What will they say of Hitler long after we are all dead? This is the unspoken question behind the American conservative intellectual John Lukacs’s excellent book. While there are still people alive who lost family members to Hitler’s war, while we still live in a world whose political contours were largely shaped by the post–Hitler settlement, while we still see ourselves living in a ‘post–war’ historical period, it is impossible to be truly objective about the man. What, however, will historians make of him in 2045 or 2145, when he is as chronologically distant a figure as Napoleon is today?
Most of us fondly assume that Hitler will always be seen as another Vlad the Impaler, Attila the Hun or Ivan the Terrible – a hate–filled, bloodthirsty tyrant, and that’s that. Although ‘revisionist’ biographies and Channel 4–style documentaries might occasionally attempt to rehabilitate him, the judgement of posterity seems settled.