5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Survey
This book examines the various schools of thought regarding Hitler and the Holocaust and the author did a wonderful job of researching and interviewing many of the scholars on the topic who have in turn influenced our understanding and perceptions of what happened and why. The questions may ultimately not have definitive answers but reading this and having Rosenbaum guide...
Published on May 30 2004 by R. J. Marsella
3.0 out of 5 stars Wildly uneven
I have not read all 58 reviews, but one thing I am not seeing mentioned is the disjointed repetitiveness of this book. It feels like magazine essays spliced together rather crudely into a book. Sentences reappear over and over. People are reintroduced every time they are mentioned. The book needed a severe tightening.
I am in no position to judge its scholarship; he is...
Published on Feb 28 2002 by J. C Clark
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Survey,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)This book examines the various schools of thought regarding Hitler and the Holocaust and the author did a wonderful job of researching and interviewing many of the scholars on the topic who have in turn influenced our understanding and perceptions of what happened and why. The questions may ultimately not have definitive answers but reading this and having Rosenbaum guide us through the various viewpoints is a worthwhile exercise in intellectual and philosophical investigation. The question of whether Hitler was essential to the Holocaust or if in his absence someone else would have set the same events into motion is one example of an unanswerable question that gets considered.
The questions surrounding the origins of Hitler's anti-semitism are also explored in detail.
There are scholars quoted who adamantly believe that any attempt to understand is misguided because understanding Hitler's motivations is considered by them to be the first step toward rationalization and diminishing the horror of the Holocaust to just a human crime on a larger scale.
This is not a biography of Hitler although many critical episodes in his life are referenced. Instead this is a fascinating look at how different perspectives on the nature of Hitler's evil have developed and how in the end there is no comprehensive answer as to the how and why of the suffering he unleashed. THere is a quote used from Primo Levi's book Survival in Auschwitz. Levi suffering from thirst reaches for an icycle. An SS guard knocks it away and Levi asks "why ?' The response.."there is no why here". I think that story captures some of the spirit of Rosenbaum's book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Curious Asides,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)This is not really a biography of Hiler, it is more of a search on the margins of the impact the world may have had on Hitler and the influence he had on the world in a very personal sense. It could be best compared to the books of Gitta Sereny, as both authors examine those scarred and impacted by Hitler. Rosenbaum seeks out the places of mystery and people on who Hilter made a lasting impression. It is a journey to try to unwrap a riddle that may truly never be solved. Hitler is not a cut and dried, black and white issue, he is shades of grey, and Ron Rosenbaum effectively presents a lot of these shades. To understand this man of evil, this is a most important book, best complimented with John Lukacs'"The Hitler of History", Sebastian Haffner's "The Meaning of Hitler" and Percy Schramm's "Hilter as a Military Leader" which while dont complete the man provide much of the picture.
4.0 out of 5 stars The mystery of evil,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Hardcover)Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum. Highly recommended.
Explaining Hitler is a misleading title, for the focus is primarily on the Jewish academic community's attempts to explain Hitler-to put it in grossly oversimplified terms, this is somewhat like the prey explaining the motivations of the predator. The result is that, while Hitler remains a mystery, the academic and personal biases of the explainers are revealed. To each person's theories and comments Rosenbaum adds his own analysis, finding the flaws with precision.
Hitler explanation ranges from the deeply personal (abusive father, infection by a Jewish prostitute, mother's painful death under the care of a Jewish physician) to the inevitable influence of historical forces (post-war inflation, depression). Rosenbaum discusses the personal in depth, including Hitler's rumored Jewish ancestor and bizarre relationship with his half-niece Geli Raubal, the convolutions each theory takes, and the lack of facts or reliable information to support any of them. For example, Rosenbaum astutely points out the only real "proof" of the abusive father is Hitler's own assertion and sarcastically suggests that there is reason not to trust Hitler's word. One argument that immediately comes to mind that Rosenbaum only briefly alludes to later is that millions of people have abusive fathers, bad experiences with individual members of ethnic and other groups, and so forth, yet do not turn into war criminals responsible for the deaths of millions. In short, these theories might explain Hitler's anti-Semitism, but not the results.
What is disturbing about so many of these explanations (some of which are advocated by such noted people as Simon Wiesenthal, who favors the Jewish prostitute theory), and more sophisticated ones that appear later in the book, such as George Steiner's, is their insistence that a Jew or a group of Jews is responsible. In these theories, a Jewish ancestor, a Jewish prostitute, an Eastern Jew with a different appearance, or the Jewish "blackmail of transcendence" and "addiction to the ideal" is responsible for Hitler-implying Hitler is not responsible at all. Although the egotistical and monomaniacal Claude Lanzmann, maker of the documentary Shoah, is too self-centered and angry to clearly articulate the basis for his belief that Hitler explanation is inherently "obscene," it could be because so much "explanation" has found a way to point a finger at the Jews, directly or indirectly, while minimizing Hitler. Perhaps for that reason, Lanzmann is interested only in how the Holocaust was accomplished, not with the motivations of Hitler or his followers. The major flaw is that Lanzmann has missed the point by dictating that his rule of "There is no why" must apply to all other individuals-and the irony of that.
As Rosenbaum repeatedly points out, no explanations for Hitler are acceptable that excuse him-that look to a bad experience with a Jew rather than to, for example, the influence of anti-Semitism surrounding him in Austria and Germany. Again, however, it can be said that anti-Semitic influence has surrounded many people (as Rosenbaum notes, pre-war France was more anti-Semitic than either Austria or Germany) who have not killed, let alone killed millions.
Rosenbaum's approach is excellent, pairing individuals with complementary or opposing viewpoints, e.g., Lanzmann and Dr. Micheels, the theologian Emil Fackenheim and the atheist historian Yehuda Bauer in "The Temptation to Blame God." Even revisionist David Irving is given a chapter. Rosenbaum saves what seems to be his preference for the last chapter-Lucy Dawidowicz's belief that Hitler decided on The Final Solution as early as 1918, based on what he said and did not say over time, and on the "laughter" that is transferred from the Jewish victims to the Nazi victors. While this does not explain the origins of Hitler's evil, it pinpoints the time frame and removes notion that he was ambivalent or experienced a sense of moral ambiguity. Dawidowicz's Hitler knows early on what he wants to do and lets insiders in on the "joke" he finds it to be. Presented in this way, Dawidowicz does seem to have come closest to the truth about Hitler. After all, how can one capable of ambivalence ultimately kill millions?
To me, one critical question is not why or how any one man became evil or chose an evil course of action, for the explanation could simply be that the capacity for evil in an individual may be higher than most of us are capable of realising or accepting. That is, everyday evil like John Wayne Gacy's is accomplished in isolation and is therefore limited in scope. The intent and the desired scope given opportunity remain unknowns. The more frightening question is why and how so many chose to follow Hitler. I do not necessarily mean the German people, per se, but the thousands of bureaucrats, managers, and soldiers who physically carried out The Final Solution, knowing exactly what this entailed and what it signified. Hitler seized the opportunity offered by the political and social situation to institutionalize his personal evil. A single man may envision and desire genocide, but it takes followers and believers to carry it out. Explaining Hitler (or Stalin or Genghis Khan) is not enough to explain the scope of this particular human evil. Without followers, there are no leaders. And without followers, millions of Jews (and Cambodians and Indians and so forth) could not have died. The evil that is so hard to face goes well beyond Hitler to a place that no one could truly wish to discover.
Diane L. Schirf, 18 January 2004.
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime scene, missing evidence, no Sherlock,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)A highly stimulating series of perspectives in the attempts to 'explain Hitler', at the end of which we still, no doubt,are without the explanation, a point made by the author with his epigram of Emile Fackenheim at the beginning of the book. One might note the danger of being distracted by details, when the probably impossible-to-obtain explanation is both ordinary yet unknowable, as we gaze on a crime scene, assessing clues. There is a danger of becoming metaphysical in the wrong way, notwithstanding the need to consider the nature of radical evil.
There are a series of obvious explanations, none of which can be confirmed, but which emanate from the occult stench and dark muddled rumours of this episode of history, and many leadup and synchronous episodes completely disconnected with the historical context, which also includes 'explaining Nietzsche', not easy to do. That genre of explanation tends uniformly toward the crackpot and doesn't explain anything either, but that aspect of the evidence is always missing (and was surpressed at Nuremberg)
This is a very informative account, dealing with the whole history, starting with Trevor-Roper and Alan Bullock, to Goldhagen. Especially gripping was the account of the journalists of the Munich Post battling Hitler from the early twenties in the gangster world from which he emerged, to the final accession to power, when they were all wiped out.
5.0 out of 5 stars Highest recommenation!,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)I picked this book up after hearing its author on a radio interview. Being a big WWII history buff I thought it would be a good read. I was right, but for the wrong reason. This book takes the reader on a journey not only into the world of Hitler (dates, facts and actions), but into the tangled world of those trying explain him. The author does a great job of making the reader think through the surprising number of alternative Hitler explanations. This book made me reconsider my ideas of evil.
I have read this book twice and get more out of it each time I pick it up.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitler 'Explained'............Extraordinary Insight,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)One of the few times that I agree completely with the comments of virtually everyone on the book's jacket. Rosenbaum presents the insights of the world's 'experts' on Hitler...from historians, theologians, psychologists, psychiatrists,etc. all of whom have spent a significant part of their lives studying the Hitler 'phenomena'.(Insights which in many, if not most, cases are unique and 'opposite'to those of their colleagues.) From beginning to end, the narrative was riveting. I felt the intensity build as I read, leaving me exhausted and overwhelmed. at the end. Few books have impressed me in quite that way.
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, Outstanding Writing,
By A Customer
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)Rosenbaum is an enormously gifted writer, who takes a hard look at the ideas and individuals in this book - even the ones he clearly admires. As a result, this book is an enormously stimulating read. If you've ever wondered why history is important or exciting, this book will show you. The academics, philosophers, filmmakers and quacks Rosenbaum observes in this book are not just arguing over the facts of Hitler's rise to power and the Holocaust; most importantly they are arguing over how we should understand those facts, and what meaning Hitler has or should have to us today. Sure enough, these historians are "making" the history which informs our future.
4.0 out of 5 stars Important cross-examination of Hitler studies,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)This book is a great introduction to the ways the world's thinkers, philosophers, historians and conspiracy enthusiasts have taken hold of the enigma of Hitler and projected about every theory on to him that the lecture circuit will tolerate.
It pays homage to the brave early dissenters in Germany who payed for their lives while trying to alert a comatose public to the dangers of this cartoon devil with a microphone and an army.
The second half of the book shows some of the arrogance of the researchers who felt a need to claim the holocaust as their personal property and decide what is ethical discussion and what is blasphemy. I applaud Mr Rosenbaum for his courage to point out that nothing is gained by making Hitler a unique devil, the very symbol of evil, without probing the root causes because then we do put ourselves in danger of ignoring the sad but undeniable truth that he could be duplicated just like any other human menace and madness and cruelty can reoccur. I found the controversy about whether it is tasteful to put his baby picture on the cover very telling because it shows how uncomfortable people are with the truth that behavior is made and facilitated and encouraged, even the most diabolic edges of human impulse, and it is not inborn. Adolf Hitler looks like every other baby and that in itself should be our warning sign.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and thought provoking,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)A great amount of information on explaining Hitler. The author looks at all different explainations about Hitler and goes into detail to explain each (or discredits). It's very well writen and I recommend if you have an interest in Hitler Explainations, this is a great book.
3.0 out of 5 stars Wildly uneven,
This review is from: Explaining Hitler (Paperback)I have not read all 58 reviews, but one thing I am not seeing mentioned is the disjointed repetitiveness of this book. It feels like magazine essays spliced together rather crudely into a book. Sentences reappear over and over. People are reintroduced every time they are mentioned. The book needed a severe tightening.
I am in no position to judge its scholarship; he is a well read and opinionated man. I found the arguments he traces quite interesting; this was certainly a provocative read. He clearly has several unwieldy axes to grind, and grinds them often.
But the book itself suffers from its repetitiveness, its smarminess, its endless wild speculation ("Hitler could very well have..." "So-and-so might very well have thought...") and its overall feel of cuteness.
Many little things that detract from what could have been a powerful read. What a shame.
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Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum (Paperback - May 27 1999)
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