July 15, 2010

On The Meaning of Hitler

Haffner, in his spare and elegant history tells a story that many people think they know. The life of Hitler has been recorded on celluloid and spread on the History channel so much that we don't question the image of the cartoonish demagogue that is too easily parodied.

_The Meaning of Hitler_ focuses on the political career of the failed Austrian artist in a fair and even-handed way, one that is impressive given the context of the creation of the text. The greatest sin of history is turning your back on the past, and Haffner wants to make sure we do not make that mistake. This translation is easily readable and traces from the highs and lows and the twists and turns of Hitler. Much of his early life is left out and glossed over, but the reader gets a look at the decisions the man Hitler made once he was in power.

Hitler is here humanized, allowing us to approach him not on a pedestal or pillory; this is Haffner's great feat.