Hitler: A Life by Peter Longerich - review by Richard Overy

Richard Overy

The Great Dictator?

Hitler: A Life


Oxford University Press 1,324pp £30 order from our bookshop

Almost certainly the first question that will be asked about this giant volume is why we need another biography of Hitler. After Volker Ullrich’s recent biography and in the shadow of Ian Kershaw’s magisterial two volumes there has to be good reason for a further exploration of Hitler’s life on this scale, historical celebrity though he has become. Peter Longerich has a reason. He believes that Hitler was central to everything that happened in the rise to power and the operation of the Third Reich. Historians who have argued in favour of a ‘structuralist’ approach, seeing Hitler as a ‘weak dictator’ unable to dominate the institutions and competitive elites around him, are, Longerich claims, wide of the mark. In his account, Hitler is the principal agent; the rest jump to his unpredictable tune.

Longerich is no stranger to the lives of the leading Nazis, with commendable biographies of Goebbels and Himmler already under his belt. Here once again he mobilises a formidable quantity of archival material and shows us Hitler in his true colours. His Hitler moves from being ‘A Nobody’

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