The following is my edited version of a New York Timesbook review by Michiko Kakutani. The book is a new biography. I have removed the author’s name, the book’s title, the subject’s name and his time and place.
“How did ----- — described by one eminent magazine editor…as a ‘half-insane rascal,’ a ‘pathetic dunderhead,’ a ‘nowhere fool,’ a ‘big mouth’ — rise to power…? What persuaded millions of ordinary ----- to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred?
“…A host of…biographers…have advanced theories about ----- rise, and the dynamic between the man and his times. Some have focused on the social and political conditions in -----, which ----- expertly exploited — bitterness…and a yearning for a return to ----- greatness; unemployment and economic distress…and longstanding ethnic prejudices and fears of ‘foreignization.’
“Other writers…have focused on ----- as a politician who rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses.
“….Mr. -----, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a ‘…rabble-rouser’ — regarded by many as a self-obsessed ‘clown’ with a strangely ‘scattershot, impulsive style’ — into…[a leader] of…[his country].’
His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity.
“• ….----- was often described as an egomaniac who ‘only loved himself’ — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and…a ‘characteristic fondness for superlatives.’ His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. ----- underscores ----- shrewdness as a politician — with a ‘keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people’ and an ability to ‘instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.’
“• ----- was…[aided] by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology…to spread his message…[He was said to be]…‘so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth’ and editors of one edition of [his book]…described it as a ‘swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.’
“• ----- was an effective orator and actor, Mr. ----- reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences….[and adapting] the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and [bigoted]…listeners,’ Mr. ----- writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order [italics mine].
“• ----- increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising ‘to lead ----- to a new era of national greatness,’ though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. ----- says, the better ‘to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.’
“• ----- repertoire of topics, Mr. ----- notes, was limited, and reading his speeches…, ‘it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences’ with ‘repeated mantralike phrases’ consisting largely of ‘accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.’ But ----- virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in…that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd. Its ‘purely intellectual level,’ ----- said, ‘will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.’ Because the understanding of the masses ‘is feeble,’ he went on, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be ‘persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.’
“• ----- rise was not inevitable, in Mr. ----- opinion. There were numerous points at which his ascent might have been derailed, he contends…He benefited from a ‘constellation of crises that he was able to exploit cleverly and unscrupulously’ — in addition to economic woes and unemployment, there was an ‘erosion of the political center’ and a growing resentment of the elites. The unwillingness of ----- political parties to compromise had contributed to a perception of government dysfunction, Mr. ----- suggests, and the belief of ----- supporters that the country needed ‘a man of iron’ who could shake things up. ‘Why not give the ----- a chance?’ a prominent banker said of the -----. ‘They seem pretty gutsy to me.’
“• ----- ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity…Early on, revulsion at ----- style and appearance, Mr. ----- writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating ‘evening’s entertainment.’
“•….----- had a dark, Darwinian view of the world. And he would not only become, in Mr. ----- words, ‘a mouthpiece of the cultural pessimism’ growing in right-wing circles…but also the avatar of…a turning away from reason and the fundamental principles of a civil society — namely, ‘liberty, equality, education, optimism and belief in progress.’”
The author is Volker Ullrich. The book is Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939.
[dc]“T[/dc]rump’s former wife Ivana had told her lawyer that the real estate mogul kept a book of Hitler’s speeches in a cabinet by his bed and would read it on occasion, according to a 1990 Vanity Fair article,” Huffington Postreported. “His friend, the late
Paramount CEO Marty Davis, confirmed to the magazine that he had given Trump the book as a gift.”
Huffington Post said Trump told the magazine at the time, “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”