Papers throw new light on rise of Hitler

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST major biography of Adolf Hitler for more than two decades will be published later this year, using for the first time all of his speeches, Goebbel's diaries and documents that have been kept in Soviet and Russian state archives. It will focus on the social conditions that made possible his rise to power.

Professor Ian Kershaw's work will go on sale in two volumes. The first, Hubris, covering events up to 1936, will be published in September. Nemesis, detailing the remaining years of the Nazi regime, will be released next year. The biography will be published simultaneously in German.

"My aim was to answer the fundamental question of how such an unlikely figure for high office as Hitler could gain power," said Prof Kershaw, Professor of Modern History at Sheffield University, who participated as a historical consultant in the BBC2 series The Nazis: A Warning from History, which won a Bafta award earlier this month.

"Hitler commanded such power because of the weaknesses, mistakes and complicity of others ... he was a dictator who frequently didn't have to issue diktat," Kershaw said.

After more than 20 years without any fresh appraisal of Hitler, the time is right for a new biography, according to Ruth Killick of Penguin, parent company of the book's publishers, Allen Lane. "There is a wealth of new material which hasn't been documented before," she said. "Hitler continues to prey on the modern mind. With the resurgence of far-right groups in eastern Europe, it is more important than ever that we understand what went on within the Third Reich."

Previous major large-scale biographies of Hitler include JH Toland's work of 1976, Jonathan Stern's Hitler, the Fuhrer And The People in 1975, Hitler by Joachim Fest in 1973, and Alan Bullock's seminal Hitler, a Study in Tyranny written in 1952.

Prof Kershaw's book outlines several key factors in Hitler's rise - including national humiliation following World War One; deep-seated rifts in German society that left the political system up for grabs; and a lack of acceptance of democracy by large sections of society. He said: "These factors opened the door for a political adventurer. It isn't about irrationalities. There are very explicable reasons why it all happened."

Professor Michael Burleigh, professor of Modern European History at the University of Wales, Cardiff, author of six books on Nazi Germany and book reviewer for the Independent on Sunday, said: "Kershaw is the best placed man to do it. It's going to reflect a lot of new scholarship done in the past 20 years and will place Hitler in a more social context than a conventional biography."

'Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris', by Ian Kershaw will be published on 24 September by Allen Lane, price pounds 20.