Book Review: Hitler’s Tyranny: A History in Ten Chapters by Ralf Georg Reuth

Review by Linda Parker

Hitler’s Tyranny: A History in Ten Chapters

Ralf Georg Reuth

Haus Publishing 2022

368 pages

In this interesting and unusual analysis of Hitler’s rule in Germany the author has taken ten themes to examine the topic rather than a chronological approach. The emphasis is on the personality of Hitler more than the political and societal changes of the era. However, the author is keen to debunk what he calls “myths “about Hitler by placing the growth and change of his opinions in context.  

The first three chapters examine the history of anti-semitism in Europe, the battle of the Weimar republic against communism and reactions to the Treaty of Versailles. Reuth argues that these events did not have a large effect on Hitler’s thinking until later in his career and that immediately after the First World War Hitler was neither violently anti-semitic or overly right wing and nationalistic. These were elements that developed as he found them useful to raise to power.

 The following chapters explain how Hitler’s ideology developed into a rabid anti-semitism and anti-communism which he used to good effect to appeal to a nation distraught and divided by the effects of the crises of 1923 and the Great Depression and by clever political manipulation became chancellor of a country whose people did not realise the full radicalism of his agenda.

 The debates around Hitler’s pact with Stalin are examined in context of the controversies still surrounding them and emphasis placed on Hitler’s determination to conquer Russia. “Hitler’s aspirations were focused entirely on the destruction of the Soviet Unions” (p. 185).

 The chapter on the genocide of the Jews is detailed and explains the gradual radicalism of their treatment, resulting in the final solution after his war against Russia had failed. There is an interesting section on the inaction of the allies in the face of their knowledge of the concentration camps.

The tenth theme examines the reasons why the German nation continued to fight to the bitter end, citing the disinformation provided by the apparatus of an oppressive regime.  Reuth argues that “a mixture of misplaced loyalty, opportunism, and a hopeful reliance on the genius of Hitler “made the leaders of the army continue to the end, reinforced by the failure of the July Plot.

The book has a novel structure which examine themes, claims to debunk myths but also maintains a chronology. The historiography of the topic is scrutinised thoroughly to prove or disprove the author’s argument.  There is a very extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources in German and English. It will be of interest to the general reader interested in the development of Hitler’s Tyranny and is also a scholarly contribution to the multifaceted opinions and views on the topic.

RALF GEORG REUTH is one of Germany’s foremost historians of the country’s turbulent twentieth century. His published works include biographies of Hitler, Goebbels, and Rommel.

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