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The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler

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The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler – Laurence Rees


When somebody mentions the twentieth century, a lot of things come to mind. We tend to think of the great British empire, an empire so big there wasn’t a sunset. We think of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, hence we think of World War I. Some may think of the Arab spring, and other of the Balkans’ civil wars. Over in Asia they might recall the Khmer Rouge, the Korean and the Vietnam Wars, as well as the Boxer rebellion and the Chinese civil war. India remembers Gandhi while South Africa remembers Mandela. The US thinks of the Kennedys’ assassination and the first man on the moon. Russia remembers Stalin and the USSR. The world recalls the effects of the Cold War, the moment we realized nuclear weapons were too much with the Cuban missile crisis. And, thinking back now that a wall is planned on being built, we see the start of a new era after the fall of the Berlin wall, a wall that wouldn’t have been built if there’d been no World War II.

One of the biggest events that pop in our head when we talk about history of the twentieth century is World War II. Churchill, Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt, and many other names come to mind. Without a doubt, one of the most famous, if not the most famous character of this twentieth century list is Adolf Hitler. Author of the national socialism ideology, detonator through his irrational actions of the second world war in Europe, and the artifice some of the biggest atrocities done to humanity ever, he’s been subject of study to a great number of people. Scholars have analyzed almost every single aspect of him in the attempt to better understand, and to further explain everything he did. His rise to power, the way he governed, and the genocide he orchestrated, one can say, have a billion and no explanation. Due to this many explanations, a vicious cycle is created, more people get curious about what the reason behind Hitler’s actions is, and thus generating more studies and explanations about him.

One of these many people that have specialized in studying the events of World War II, and all about the Third Reich is Laurence Rees. He’s an award-winning historian and filmmaker who used to be the head of several TV history programs for the BBC. After his many year of research, he’s collected an incredible amount of information on the subject. To store this information, and share it with the world, he also founded the website The site contains resources about World War 2, and the primary content is completely original content. Laurence Rees has been able to write several books with lots of detail and testimonies thanks to “the hundreds of interviews with eye witnesses and artifices that I’ve taken as a history filmmaker all through the last twenty years.” (Laurence, 2016) The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler is no different, which is one of the reasons this book can be set apart from any others about Adolf Hitler.

Rees’ book is a unique approach for attempting to explain how and why Hitler led millions into the abyss (Laurence, 2016). The book relates Adolf’s actions and style of leadership to Max Weber’s charismatic leader (authority) theory. The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler feels more like a biography when we’re reading it, a biography full of “fun facts” that one probably didn’t know before reading this book, than a deep analysis of his actions. Part of the reason it feels that way is because it is divided into four parts, The Trail to Power, The Road to War, The Risk and The Reward, and Blood and Death. Each part talks about a different stage Hitler’s life. The first two parts focus a great deal on his personal life while the last two talk about him and his decisions while he was in power. Rees, however, connects only a couple of actions or stories on every part of the book to the charismatic leader theme, less than one would expect for this book.

The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler is outstanding due to its singularity in subject. Several books and articles about Adolf Hitler and the holocaust atrocities have been written, even right after the events had just happened (Primo Levi’s article on the holocaust atrocities, an attempt for people not to forget them is an example). Most of the books about Hitler talk about whether he was ill or not, or his relation to power. And most of the books about the holocaust and the war times are simply novels. Up until today there’s been no study about his charisma other than Rees’ one. And, I don’t think anyone besides Rees has been interested on it, at least not enough to research and publish a book about it. Nonetheless it is a shame that Laurence does no justice to the uniqueness of his book. He barely relates Hitler’s actions to the charismatic subject. I can only recall having underlined three to four quotes that Rees explicitly mentions how an action was charismatic. He does mention the word charisma multiple times, but he doesn’t quite explain what this charisma was, which you’d expect from the title and slogan from the book.

Despite the lack of explanation of what Hitler’s charisma is, Laurence analysis, as well as the extra information he included from witnesses, about how Adolf came to power is remarkable. He does go deeply into Hitler’s actions and explains the consequences they had and how they influenced his career. For instance, Laurence talks about the structure of his speeches and how this was part of the reason he was able to come to power. He also analyses Hitler in a psychological way, talking to us about how Hitler often made decisions based on his ego. He includes various events that portray this side of Adolf and then analyses them. This sort of compensates for the lack of charisma talk, or better said, the lack of direct relation and exemplification of Hitler’s charismatic actions.



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