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Debates concerning the historical and moral significance of Adolf Hitler have gone on since the beginning of his rise to power in Germany. In the decades after his bunker suicide, those debates elevated to arguments over the very nature and existence of evil. An integral part of the arguments has been the ongoing attempt to understand the why of Hitler. In this engaging work of literary journalism, Ron Rosenbaum travels the world to converse with some of the historians, philosophers, filmmakers, and others who have attempted to make sense of Hitler's actions, to find a root cause for the Holocaust.
Rosenbaum methodically examines the evidence for and against all the major hypotheses concerning the origin of Hitler's character. He sifts through all the rumors--including his alleged Jewish ancestry and what biographer Alan Bullock refers to as "the one-ball business"--and the attempts to derive some psychological cause from them. Various Hitlers emerge: Hitler as con man and brutal gangster, Hitler the unspeakable pervert, Hitler the ladies' man, Hitler as modernist artist working in the medium of evil....
But Rosenbaum's portrayals of those who would define Hitler are as fascinating as the shifting perspectives on the führer. Here we see the brave journalists of the Munich Post who attempted to reveal Hitler's evil to the world as early as the 1920s. We witness Shoah director Claude Lanzmann's imperious attempts to stifle analysis of Hitler and the Holocaust, branding such historical inquiries as "obscene." We see the effects, on a frazzled Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, of the controversy surrounding the publication of his Hitler's Willing Executioners. We see the interior crises of Hitler apologist David Irving and philosopher-novelist George Steiner, among others, as they struggle with the ramifications of their work and thought. And, best of all, we have Rosenbaum to serve as an informed, intimate, and on occasion witty guide. In White Noise, Don DeLillo depicted the satirical academic discipline of "Hitler studies;" Ron Rosenbaum breathes a life into the field that no fiction can match. --Ron Hogan [via]