BerksBarristerSpring2017 - 22

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Book Review

Hitler

Ascent 1889-1939

By VOLKER ULLRICH
Reviewed by The Honorable Paul M. Yatron

T

his book has been touted by critics, reviewers, and
its publisher as the fifth and most recent "seminal"
biography of one of the most evil, and certainly the
most reviled man in history. The work is both massive and
scholarly, which is suggested by its mere mass weight. It is not a
book intended for the casual reader or the faint of heart.
The introduction alone consists of 11 full pages about which
there will be more supra. The text runs 747 pages, and the
reference notes, which, thankfully, are not located at the "foot" of
the page, run 186 pages. The bibliography contains 22 pages, and
the index occupies 25. The narrative ends at the point just prior
to the outbreak of the Second World War.
An avid reader of lighter and more familiar histories of
similar length can usually do justice to such a volume in four or
five days' time. To fully digest Ullrich's opus, however, took me
the best part of three weeks. To the student truly interested in
the minutiae of this period, however, it is time well spent.
Ullrich gives due credit to the authors of the other four
serious biographies of Hitler. Indeed, he appears to be in
general agreement with most of their conclusions. Where he
principally differs from them and from the countless casual
holders of American Political Science degrees and armchair
22 | Berks Barrister

headshrinkers is in his refusal to accept the convenient and
popular view that Hitler was a man of limited intelligence,
motivated by cartoonish Freudian doubt about his own sexuality,
who arrived on the German scene at a time when a volatile
mix of economic and political problems, many generated by
the Treaty of Versailles, created some perfect storm catapulting
Hitler to power. Ullrich refutes each of these notions in turn, and
demonstrates that whatever his formal educational background,
he was extremely adept at analyzing that which would appeal to
the German masses, the means of harnessing the support of the
people to advance his agenda, and with a particularly nuanced
understanding of the incrementalism that would be necessary to
achieve the ends he sought.
Ullrich recounts in considerable detail Hitler's early life,
including his meritorious service as a soldier in World War
I. His father died when he was young, and he had a close but
conventional relationship with his mother. His desire to become
an artist and his failures in that pursuit, including his rejected
attempts to gain admission to appropriate schools, have become
the stuff of cliché, especially to the amateur psychoanalysts.
Ullrich recounts these events, but does not overemphasize them.
Hitler displayed political patience in the elections of the early


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