1924: The Year That Made Hitler, Peter Ross Range
For me, this book is about the making of a monster. The monster is Adolf Hitler who was born in 1899 and died in 1945. Through a confluence of lucky events, followers and benefactors, he somehow escaped assassination attempts, treason charges and long prison terms. The book is about the circumstances that led to his rise to power and ultimately to the leadership of the Nazi Party and The Third Reich as its Chancellor. The accidents of fate that encouraged that rise, the historic judgments by those in power that led to his success are presented for the reader. Ultimately, according to the author, it is the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch, in November of 1923, that laid the groundwork that developed the beast in Hitler. The book is a good introduction, a good jumping off point for the study of the man, his evil and that period of genocide.
Although Hitler was 35, in 1924, when he wrote his treatise of hate, the seeds of his ignoble career were planted much earlier when as a teenager he already displayed a hateful character and espoused anti-Semitism. In 1919, he joined The Worker’s Party and became a sought after speaker. He influenced the change of their name to The National Socialist Worker’s Party. In his twenties, after speaking against Bolshevism for the Army, he became somewhat of an orator and found his niche in political discourse, in rabble rousing and organizing. By the time he was 30, he was outspoken about the evils of the Bolsheviks, the Socialists and Jewish capitalism.
He was meeting and mixing with a part of the population that shared his “anti” views and for his followers, he sought the lowest elements of society because he knew they were unhappy and angry and could be mobilized to support his cause. When in 1923, he attempted to overthrow the government of Bavaria, he was, along with his band of marauders, arrested. He was tried and convicted in 1924, but received only a light prison sentence from an incompetent judge who may have sided with his political beliefs. The description of his prison cell sounded like a private room at camp. He received visitors and gifts. He had great freedom to move about and became somewhat of a celebrity with supporters and sycophants hanging around him. The time, the setting and his insane mindset was ripe for the writing of his book, the book that would ultimately lead to the slaughter of millions. In prison, he became the author of Mein Kampf, and it outlined the annihilation of populations of people. It was no secret, even to those that deny the Holocaust, that this was his ultimate intention. Hitler stated it plainly in his essays, books and speeches which were replete with terms that may have sounded more elegant, but meant the same thing; he wanted a Germany that was “Judenfrei”. He defined Jews as a race. As a race, they could not be German, but would always be Jews. He wanted a Germany for Germans who were superior, Germans of superior looks and intelligence, Germans of pure Aryan blood. He wanted the defective to be weeded out and ultimately destroyed to prevent their perpetuation into the future.
According to Hitler, Jews were vermin. They were germs that were infecting the German Nation and Europe along with several other groups that he deemed unworthy. He wanted to rid the world of them to make room for more of his pure Germans. He encouraged nationalism at a time when Germans were downtrodden, hopeless and downcast about their future because of the burden placed on their country’s economy when they lost WWI. Many Germans were only too happy to follow the monster that was Hitler, and perhaps, even today, “they protest too much” about their supposed innocence. After reading the book one realizes that it might have been through a serendipitous conflation of events that he was able to rise to power to become the world’s most ignoble, hated leader. At every turn, when he should have been thwarted or might have been killed, something fortuitous occurred to prevent this megalomaniac from rising to power. Although there is much denial from those who say they had no idea how great the evil was that Hitler fostered, his policies and views were widely known, his speeches and appearances were cheered and wildly attended. They rallied around his effort and supported his monstrous aims.
I think this book should be used as a primer, as an introduction to Hitler, because those of us who have already studied the Holocaust will be fairly well acquainted with most of the information in the book.