its own. But were I to recommend, I might aim an interested reader to Ullrich's Volume One - and Sir Ian Kershaw's Volume Two.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wilf Wilson

    It took me three months. Unavoidably, much of the subject matter is grim, sickening, and depressing. But it also appears to be thoroughly well-written and researched, and I found it undoubtedly enlightening. The second world war ended 75 years ago, but there surely continues to be much that we can learn from the times of Hitler's rise and fall. This is a recent work, which I appreciated while I was reading it. I always felt that the historian-author was writing as dispassionately as possible, from It took me three months. Unavoidably, much of the subject matter is grim, sickening, and depressing. But it also appears to be thoroughly well-written and researched, and I found it undoubtedly enlightening. The second world war ended 75 years ago, but there surely continues to be much that we can learn from the times of Hitler's rise and fall. This is a recent work, which I appreciated while I was reading it. I always felt that the historian-author was writing as dispassionately as possible, from his perspective modern, and was able to make extensive and frequent reference to seemingly all other prior major works on the topic. I felt like I was getting as close to as complete and as dispassionate a portrayal of Hitler and the Third Reich as it currently possible. By the way, having spent 18 months in Germany between reading the first and second volumes meant that I certainly got a lot more of this volume. Perhaps I should go and read the first volume again... (The number of footnotes was staggering!)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    This was well written and researched. Probably the best biography I have read about Hitler's demise without reading Volume 1 Hitler's Ascent. Obviously, theses two volumes are to be read in conjunction of each other. I felt this was a decent account of his peak and decline. IT IS NOT AN EASY TO STOMACH READ. All the devastation, torturing and lives lost die to his beliefs is incomprehensible but it happened. This book will definitely make you emotional. Highly recommended if you are into reading This was well written and researched. Probably the best biography I have read about Hitler's demise without reading Volume 1 Hitler's Ascent. Obviously, theses two volumes are to be read in conjunction of each other. I felt this was a decent account of his peak and decline. IT IS NOT AN EASY TO STOMACH READ. All the devastation, torturing and lives lost die to his beliefs is incomprehensible but it happened. This book will definitely make you emotional. Highly recommended if you are into reading Germany, Third Reich an Nazi hostory during WWII. Thanks to Netgalley, Volker Ulrich and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 9/1/20

  12. 4 out of 5

    Larkin Tackett

    This is the second of the most recent Hitler biography that basically covers his life during WWII. A few highlights, quotes, and reflections that resonate for me: - His brutal military action and leadership applied not only to Holocaust victims, but also all other enemies, especially Russian soldiers (millions of whom were left to freeze and starve on the battlefield) and forced laborers - The Germans were losing the war for a LONG time before the ultimately surrendered - Hitler fired a lot of m This is the second of the most recent Hitler biography that basically covers his life during WWII. A few highlights, quotes, and reflections that resonate for me: - His brutal military action and leadership applied not only to Holocaust victims, but also all other enemies, especially Russian soldiers (millions of whom were left to freeze and starve on the battlefield) and forced laborers - The Germans were losing the war for a LONG time before the ultimately surrendered - Hitler fired a lot of military leaders. Despite a different leadership structure for the SS and the Germany military, all were complicit in Hitler's criminal policies - "In Hitler’s restlessly meandering thoughts, racist dogma and strategic military calculations were by no means incompatible. On the contrary, they were interwoven with one another." - “Without authority and approval from the Führer, Himmler, Heydrich and their ilk would not have been able to organise, execute and justify the Holocaust as a Europe-wide project of homicide.” We should add that without hundreds of thousands of assistants and accessories who willingly helped the executioners, this epochal crime against humanity would not have happened either. - "Thus, while it is true that few Germans knew everything about the “final solution,” very few knew nothing about it." - "While he had by no means turned into an entirely different person, several of his character traits had become even more pronounced: his egocentrism, his inability to self-criticise and his commensurate tendency to overestimate himself, his lack of scruples when choosing means to his ends, his habit of betting everything on a single card, his contempt for others and his lack of empathy." - He was the epitome of a micromanager - "The suffering of other human beings did not interest him...” - "National Socialism disappeared like a ghost, almost overnight. Loyal supporters of the regime swiftly transformed into equally committed opponents of the same." - "What happened is unthinkable without him, and his life is a particularly vivid example of how a single individual can influence the course of history." - "He was interested not in the truth of his statements, but in whether they produced the maximum effect. Right from the beginning Hitler was a master of lies and deceit." - "Hitler profited from being perennially underestimated." - "Hitler will remain a cautionary example for all time. If his life and career teaches us anything, it is how quickly democracy can be pried from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle separating civilisation and barbarism actually is; and what human beings are capable of when the rule of law and ethical norms are suspended and some people are granted unlimited power over the lives of others."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Day

    Ullrich's second volume is as superbly researched and written as his first volume. It is equally a Hitler biography and a WWII history. These two volumes provided me with a better understanding of how Hitler thought, how he perceived the world and what his natural instincts were. Obviously he was intrinsically evil, but he was not insane, drug addicted nor unintelligent. The second volume points out how the instincts and talents that led to his rapid ascent also contributed to his demise. Ullrich's second volume is as superbly researched and written as his first volume. It is equally a Hitler biography and a WWII history. These two volumes provided me with a better understanding of how Hitler thought, how he perceived the world and what his natural instincts were. Obviously he was intrinsically evil, but he was not insane, drug addicted nor unintelligent. The second volume points out how the instincts and talents that led to his rapid ascent also contributed to his demise.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    In and of its self this volume is not as easy or readable as Ulrich's first volume on Hitler's life but in the end the two volumes together are indispensable not only for those who are interested in WWII but, also for those who want to understand how Hitler came into power (Volume I) and how and what that power wreaked on German society and the world ultimately (Volume II). Volume II is most difficult to get through for reasons that should be obvious: the Jewish question and its ultimate solutio In and of its self this volume is not as easy or readable as Ulrich's first volume on Hitler's life but in the end the two volumes together are indispensable not only for those who are interested in WWII but, also for those who want to understand how Hitler came into power (Volume I) and how and what that power wreaked on German society and the world ultimately (Volume II). Volume II is most difficult to get through for reasons that should be obvious: the Jewish question and its ultimate solution, the slaughter of Poles, Russians, etc. There is no need to go on but in the end I will sum it up with this lesson from the last chapter of Volume II. It ends: "We are not and cannot be done confronting Adolf Hitler." wrote the Catholic author Reinhold Schnedier in 1946. Schnieder"s words remain pertinent today. Hitler will remain a cautionary example for all time. If his life and career teaches us anything, it is how quickly a democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle separating civilisation and barbarism actually is; and what human beings are capable of when the rule of law and ethical norms are suspended and some people are granted unlimited power over the live of others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill Silverman

    "A loser stewing in his hatred for the entire world," as one observer noted in January 1943. And as Volker Ullrich concludes later in the second volume of this fascinating biography, "If his life and career teaches us anything, it how how quickly democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle separating civilization and barbarism actually is; and what human beings a "A loser stewing in his hatred for the entire world," as one observer noted in January 1943. And as Volker Ullrich concludes later in the second volume of this fascinating biography, "If his life and career teaches us anything, it how how quickly democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle separating civilization and barbarism actually is; and what human beings are capable of when the rule of law and ethical norms are suspended and some people are granted unlimited power over the lives of others."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    “Resist it as we might, but we must always return to think about Adolph Hitler,” wrote Friedrich Kellner in 1942. Kellner, a Social Democrat whose diary provided posterity many trenchant observations about life under Nazism, was proven correct by our enduring fascination with the man. We probably do not want to spend hours of our lives reading and thinking about Adolph Hitler. We may simply find it unavoidable. At a time when Americans are grappling with the potential demise of democracy, when li “Resist it as we might, but we must always return to think about Adolph Hitler,” wrote Friedrich Kellner in 1942. Kellner, a Social Democrat whose diary provided posterity many trenchant observations about life under Nazism, was proven correct by our enduring fascination with the man. We probably do not want to spend hours of our lives reading and thinking about Adolph Hitler. We may simply find it unavoidable. At a time when Americans are grappling with the potential demise of democracy, when lies and demagoguery are rife in our politics, when reasonable people believe the president and his minions have too much in common with fascists and authoritarians -- it seems prudent to seek fresh understandings about the Hitler dictatorship, about what Hitler made possible and the conditions that made Hitler possible. As the preeminent scholar Richard Evans put it, the reason why the Third Reich will not go away is “it raises in the most acute form the possibilities and consequences of the human hatred and destructiveness that exist, even if only in a small way, within all of us.” One might say that when we study the Nazi era and the Hitler dictatorship, we are plumbing the depths of human nature. I believe we can do this without resorting to cheap comparisons; if the crimes of Nazism were unique, then we should not smear contemporaries whose views we find objectionable as “Nazis.” Fortunately, for both newcomers to the subject and dedicated students, authors continue to offer new explanations about the man who “is considered the epitome of evil.” p. 8 ‘Hitler: Downfall 1939-1945’ is the second and final volume of a biography by the German historian and journalist Volker Ullrich. He wrote biographies of Bismarck and Napoleon before spending the past decade researching and writing about a subject, he notes, that “took a definite psychological toll.” Before Ullrich went to work the bar had been set very high. In the late 1990s the historian Ian Kershaw produced an unparalleled, two-volume biography which remains the standard against which all Hitler scholarship will be measured. Ullrich’s contribution is worth reading, even if he neither achieves Kershaw’s brilliance nor offers a wholly fresh interpretation. Although long at 640 pages of text and maps (followed by 200 pages of excellent notes and bibliography), this book is well organized and highly readable. It focuses almost exclusively on Hitler’s central, indispensable role in prosecuting the war, dealing with foreign leaders, and driving the genocide of the Jews. That may seem appropriate given the years covered, but I had hoped for more socio-political history (and more analytical instead of narrative writing) with the aim of addressing important questions about the nature of dictatorship (the dynamic between ruler and ruled) and power of propaganda. How did the Nazi dictatorship function on a day to day basis? To what extent were Hitler and the Nazis a totalitarian government? To what extent did ordinary Germans consent to the Nazi program as the war unfolded? (Ullrich commits much more space explaining the complicity of state bureaucrats and military leaders). How popular was Hitler himself and how did the self-image he projected onto his people contribute to the resilience of the regime as the war turned against Germany? Again, Ullrich does not ignore these matters. He might have delved deeper into them, because notions of ‘popular dictatorship’ and ‘working towards the Fuhrer’ underpinned Kershaw’s interpretation of the dictator’s relationship with the people and state bureaucracy. Through his fastidious research, Ullrich provides a precise documentary record of the key meetings and decisions that shaped the course of war and genocide. Hitler was not always the bungling military amateur his generals later made him out to be. Ullrich argues Hitler correctly questioned his generals’ initial plan of attack in France in 1940 and opted for what proved to be the stunningly successful panzer campaign through the Ardennes. Hitler also probably saved his army from disintegration by ordering it to hold ground against the Soviet counter-offensive outside Moscow in late 1941. But these early 'successes' led to Hitler’s undoing, as he repeatedly overestimated his own tactical intelligence, underestimated his Soviet enemy, and irrationally interfered with his generals’ attempts to fight a defensive war because the Fuhrer believed he could no longer trust their judgement. Indeed, after the Soviets repelled the Wehrmacht outside Moscow in late ‘41, the German war was unwinnable. After the destruction of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad in February 1943, the German war was lost for good. The people began to sense this, only to have their spirits given a temporary boost by an increasingly rare public appearance or radio address by their Fuhrer. As the war dragged on, and as German cities were laid waste by Allied bombing, Germans -- except for fanatical Nazis -- stopped believing what their government told them. They gradually lost faith in Hitler, who turned into what Ullrich describes as a phantom in the late stages of the war. Hitler would be seen or heard so infrequently in public that rumors spread of his death. Many military leaders also understood the war could not be won. But except for a brave few exceptions (the July 1944 plotters) they continued to obey their supreme leader. And Hitler, too, would admit in private that all would soon be lost, but he continued to outwardly project confidence that a miracle victory was around the corner. He simply would not countenance negotiating with Germany’s enemies. And this is where the person of Hitler is vital to understanding why the war dragged on until Berlin was in ruins and Hitler dead from suicide. The man’s raging inferiority complex, his inclination to ‘go for broke,’ and his Social Darwinist worldview all fueled Hitler’s utter refusal to end the war before Germany’s destruction. Naturally, it would have required unconditional surrender and the abdication of power -- anathema to Germany’s dictator. So instead, after the defeat at Stalingrad, the inferno of war raged for two more years and consumed millions more lives. The chapter titled ‘The Road to the Holocaust’ tackles questions that have been the subject of scholarly debate for decades. Ullrich is of the view (supported by other scholars) that Hitler’s decision did not come down to one written order to physically exterminate the Jews. Instead, as Nazi policy radicalized and a ‘territorial solution’ to the ‘Jewish question’ proved impossible (such as deporting Jews to Madagascar), Hitler delivered a series of verbal orders or signals to his key minions that drove the eliminationist program to its monstrous extremes. But even before Hitler is believed to have given the go-ahead signal to physically exterminate Jews under German control, hundreds of thousands of Jews had been gunned down by execution squads in the occupied Soviet Union. Whether Hitler made a single order or delivered a series of “improvisational” signals on the road to the Holocaust, it is beyond debate that he played the key role. As Saul Friedlander put it, “crossing the line from local murder operations to overall extermination required a go-ahead signal from the supreme authority.” p. 278 As the war entered its final stages, Ullrich paints a vivid portrait of a dictator in decline. Hitler became a physical wreck with a sunken face, gray hair, and trembling left arm and hand. His health further deteriorated after the unsuccessful bomb plot in July 1944; he survived the explosion but was more seriously injured than he let on. But Ullrich is right to remind us that despite his physical decline, Hitler did not lose his mental faculties. He knew exactly what he was doing, right to the end. He deliberately dragged Germany to its destruction, in line with his Social Darwinist worldview. Hitler was irrational and delusional, but he was not insane insofar he understood the consequences of his actions. Is truly understanding Hitler and his crimes beyond our capabilities? In one sense, it does not seem possible that such a man could have become the most powerful politician in all of Europe, leading an economically, scientifically, and culturally advanced nation into the abyss. But Ullrich demonstrates Hitler possessed the right ‘talents’ to make his ascent possible, just as his worst personality traits brought on his downfall. His ideas were not original: anti-Semitism, the demand for ‘living space’ in the East, etc., predated Hitler by generations. But he “had a keen nose for his enemies’ weak spots and had no scruples about exploiting them. He also had a deft sense of the right moment, which he seized in lightning-like strikes.” p. 623 Moreover, Hitler was willing to take his positions to the extreme, to go further than his enemies thought possible. He was utterly ruthless -- and more than a little lucky. And Hitler exploited an array of popular resentments by promising a restoration of national greatness and elimination of internal enemies -- appeals that all ordinary Germans, stung by the loss of prestige following defeat in the Great War, could embrace regardless their personal views on Nazism’s ideological profanities. Hitler’s legacy was human catastrophe. This we all know. But where we have more to learn is how Hitler, or better yet, how tinpot dictators and wannabe authoritarians of all shapes and sizes get us to shout our approval back at them. Of all the reasons why Hitler and the Nazis remain relevant, their ability to get seemingly good people to see the worst in their perceived enemies, to turn a blind eye to human suffering or convince us to enthusiastically go along, speaks to the moral dilemmas we face today.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Vandike

    There is certainly no dearth of single and multivolume treatments of Adolph Hitler out there. Ian Kershaw's two volumes in 1998 and 2000; Fest in 2015, Simms and Longerich both in 2019 with single volume popular biographies. And it goes without saying the literature from the latter half of the twentieth century swamps that of this one and there is almost no end to scholarly works in the 75 years since the end of the Second World War. So, how does Ullrich stand up to the the other recent works on There is certainly no dearth of single and multivolume treatments of Adolph Hitler out there. Ian Kershaw's two volumes in 1998 and 2000; Fest in 2015, Simms and Longerich both in 2019 with single volume popular biographies. And it goes without saying the literature from the latter half of the twentieth century swamps that of this one and there is almost no end to scholarly works in the 75 years since the end of the Second World War. So, how does Ullrich stand up to the the other recent works on Hitler? The two volumes are certainly a soup-to-nuts birth to the bunker account of Adolph Hitler. Ullrich makes the choice that most of Hitler's biographers do, which is to cover his childhood in outline form only, which generally works well. Though we're reviewing volume 2 here, volume 1 is masterful compared to most other works on Hitler's rise to power for a full-life biography bringing us all the way to the eve of war in 1939. Kershaw's volume 1 only gets us to 1936. In contrast Ullrich keeps a really nice brisk pace in volume 1. Volume 2 begins on the eve of the Second World War. Within a few pages of introduction and framing the strategic situation of the world Poland is invaded. Then on to France and Russia in short measure and the arc from there is pretty well known. Other than a chapter on the Holocaust and one on wartime life in the Berghof, the biography follows a fairly chronological path through the war. What's good about Ullrich's book? First, he does a much better job weaving in both the potentates of the Third Reich (Goebbel's diaries are quoted liberally), the experiences of the common man. And just as importantly dissidents are fairly well represented in Thomas Mann and Viktor Klemperer, the latter of whom was interned in a 'Jew' house until his escape with his wife after an Allied bombing raid late in the war. Second, he leaves most of the 'analysis' of Hitler in the introduction and the epilogue, some Hitler biographies suffer from an excess of making or reiterated a particular point of the author, Ullrich largely steers clear of this other than his central premise. Finally, as noted above, there are a tremendous number of books on Hitler and, he is only one man, so by-and-large the book's quality is as much about the author's writing ability as the subject as there is not a whole lot of new material to discover after three-quarters of a century. But, Ullrich did manage to find a couple of fascinating anecdotes that I do not believe I had ever previously run across. One that sticks with me was that Eva Braun in 1944 hired a magician to perform at the Berghof for nearly two weeks, which had Hitler 'perked up noticeably...frequently laughing and applauding.' The not so good. Sometimes Ullrich dwells on the goings-on of the war a bit too much. His coverage of the Poland, France, and even North African campaigns stick to the bare minimum; but his discussion of the Russian campaign sometimes wander into minutiae. Weaving in Goebbel's biography is great, but as far as other government leaders go, he's about it. There are occasional snippets from this general or that, but sometimes the contextualization is lost with such a tight spotlight. This last one is unfair and nitpicky: Ullrich is largely relying on secondary and tertiary sources, which after 75 years is maybe okay. The epilogue stands out as an excellent forty page survey of how thinking about Hitler and the Third Reich has evolved since 1945. It also serves as an apt conclusion to both volumes, revisiting Ullrich's central premise that Hitler was an inveterate gambler in all things, which served him well...until it didn't. But also asking some fairly thought-provoking questions to the reader about the nature of Hitler and the Germany he lead. All that said Ullrich has a great writing style, which is easy to read. And he definitely found enough tidbits of new quotes and other sources that make it interesting enough even for folks that have already read a fair amount of history on the Third Reich. Highly recommended for the novice as well as the amateur historian.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    Towards the end of Volker Ullrich's "Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945," he quotes a German as saying that Hitler will always be inextricably linked with Germany and its history. To expand the point, Hitler appears to very much be linked with all political history, a sort of familiar monster that cannot be written off as an aberration and that redounds to the eternal infamy of humanity for all time. Ullrich has made a fine follow-up to his first volume. In "Downfall," the Hitler we learned about from h Towards the end of Volker Ullrich's "Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945," he quotes a German as saying that Hitler will always be inextricably linked with Germany and its history. To expand the point, Hitler appears to very much be linked with all political history, a sort of familiar monster that cannot be written off as an aberration and that redounds to the eternal infamy of humanity for all time. Ullrich has made a fine follow-up to his first volume. In "Downfall," the Hitler we learned about from his days of the Beer Hall Putsch and grasping for power amid the Weimar Republic's waning days is put under the microscope of a European, and eventually, world war. To the end, Hitler remains the actor, the gambler, and the magnetic personality of his earlier days: he appears to will the German people into believing that the war can be won, even in its darkest days in 1945; he gambles everything on an invasion of Poland, and then France, and then the Soviet Union, resulting in the fuse being luit that will end his life, his regime and his nation; and he continues to inspire the undying loyalty of many subordinates, even those who, like Goebbels, are ready to die for the Fuhrer than live without him and National Socialism. Ullrich is excellent at teasing out the fundamental nature of Hitler: a maniacal manifestation of Germany's past, but also someone that expanded well beyond the bounds of normality and into truly destructive and immoral undertakings. With the Holocaust and the fight against the USSR for "living space" in the East, Hitler unleashes a war not just fought between soldiers and for competing ideas, but a war against certain peoples, and a conflagration that must end in their physical decimation. In the span of the Second World War, Ullrich illustrates the descent of Hitler from the Fuhrer of Germany into the frail specter of a lost cause. Through long nights, lingering medical ailments, and an unusual aversion to exercise and sunlight, Hitler becomes a hunched, emaciated figure, crippled in the final days of his life underneath the Chancellery in Berlin. Hitler is almost certainly, as Ullrich points out, a product of his times, an odd syncing up of the German nation's anger and resentments after the First World War with the tragic elements of Hitler's own life. But he is also disturbingly prescient: a man who toppled a democracy within a matter of years; a leader who led a people into unimaginable murder, crime and immorality; a warlord that ripped Europe, and the world, asunder. To cast him off as an aberration is to sentence future generations to the same spell as came over the German people of the 1930s and 40s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Francis

    In Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel “White Noise,” the protagonist is a professor of “Hitler Studies.” If such a field could be said to exist in our reality, the current bigshot in Hitler Studies would be German historian/journalist Volker Ullrich, if for no other reason than within four years of each other he has written the bestselling (for Hitler biographies) “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939” and now “Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945.” Hitler biographies have appeared steadily from even before World War II. Obv In Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel “White Noise,” the protagonist is a professor of “Hitler Studies.” If such a field could be said to exist in our reality, the current bigshot in Hitler Studies would be German historian/journalist Volker Ullrich, if for no other reason than within four years of each other he has written the bestselling (for Hitler biographies) “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939” and now “Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945.” Hitler biographies have appeared steadily from even before World War II. Obviously they vary in quality, and they tend to reflect the era in which they were written. Volker Ullrich’s twin volumes are no different, but they’re also high quality. They’re surprisingly readable, and even now there are still new things coming to light about the infamous dictator (tucked away in the afterword notes is a tidbit discovered from medical files in 2010 that Hitler did in fact have malformed genitals). As for “Downfall” specifically: well first off it should’ve been called “Hitler and Goebbels,” as many of the events are viewed through the obsessive writings of Hitler’s propaganda minister/loyal sycophant. And although the disclosures are staggeringly condensed (I took 14 pages of notes), two central themes run throughout the book: 1) How badly Hitler doomed himself by invading Russia when he did, and 2) His mental and physical deterioration as the War turned against him. Indeed, by the fabled last days, Hitler is said to have resembled a walking, palsied corpse. Ullrich places his volumes among the others in the bibliography of Hitler studies. He gives it up for some and criticizes others (I smiled at a part where he refers to a book I liked, “Blitzed,” as “a recent sensationalist book that mixed fact and fiction” p. 534). In the commentary-heavy closing chapter he calls out German scholars who regard Hitler as an anomaly in German history, instead showing that Hitler’s rise was indicative of the national character at the time. As evidenced by my rating, I think highly of “Downfall” and would definitely recommend. And, yes, although we all know how it ends, I was nonetheless turning pages of the penultimate chapter to find out exactly how it ended, which I did not know.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    An excellent second volume. Highly recommend. Goes over territory that we're all at least a little familiar with, but does so intelligently and to a level of detail I had not encountered before. Very well-written, quite readable. His chapters on the Eastern Front were eye-opening. And for my fellow Americans out there, here are two cautionary passages: 1. (in 1945) "While [Hitler] had by no means turned into an entirely different person, several of his character traits had become even more pronou An excellent second volume. Highly recommend. Goes over territory that we're all at least a little familiar with, but does so intelligently and to a level of detail I had not encountered before. Very well-written, quite readable. His chapters on the Eastern Front were eye-opening. And for my fellow Americans out there, here are two cautionary passages: 1. (in 1945) "While [Hitler] had by no means turned into an entirely different person, several of his character traits had become even more pronounced: his egocentrism, his inability to self-criticise and his commensurate tendency to overestimate himself, his lack of scruples when choosing means to his ends, his habit of betting everything on a single card, his contempt for others and his lack of empathy." p. 519 2. Discussing his place in history, "Hitler hit a nerve not only with what he said, but how he said it. The agitated state into which he regularly worked himself seemed genuine and authentic, and his audience overlooked his tendency to play loose with the facts and interpret them in extremely idiosyncratic ways. He was interested not in the truth of his statements, but in whether they produced the maximum effect. Right from the beginning Hitler was a master of lies and deceit.” p. 608 This volume made me even more anxious about the state of our country, given the current lawless occupant of the White House. Ullrich's stunning closing sentence is something we all need to remember: "If his life and career teaches us anything, it is how quickly democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle separating civilisation and barbarism actually is; and what human beings are capable of when the rule of law and ethical norms are suspended and some people are granted unlimited power over the lives of others." p. 632 To that I say, "amen".

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peter Cohron

    HITLER: DOWNFALL 1939-1945 by Vollker Ulrich. A good bio of probably the worst person in history must have a combination of three things: Hitler the man, World War II, and Nazi atrocities. Shirer did a good job but THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH came out so soon after WWII that many sources were missed. Fest centered on the psychological Hitler and left out the other two factors. Murphy showed insight but his book was too lightweight. Toland did an exceptional job with the man and the war, HITLER: DOWNFALL 1939-1945 by Vollker Ulrich. A good bio of probably the worst person in history must have a combination of three things: Hitler the man, World War II, and Nazi atrocities. Shirer did a good job but THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH came out so soon after WWII that many sources were missed. Fest centered on the psychological Hitler and left out the other two factors. Murphy showed insight but his book was too lightweight. Toland did an exceptional job with the man and the war, but largely ignored atrocities. Ian Kershaw covers all three but he goes off on tangents and fails to tie everything together, often going on for pages on an issue, forgetting who is the topic of his books. Ulrich mixes his salad and all the ingredients perfectly. And the transition from one factor to another is seamless, making the book all the more readable. Hitler is hypnotic and hysterical (I mean crazy, not funny) by turn, a leader who reaches the apex of his career with the fall of France in 1940, but then begins a descent in 1941 that leads to the ruin of Germany and his death. The book is not perfect. Ulrich brings out the tired argument that Germany lost WWII before it began, citing that Hitler's advisors and generals warned of war before 1942-43 could not be won (there is some basis for this--the war was lost--but more historians hold that it was the decisions to fight a two-front war and declare war on the US that doomed Germany rather than when Hitler started the war) For you military history fans, this biography is a must-read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex Gilbert

    Two things stood out most in this book. The first is the psychological state/development of Hitler. Hundreds of pages catalogue his mentality and how he viewed the situation in which he was in. This also showed a great deal of narcissism in himself as he was sure he always knew what would happen - and evidence presented tends to show he may have been right about what he was predicting early in the war, but only early in the war. As the years through the war continued, Ullrich shows the readers h Two things stood out most in this book. The first is the psychological state/development of Hitler. Hundreds of pages catalogue his mentality and how he viewed the situation in which he was in. This also showed a great deal of narcissism in himself as he was sure he always knew what would happen - and evidence presented tends to show he may have been right about what he was predicting early in the war, but only early in the war. As the years through the war continued, Ullrich shows the readers how Hitler deteriorated over time. This was both psychologically and physically. In some sense the author takes readers on a journey of showing how someone becomes the monster we remember both mentally and physically. The second thing that stood out to me is the last chapter. The last chapter is by far my favorite because of its academic leanings. The chapter tries to place Hitler in historical context of was he an accident or was he a natural occurrence in history. This is a debate that has been raging since his suicide in 1945, and one that will likely continue. To have the argument succinctly stated and what might be more realistic and supported by what has actually happened provided a conclusion unlike any other in trying to understand this madman.

  23. 5 out of 5

    James Spencer

    I've read several biographies of Hitler because I find the man and the insanity of Germany during his time fascinating. In my opinion, Ullrich's two volume work is the best. He (and his translator, the original having been written in German) have produced a highly readable narrative of the Nazi years but more importantly, Ullrich's analysis seems spot on. He rejects any mitigating factors for Hitler's behavior, in particular the notion that the failure to find a written order signed by Hitler or I've read several biographies of Hitler because I find the man and the insanity of Germany during his time fascinating. In my opinion, Ullrich's two volume work is the best. He (and his translator, the original having been written in German) have produced a highly readable narrative of the Nazi years but more importantly, Ullrich's analysis seems spot on. He rejects any mitigating factors for Hitler's behavior, in particular the notion that the failure to find a written order signed by Hitler ordering the Holocaust so much as implies that Hitler was in any way less responsible for the death of six million people. Ullrich, however equally rejects the claim that everyday German's bear little or no blame for what occurred, destroying the hypocrisy that took over Germany at the end of the war when miraculously any signs of Nazism (pictures of Hitler, swastika flags and pins, etc) disappeared. In sum, a balanced, well written study of probably the most evil man to ever live and his equally culpable enablers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    There is a lot of military history here, which in an extensive biography of Hitler, is justified. His life was dominated by the war and destruction he wrought on Europe. If this is not your thing (it is not mine) much of this book is a slog. This is not to take away from Ullrich's work. In fact, his focus on this makes the biography more credible and focused on his subject. I personally just had time being drawn into the nuances of war planning and military operations. Volume 1 read much smoothe There is a lot of military history here, which in an extensive biography of Hitler, is justified. His life was dominated by the war and destruction he wrought on Europe. If this is not your thing (it is not mine) much of this book is a slog. This is not to take away from Ullrich's work. In fact, his focus on this makes the biography more credible and focused on his subject. I personally just had time being drawn into the nuances of war planning and military operations. Volume 1 read much smoother for me. The best chapters looked at Hitler's life and the society surrounding him. The concluding chapter does an excellent job surveying historiography after the war and assessing several historical claims about him. Again, don't get me wrong, excellent and comprehensive biography, just be prepared that that means war history takes center stage in this volume

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I have read several books on Hitler and World War II, including Ian Kershaw's volume I and II, Joachim Fest, William Shirer, Robert Payne, John Toland, and Alan Bullock. I found Downfall to be a different insight on Hitler's thinking. I have to admit that I skipped one chapter, I don't like reading about the Holocaust and the unimaginable cruelty committed by the SS units that followed Hitler's troops through towns and villages. The author doesn't seem to put much faith in some of the statement I have read several books on Hitler and World War II, including Ian Kershaw's volume I and II, Joachim Fest, William Shirer, Robert Payne, John Toland, and Alan Bullock. I found Downfall to be a different insight on Hitler's thinking. I have to admit that I skipped one chapter, I don't like reading about the Holocaust and the unimaginable cruelty committed by the SS units that followed Hitler's troops through towns and villages. The author doesn't seem to put much faith in some of the statements Albert Speer made in his Memoirs. The author questioned whether or not Hitler had any reaction at all when Speer told him that he didn't follow his orders pertaining to the Scorched-Earth Policy(Nero Decree). The author seems to think that would have been highly unlikely given Hitler's mental state, and the fact that Hitler had Eva Braun's sister's husband done away with. The author also relied a lot on Joseph Goebbels's diary, which most agree is accurate. I have also read several times that Hitler was a skilled actor, which I believe is true. How else could a mad man get millions of people to follow him to total destruction. This book is thick and heavy, and I thought my arm was going to fall off while reading it. When I saw how thick it was I almost changed my mind, but it kept me interested enough to keep reading it. Not to my credit, but I didn't realize at first that there was a volume one (Ascent), which I will read next.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Miller

    Those who devoured Volume I will definitely want to read Volume II as Ullrich concludes this compelling biography of Hitler. Ullrich makes the case that Hitler knew the war was lost after his blitzkrieg against Russia failed in 1941-1942 but disastrously was unable to change his military or political tactics and deal with the realities of the situation. The tension created by Hitler's continual message of victory to his public versus his secret belief that Germany could not win essentially destr Those who devoured Volume I will definitely want to read Volume II as Ullrich concludes this compelling biography of Hitler. Ullrich makes the case that Hitler knew the war was lost after his blitzkrieg against Russia failed in 1941-1942 but disastrously was unable to change his military or political tactics and deal with the realities of the situation. The tension created by Hitler's continual message of victory to his public versus his secret belief that Germany could not win essentially destroyed him well before his eventual suicide in the bunker in Berlin. As I stated in my review of Volume I, Ullrich's biography is well worth reading even if you have already read other impressive biographies by authors such as Alan Bullock, Joachim Fest, or Ian Kershaw.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Brown

    Very well-written. Succeeded in giving a clear window into Hitler's thinking, so much so that I was happy to finish the book. Hitler is so despicable and deserves his title as one of the most evil leaders in western history but he is also very annoying. Can't help but think of parallels with a certain American ex-president - petulant, moody, always blaming others, ceaseless lying, tempter tantrums, stupid, childish name-calling of other world leaders, trusts his own gut feeling over experts, eve Very well-written. Succeeded in giving a clear window into Hitler's thinking, so much so that I was happy to finish the book. Hitler is so despicable and deserves his title as one of the most evil leaders in western history but he is also very annoying. Can't help but think of parallels with a certain American ex-president - petulant, moody, always blaming others, ceaseless lying, tempter tantrums, stupid, childish name-calling of other world leaders, trusts his own gut feeling over experts, everyone around him needed to constantly puff up his ridiculously fragile ego. Put the book down angry that such a man-child had caused so much pain and suffering.

  28. 4 out of 5

    J.

    I just finished reading this. I did not enjoy vol. 2 as much as vol. 1, but that's because I'm not a big fan of military history. However, I did enjoy the conclusion and Ullrich's reflections on Hitler's life and career. There were frightening parallels between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Trump. I sincerely hope that the storming of the Capitol was not Trump's version of the "beer hall putsch." I just finished reading this. I did not enjoy vol. 2 as much as vol. 1, but that's because I'm not a big fan of military history. However, I did enjoy the conclusion and Ullrich's reflections on Hitler's life and career. There were frightening parallels between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Trump. I sincerely hope that the storming of the Capitol was not Trump's version of the "beer hall putsch."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    The culmination of an outstanding degree of historical scholarship, yet because of this volume's focus (WW2 & the Holocaust), it is covering some ground that has already been exhaustively researched in other more comprehensive works on those topics. Still essential, and of a piece with the superlative first volume. The culmination of an outstanding degree of historical scholarship, yet because of this volume's focus (WW2 & the Holocaust), it is covering some ground that has already been exhaustively researched in other more comprehensive works on those topics. Still essential, and of a piece with the superlative first volume.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason Page

    Great book for anyone interested in WW II, World history, or Hitler himself. Final chapter is worth reading as a stand alone essay on Hitler’s historical perspective. Ullrich also tries to answer the essential question of just how did a man like this come to power as well as comparing and contrasting Hitler against Napoleon and Stalin.

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