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Hitler’s interest in books

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Timothy Ryback_s _Hitler_s Private Library_ - September 24, 2008 - The New York Sun.jpg

The last edition of ...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Timothy Ryback‘s “Hitler‘s Private Library” was published recently. A review in the New York Sun written by Sir Ian Kershaw a well known author of of books about Hitler, had this interesting comment:

As Mr. Ryback aptly adjudges, what Hitler’s attention to such works shows is

Not a profound, unfathomable distillation of the philosophies of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche, but instead a dime-story theory cobbled together from cheap, tendentious paperbacks and esoteric hardcovers, which gave rise to a thin, calculating, bully mendacity rather than some profoundly grounded source of evil, less the triumph of the will than of the shrill.

Unfortunately the NY Sun is no longer published!

This review was written by Sir Ian Kershaw, who is a professor at the University of Sheffield and the author of “Hitler, 1899-1936: Hubris,” “Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis,” and “Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution,” among other works.

In an article for The Atlantic about this very subject, Ryback noted the following not very conventional view gleaned from a close examination of this collection of Hitler’s books:

Given Hitler’s legendary disdain for organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, I didn’t expect him to have devoted much time to the teachings of Christ, let alone to have marked this quintessential Christian virtue. Had this in fact been made by the pencil of Hitler’s younger sister, Paula, who occasionally visited her brother at the Berghof and remained a devout Catholic until her dying day? Might some other Berghof guest have responded to this holy Scripture?

Possibly—but though most of the spiritually oriented books in the Hitler Library were gifts sent to the Führer by distant admirers, several, like Worte Christi, were obviously well read, and some contained marginalia in Hitler’s hand that suggested a serious exploration of spiritual matters. If Hitler was as deeply engaged with spiritual issues as his books and their marginalia suggest, then what was the purpose of this pursuit?

As I sat in the rarefied seclusion of the Jefferson Building’s second-floor reading room one day, listening to the muffled roar of traffic and the distant wail of police sirens in late-summer Washington, I attempted to comprehend the full significance of this sentence to which Hitler seems to have responded so emphatically. Back in 1943 Walter Langer had concluded—correctly, to my mind—that in order to understand Hitler one had to understand his profound belief in divine powers. But Hitler believed that the mortal and the divine were one and the same: that the God he was seeking was in fact himself.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/11/04 at 08:26

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