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Hitler: A Global Biography

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From a prize-winning historian, the definitive biography of Adolph Hitler Hitler offers a deeply learned and radically revisionist biography, arguing that the dictator's main strategic enemy, from the start of his political career in the 1920s, was not communism or the Soviet Union, but capitalism and the United States. Whereas most historians have argued that Hitler un From a prize-winning historian, the definitive biography of Adolph Hitler Hitler offers a deeply learned and radically revisionist biography, arguing that the dictator's main strategic enemy, from the start of his political career in the 1920s, was not communism or the Soviet Union, but capitalism and the United States. Whereas most historians have argued that Hitler underestimated the American threat, Simms shows that Hitler embarked on a preemptive war with the United States precisely because he considered it such a potent adversary. The war against the Jews was driven both by his anxiety about combatting the supposed forces of international plutocracy and by a broader desire to maintain the domestic cohesion he thought necessary for survival on the international scene. A powerfully argued and utterly definitive account of a murderous tyrant we thought we understood, Hitler is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the origins and outcomes of the Second World War.


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From a prize-winning historian, the definitive biography of Adolph Hitler Hitler offers a deeply learned and radically revisionist biography, arguing that the dictator's main strategic enemy, from the start of his political career in the 1920s, was not communism or the Soviet Union, but capitalism and the United States. Whereas most historians have argued that Hitler un From a prize-winning historian, the definitive biography of Adolph Hitler Hitler offers a deeply learned and radically revisionist biography, arguing that the dictator's main strategic enemy, from the start of his political career in the 1920s, was not communism or the Soviet Union, but capitalism and the United States. Whereas most historians have argued that Hitler underestimated the American threat, Simms shows that Hitler embarked on a preemptive war with the United States precisely because he considered it such a potent adversary. The war against the Jews was driven both by his anxiety about combatting the supposed forces of international plutocracy and by a broader desire to maintain the domestic cohesion he thought necessary for survival on the international scene. A powerfully argued and utterly definitive account of a murderous tyrant we thought we understood, Hitler is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the origins and outcomes of the Second World War.

30 review for Hitler: A Global Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    At the outset of his new biography of Adolf Hitler, Brendan Simms points out that by 2000 over 120,000 books and articles have been written about the Nazi dictator. The question then must be asked, why another? Simms states in his introduction to HITLER: A GLOBAL BIOGRAPHY that conjecture concerning Hitler’s motivations that resulted in his rise to power, reorienting Germany toward Nazi domestic and foreign policy, and his ultimate defeat that have been examined since the 1950s by the likes of A At the outset of his new biography of Adolf Hitler, Brendan Simms points out that by 2000 over 120,000 books and articles have been written about the Nazi dictator. The question then must be asked, why another? Simms states in his introduction to HITLER: A GLOBAL BIOGRAPHY that conjecture concerning Hitler’s motivations that resulted in his rise to power, reorienting Germany toward Nazi domestic and foreign policy, and his ultimate defeat that have been examined since the 1950s by the likes of Alan Bullock, Joachim Fest, Ian Kershaw, and more recently by Volker Ulrich and Peter Longerich and others needs to be reexamined. Simms seeks to build on the works of others, integrating many of their viewpoints as he puts forth his own revisionist interpretation of his subject in the tradition of A.J.P. Taylor. Simms is a political scientist and professor of international relations and his newest book is his first attempt at biography and though it is a comprehensive look at Hitler from World War One onward it does lack coverage and interpretation of his life before that period. What Simms is concerned with are three interrelated new claims. First, Hitler was primarily obsessed throughout his career with Anglo-American and global capitalism, not the Soviet Union and Bolshevism. Second, Hitler held a negative view of the German people arguing that even when purged of Jews and other “Untermenschen” he reflected a sense of inferiority in comparing the “volk” with “Anglo-Saxons.” Thirdly, historians have focused too much on Hitler’s negative view of eugenics regarding the Jews and other undesirables and not enough on what he saw as positive eugenics, which was designed to elevate the German people to that of his British and American rivals. According to Simms, historians “have missed the extent to which Hitler was locked in a worldwide struggle not just against “world Jewry” but with the Anglo-Saxons.” These claims or themes are hammered home by Simms on each and every page no matter the topic he is engaged in and it comes across as quite repetitive. The book is extremely detailed and well thought out but could have been written in a more concise manner. To Simms’s credit he offers a great deal for the reader and other historians to consider and analyze and ultimately question. One of Hitler’s core beliefs according to the author is that the reason the United States developed into superpower status was because of “living space.” America had almost an entire continent to settle and when Native-Americans got in the way they were removed. This large area provided an enormous supply of natural resources and areas to resettle millions of immigrants who arrived from Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. For Hitler, it was German emigrants leaving the Fatherland who arrived in the United States who were greatly responsible for the American dream. They brought skills that were needed ranging from farming, industrial labor, and their intellect. By leaving Germany and emigrating across the Atlantic they left a void at home and an inferior population. During World War One, Hitler became impressed with American soldiers in large part because they were made up of a significant number of Germans. For Hitler, it became a civil war, German emigrants fighting against Germans who remained in the Fatherland which explains as the reason Germany lost the war. This argument is carried forth throughout the 1920s and 30s leading to and including World War Two. Simms provides documentary evidence of Hitler’s beliefs through speeches, private conversations, and an analysis of MEIN KAMPF and THE SECOND BOOK which Hitler authored. Simms provides numerous examples to support his claims as Hitler constantly worried about the power of the United States and during the late 1930s he wondered what approach Franklin D. Roosevelt would take as appeasers dominated English and French foreign policy. In developing his strategy during World War Two, Simms argues that Hitler at the outset was not concerned with race and viewed the Jews as hostages to keep the United States out of the war and it was only after Washington signed the Atlantic Charter in 1941 that Hitler decided he needed a quick victory in the east and the implementation of the Final Solution. Hitler feared that the Charter was similar to Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points during World War I which he believed was a propaganda victory that resulted in the Germany agreeing to end the fighting. Further, to argue that race had little impact up until 1941 in the plight of European Jewry is a bit specious at best. All one has to do is look at Hitler’s speeches and writings to realize that race was the core of his attitude toward Jews. The 1935 Nuremberg Laws, Hitler’s constant comparison of the treatment of Jews and black colonial soldiers, Kristallnacht, Einsatzgruppen in Russia, and numerous other examples reflect the Hitler’s obsession with race. Simms’s argument that the entrance of the United States into the spelled the death knell for Jews as he no longer needed them as hostages is hard to accept. All one has to do explore the evolution of Hitler’s views on Jews from the writing of MEIN KAMPF throughout the 1930s to the unwritten order to eradicate European Jewry surrounding the Wannsee Conference, and further events to see that argument that if the United States had not entered the war, Jews might have lived is fallacious at best. As far as the British are concerned, Simms’s Hitler fawns over the empire, its colonial policy, and the sturdiness and bravery of its people. Hitler repeatedly tried to make peace or ally with England throughout the 1930s, the years leading up to World War Two, and the war itself. His strategy as is argued by many was to invade the Soviet Union as a means of pressuring London into making peace. This is not really new, but it is interesting to explore Simms’s presentation as he has culled an enormous amount of primary and secondary materials which are part of an exceptional compendium of sources and footnotes in presenting his arguments. Simms does present all of the salient facts regarding Hitler’s life and the course of German history between World War I and II. The author presents a detailed account of Nazi Party politics from the 1920s through the assumption of power in 1933 and beyond, Hitler’s impact on German federalism and Bavaria in particular, German culture, the removal of any threats to Hitler’s power, i.e., Night of the Long Knives, Hitler’s fears of the restoration of the Habsburg Monarchy, the machinations of Nazi foreign policy using the excuse of self-determination, and many other issues. The difference is his approach. He seems to enjoy exploring Hitler’s thought patterns and how he reached his conclusions. A good example is how he believed England would switch sides after being defeated and support the Nazis as the Austrian Empire had done with Prussia in 1866 after the Battle of Sadowa. Another example is how Hitler viewed the Slavs in relation to Germany, much in the same way that the United States viewed Native-Americans. Slavs were to be moved out of the Ukraine to create Lebensraum for Hitler and provide Germany with the breadbasket of the Soviet Union as well as natural resources as the removal of Native-Americans had for Washington. Historians seem overly concerned with watershed dates. For Simms it is the May, 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia as anti-appeasement factions in the British Foreign Office and in MI6, aided by Czech and German social democrat exiles triggered a crisis in order to torpedo Neville Chamberlain’s policy of conciliation toward Germany and to mobilize resistance to Hitler. It was claimed that Hitler had mobilized German forces and was planning an imminent attack. This was not the case as an embarrassed Hitler retreated – the result would be the Munich Crisis and the ceding of the Sudetenland in September 1938 to assuage Hitler’s ego. As a result of the crisis Hitler began to realize that a rapprochement with England was not likely and he would rush the Czechs completely by March 1939. Hitler did make another attempt to seek a deal with London over a “rump” Poland after the Danzig crisis and the German invasion in September 1939, but they turned him down. According to Simms, Hitler never forgave them, and the “blitz” or Battle of Britain was a direct result as was the invasion of Russian in June 1941 as a means of showing Churchill he was isolated and should make peace, not because they were Bolshevik as many have argued. In fact, according to Simms, Hitler held a certain admiration for Stalin for the way he ruled and how his troops fought so fiercely against the Nazis. As to the idea that Nazism was socialism as Simms proports one must realize Hitler’s coopting of German “big business” for rearmament was designed as a drive to war, resulting in increased profits for Krupp and Thyssen and other industrialists rather than improving working conditions and wages for workers – this is not socialism. According to Richard J. Evans in his review in The Guardian, on September 27, 2019, a great deal of what Simms argues is untenable, and though I agree with this assessment I would not go as far as his statement that Simms’s work should be ignored by serious students of the Nazi era as it is provocative and in parts interesting. I would say though that what Simms argues should be taken with a grain of salt, but his work should not be dismissed out of hand.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jakub

    Bez veľkého preháňania je toto jedna z najhorších kníh o Hitlerovi&nacizme, akú som kedy čítal.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    Not too long ago, I heard that there were two new serious biographies of Hitler that had been published - this one, by Brendan Simms, and another by Peter Longerich. I am not sure why, but my reaction was one of eager anticipation. I am a sucker for serious critical biographies of a small set of important world actors, perhaps because the story of their lives provides a focal point around which a large amount of history can be tied and understood. Think about the problem facing the Hitler biograp Not too long ago, I heard that there were two new serious biographies of Hitler that had been published - this one, by Brendan Simms, and another by Peter Longerich. I am not sure why, but my reaction was one of eager anticipation. I am a sucker for serious critical biographies of a small set of important world actors, perhaps because the story of their lives provides a focal point around which a large amount of history can be tied and understood. Think about the problem facing the Hitler biographer. Your subject is a finalist if not the outright winner of the most evil person ever award. There have been dozens if not hundreds of biographies that have been written in multiple languages. More than a few of these have been written by absolutely first rate scholars with access to the most current archives and related resources available anywhere. What is there left to write about? Given that people have only so much time to devote to different topics, how is someone to outdo Ian Kershaw’s work or any of the other really fine books about Hitler that are available? So when I hear that there are new efforts by historians out on H, it tells me that they may have some new information but they also think that they have something new to say - and that they will try very hard to say it well. So what the heck? I gave it a try. Brendan Simms is a Professor of History/International Relations at Cambridge. He calls his book a “Global Biography”. By that, he seems to be referring to how Hitler oriented himself to the rest of the world in his writings and actions. This is not a book about showing new behaviors by Hitler, but rather an analysis of what Hitler wrote about himself and his program in his books, letters, speeches, and other writings, and how what he wrote linked up with what he did. The key takeaway is that Hitler was profoundly oriented towards the British Empire and the US, or what he called Anglo-America, and that the Nazi program can be understood as aimed at getting Germany to develop into a global state that could compete on a basis of equality with the Angle-Saxon juggernaut that really ruled the world. Hitler and the Nazis were not about the traditional world of the nation state - indeed the Westphalian system and the 30 years war bore much of the blame for the sorry state of Germany leading up to WW1. Antisemitism and the Holocaust were related to the control of the world by Anglo-America but initially were not as central as commonly thought. They of course became more central as the Nazi program was enacted and especially as WW2 developed and Nazi defeats mounted. Simms is meticulous in drawing these points out of Hitler’s books and speeches as well as in showing the evolution of these ideas from his early drafts of Mein Kampf through to the final bunker in Berlin. Simms draws a number of arguments that do seem contrary to the common wisdom on Hitler. To start with, Hitler did not seem as concerned with the USSR except as an agent of Bolshevism, which was ultimately controlled by Anglo-America. This is partially behind H’s miscalculations regarding the fighting power and resilience of the USSR after the 1941 invasion. A second point is that Hitler did not view the Germans as racially superior but rather as in need of racial improvement to foster competition with the British and the Americans. A major contribution of the book is to clarify just how confused and underdeveloped Hitler’s ideas on race actually were. This is a matter of internal consistency and working this through is challenging given the lack of any scientific basis for Nazi racial theories and programs. Simms is informative in showing how Nazi race ideas were strongly associated with programs and race and eugenics that were popular in other countries, especially the US at the time (especially the work of Madison Grant). The idea that Hitler assumed the British to be racially superior to the Germans was not something I had heard much of before reading Simms. There are other interesting lines in the book, such as concerned Hitler’s management/leadership style, as well as different ideological fault lines within the Nazi party, for example the advocacy of a “United States of Europe” by some party members, although not by Hitler. Simms is also keen to point out how, despite all his supposed thinking on geopolitical issues, Hitler ended up making the same mistakes going into WW2 that Germany made going into WW1. What to make of this? On the one hand, I appreciate Simms’ effort to systematically try to link what Hitler said with what he did and what policies were implemented. In more than a few areas, his insights make it easier to understand the evolution of Nazism and the Third Reich. It is useful to think hard about what you take for granted in the historical record. Having said that, do these insights really change how one thinks about Hitler? This is not clear at all and even dubious. Was Hitler more “rational” than previously thought? I doubt that and the book can also be seen as showing that Hitler’s rantings and ravings had a more internally consistent logic of a sort than was previously thought. This does not make H any less crazy (in its many definitions) nor does it change our appreciation of the enormous waste, destruction, and criminality that were left in the wake of Hitler and his Third Reich. The nuances in Hitler’s racial theories are interesting too but much less so once it is recognized that none of it makes any sense or is supported by any evidence or scientific method. Isn’t bad science just bad science? The international orientation of Hitler’s visions have also been noted by others - Simms is more thorough in trying to sort it out. If you have to read one critical biography of Hitler, this may not be the best choice, although it is a good book. If you are interested in ways to think further about a highly written about person, albeit a really evil one, then this would be a good book for you.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mathieu Gaudreault

    In this masterpiece, Brendan Simms shows the core of Hitler ideology, a struggle against Anglo-saxons capitalism and their according to Hitler allegedly jewish masters. Using a vast array of works, the author shows the political carrer and Hitler ideology. Till 1919 Hitler wasn't anti-semetic but contacts with the small NSDAP and political pamphlets of the post Whillemine Germany made him be one. Hitler didn't think the Germans were the superiors race and had inferiority complexe toward the Anglo In this masterpiece, Brendan Simms shows the core of Hitler ideology, a struggle against Anglo-saxons capitalism and their according to Hitler allegedly jewish masters. Using a vast array of works, the author shows the political carrer and Hitler ideology. Till 1919 Hitler wasn't anti-semetic but contacts with the small NSDAP and political pamphlets of the post Whillemine Germany made him be one. Hitler didn't think the Germans were the superiors race and had inferiority complexe toward the Anglo-Americans. The author points the irony that so many of the descents of German immigrants in the USA and British Empire like Spaatz, Eisenhower, Freyberg and others fought and annihilated Hitler Reich. The author shows that the main war efforts and machine and ressources allocations(Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe) were directed against the Anglo-American. Hitler wanted a separate peace with the Anglo-Americans while refusing Stalin concrete overture. Definitively a must have fro ww2 and political histrory afficiando

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is well-researched and informative. Finally, I have reasonable and cohesive responses to some of my long-held questions. Why didn't Hitler send tanks and armor to destroy the troops at Dunkirk? Why didn't he invade England? Why DID he invade Russia when he did? You must read this if you have pondered those questions, too. This is well-researched and informative. Finally, I have reasonable and cohesive responses to some of my long-held questions. Why didn't Hitler send tanks and armor to destroy the troops at Dunkirk? Why didn't he invade England? Why DID he invade Russia when he did? You must read this if you have pondered those questions, too.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Don Dealga

    Thin, flawed, unconvincing. Simms' flimsy arguments are no more convincing for the constant monotonous repetition he subjects us to in this tome. Simms attempts to argue that Hitler's main obsessions were with Anglo-America and the evils of Captitalism. Yet Simms seems confused. While repeatedly trumpeting his "thesis" about Hitler's focus on Anglo-America and Capitalism, he then confesses that Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was actually “part of a much broader ideological war against Bol Thin, flawed, unconvincing. Simms' flimsy arguments are no more convincing for the constant monotonous repetition he subjects us to in this tome. Simms attempts to argue that Hitler's main obsessions were with Anglo-America and the evils of Captitalism. Yet Simms seems confused. While repeatedly trumpeting his "thesis" about Hitler's focus on Anglo-America and Capitalism, he then confesses that Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was actually “part of a much broader ideological war against Bolshevism”. As an academic historian is Simms not aware of Hitler's use of rhetoric such as "international capital", "international finance" etc as barely concealed code for his virulent anti-semitism? Simms' neocon and neoliberal politics have clearly shaped his attempt in this book to revise our understanding of Hitler's worldview. The result is a boring, confused and unconvincing mess.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Morris

    The best I can say about this bio is there are a few new tidbits of information. Other than that it is totally incoherent. Mr Simms has written what is basically an apologetic bio for Hitler. In Simms fantasy world Hitler took on the bad Anglo-Saxons and their Capitalism. His only support for this ridiculous premise are the odd statements by Hitler attacking "International capitalism" which was simply code for Jews. But Mr Simms decides that no really it wasn't the Jews he hated but Capitalism : The best I can say about this bio is there are a few new tidbits of information. Other than that it is totally incoherent. Mr Simms has written what is basically an apologetic bio for Hitler. In Simms fantasy world Hitler took on the bad Anglo-Saxons and their Capitalism. His only support for this ridiculous premise are the odd statements by Hitler attacking "International capitalism" which was simply code for Jews. But Mr Simms decides that no really it wasn't the Jews he hated but Capitalism :-) In some ways Simms is blaming the victims. He is using the current modern anti-Capitalist paradigm and injecting it into an apologia for Hitler,. He wasn't so bad because he was anti-Capitalist! I came away from reading this wondering whether Mr Simms is in fact himself an antisemite. Disgusting apologia and made me send Mr Simms are strong email on Academia.

  8. 4 out of 5

    George Reedy

    Comprehensive and well researched. Highly recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Johns

    Very impressed! This was an in-depth look at how this man rose to power and his world view. Especially with regards to his views on America. So well-written. Loved this!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alfred W. Baptista, Jr.

    I found this biography of Adolf Hitler to be a revisionist version of the life of one of the most hateful, evil and narcissistic leader in world history. Simms does offer some evidence to support some of his new conclusions but far too frequently either ignores or even distorts the known evidence. His denial of Hitler's rabid antisemitism as a driving force in his life appears to overlook Hitler's own writings, speeches and private conversations. While the writing is well done, many of the concl I found this biography of Adolf Hitler to be a revisionist version of the life of one of the most hateful, evil and narcissistic leader in world history. Simms does offer some evidence to support some of his new conclusions but far too frequently either ignores or even distorts the known evidence. His denial of Hitler's rabid antisemitism as a driving force in his life appears to overlook Hitler's own writings, speeches and private conversations. While the writing is well done, many of the conclusions lack credibility especially when compared to the works of Ian Kershaw and Peter Longerich as well as Yehuda Bauer. He also does not appear to rely on any of the memoirs/diaries of those who lived through the horrors Hitler created other than those of his fellow hate filled colleagues. I was very disappointed by this revisionist history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michele Smith

    I started but did not finish this fascinating in-depth account of the development of Hitler's political ideology. A scholarly work, it was a little more intense than I was expecting, although I would love to go back and finish someday. I started but did not finish this fascinating in-depth account of the development of Hitler's political ideology. A scholarly work, it was a little more intense than I was expecting, although I would love to go back and finish someday.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David King

    The author asserts that as early as WWI Hitler realized the great threat that America was toward a Germanic role in economics and living space. I’m not sure he proves his case, but the biography overall was well written. Well paced and engaging.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    It has some glaring problems.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Wiley

    I did not care for the audio book of this, to much detail and confusing to me. Did not finish it and it was returned for credit

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justin Hill

    Could have been more concise. I found it very interesting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Darris McNeely

    Very good. Emphasis on Hitler's preoccupation with the anglo powers. Did not completely finish. Will return https://www.wsj.com/articles/hitler-a... Very good. Emphasis on Hitler's preoccupation with the anglo powers. Did not completely finish. Will return https://www.wsj.com/articles/hitler-a...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jake Sylvestre

    I read this book as a supplement to Kissinger’s Diplomacy. In particular, I wanted to better understand how the German leaderships view toward the Anglo Saxons (and particularly Chamberlain) and how it affected German decision making. Simms certainly presented an original argument and forced me to rethink key decisions on both sides in the context as anti-capitalist and think through the strategic decisions on both sides

  18. 5 out of 5

    K

    Fascinating

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Pearson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  21. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Weyhenmeyer

  22. 4 out of 5

    john a robinson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dndicicco

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex Robinson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Machado

  26. 5 out of 5

    Keith Ballard

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim Ballengee

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jonny Andres

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Riek

  30. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Adams

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