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From the JFR Library – August 2019

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From the JFR Library

Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship

By Brigitte Hamann
Translated by Thomas Thornton

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly

Usually, accounts of Hitler start with WWI and his subsequent rise to power in Munich. And usually, histories of Vienna in the early part of this century focus on the Secession, on Freud, on Viktor Adler. But in her carefully argued and smartly written book, Hamann (The Reluctant Empress) creates a portrait that shows the evolution of a far different city, one that for five years, between 1908 and 1913, shaped one young provincial. This is a Vienna of poor laborers who live in men’s hostels and are the willing fodder of Social Democrats and Pan-Germans alike. Waves of immigrants (among them Jews fleeing Russian pogroms) and the introduction of equal suffrage in 1906 gave rise to a virulent crop of chauvinistic German politicians and theoreticians who shaped Hitler’s worldview, from his racism to his use of “”Fuhrer”” and “”Heil,”” both adopted from Pan-German activist Georg Schonerer. Unlike many biographers, Hamann finds the roots of Hitler’s anti-Semitism here, rather than in run-ins with Jewish professors at the Academy of Visual Arts (there were none), a Jewish grandfather (the evidence, she convincingly argues, is lacking) or a syphilitic Jewish prostitute (Hitler was inordinately afraid of both infection and women). Hamann also traces other crucial aspects of Hitler’s development to his time in Vienna: his fascination with the mechanics of theater and the political symbolism of architecture, and his hatred of parliamentarianism. Hamann’s deep knowledge of Vienna and her skeptical approach to previous sources results in a double-sided portrait that will help readers understand both the Dual Monarchy and WWI and the Third Reich and WWII.

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