I’m a sucker for all things Third Reich. I grew up watching movies and documentaries on World War II and was (still am) very impressed by German military prowess – the vehicles, army units, battle formations, badges and insignias and yes, those Hugo Boss-designed military uniforms.

Lest I be seen as a sympathiser, I must say for the record that I am very aware of the dark side of the Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) or NSDAP and the destruction its ideology caused. The comprehension why intellectuals and intelligent thinking people could be reduced to a mass of cattle blindly following this ideology of hatred and evil propagated by one man has until today eluded me. Are his oratory skills alone enough to cast such a spell over the German people?

That’s oversimplifying things, I know. But think of the Third Reich and Hitler’s face comes to mind. So much has been written about this monster of a man and I have over the years read much material on him and wartime Germany. But The Hitler Book is different. This book is in a league of its very own.

The Hitler Book is actually a dossier prepared by the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) based on its capture and interrogation of 2 of Hitler’s aides – his valet, Heinz Linge, and his personal adjutant, Otto Gunsche. Both were transported to the Soviet Union and detained for interrogation before being released in the mid-1950s with the intelligence being passed on to Stalin for his personal reading.

As the nature of the source implies, the Hitler Book offers a “behind the scenes” look at Hitler’s inner circle and private life. From the early days of his rise to the Chancellorship and his transformation into der Fuhrer; his confident one-upmanship in pursuing Lebensraum and the declaration of war to the change in fortunes and his subsequent decline into an eccentric recluse prone to losing his temper and increasingly out of touch with the realities of the battlefront – all these events are vividly recorded by his aides – till the end of the war, with the suicide of Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun and the attempts at escape by those still alive in the Fuhrerbunker from the surrounding Soviet forces in Berlin.

The transformation of Adolf Hitler and his descent into a raging then empty shell of a man parallels the progression of the recorded events. Almost symbolic of this fall is the change in settings from the Reichstag to huge palatial buildings to smaller and yet smaller bunkers that Hitler is forced to hide in as the book draws to its close, detailing the Fuhrer’s final days and the going-ons in the bunker.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, reading it nightly and hoping it would not end so quickly. Out of desperation when it finally did, I resorted to reading the Foreword, Translator’s Preface, Editors’ Introduction, Editors’ Afterword, Notes and Table of Comparative Third Reich military ranks and British/US equivalents.

This book is not really about the inner-workings of the Reich but more about the life of Adolf Hitler, as seen by his aides. So, it is a different offering from the other titles out there written on Hitler.If you are a WWII history buff like me and enjoy gossip-style literature, then I think you’ll enjoy this one.

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