Tuesday, November 07, 2017

BOOK REVIEW.  "Young Hitler: The Making of the Fuhrer", interesting but amateurish

Yes.  From what the reviewer says, the book is amateurish.  He rightly says that Hitler was not initially antisemitic but does not know why he became so.  He offers no understanding of Hitler's psychology at all. Yet Hitler himself gives a perfectly clear and believable account of that in "Mein Kampf".

Hitler was a strong patriot who wanted to make Germany great   again.  That is normal enough.  Strong patriotism is common even in nations where there would seem to be little to be patriotic about. So there is no mystery or madness about his basic motivations. 

And what turned that patriotism into anti-semitism is also clear.  People say it was because of his rejection by the Vienna art school -- but Hitler himself agreed with that rejection.  The Rector told him that his main talent was in architecture and Hitler enthusiastically agreed with that. He was not antagonized at all.

What DID anger Hitler was all the revolutionary talk in postwar Vienna.  There were many orators calling for class war and a revolution.  But that went completely against Hitler's patriotism.  He wanted Germans to be one big happy family, not fighting among themselves.  And it was his constant belief in Germany and German unity that got him his following.  He came across as someone who loved his people.  And they followed him to the bitter end because of that.

And guess who the revolutionary talk came from?  Predominantly Jews.  Karl Marx was a Jew and many of the Bolsheviks were Jews and to this day, Jews tend strongly to support the political Left.  There is no doubt that there WERE many Jewish preachers of revolution in Vienna in the aftermath of WWI.  Hitler even lists the names of the ones he knew of.

So he saw the Jews as enemies of Germany.  Thus his hatred of Jews mirrored his love of Germany:  All perfectly understandable and straightforward in an era where EVERYBODY (just about) hated Jews. His ideas were perfectly normal in the context of his times. The vast majority of Germans would have nodded their heads wisely when Hitler demonized Jews.  It was a tragic overgeneralization but it was far from mysterious

Young Hitler is a new direction for Australian writer Paul Ham. His previous books have been about war, specifically defeats, disasters and grossly abnormal loss of life, such as Passchendaele: Requiem for a Doomed Youth (2016). His least blood-soaked book is Vietnam: The Australian War (2007), which remain­s the only one-volume treatment of the subject and is still useful, if in need of updating.

Now, however, he has turned to a biograph­ical study, albeit of a soldier and the instigator of the most widespread war in history. But Hitler! Why Hitler? Ham’s 18-page bibliography makes it clear that Adolf Hitler is hardly neglected by other writers.

The question Ham believes has not been suffic­iently answered is how “the experiences of Hitler’s youth, especially during the First World War, wrought the conqueror of Europe out of this unpromising human clay”.

In fact, Ham doesn’t quite mean that; he’s not trying to explain the Reich’s military success­es. Rather, what is it about World War I that “created one of the most murderous dictators of the 20th century”? Ham believes “the finest” biograph­ers of Hitler — Alan Bullock, Ian Kershaw and Volker Ullrich — “tend to give less emphasis to the role of the First World War in shaping Hitler’s character than it deserves”. His book is to remedy this flaw. It’s an ambitious if not cheeky aspiration.

Ham quotes Kershaw: “What happened under Hitler is unimaginable without the exper­ience of the First World War and what followed it.” So it must all be a question of degree, for what veteran’s personality and subsequent impac­t o­n the world is not influenced by war exper­ience?

What are the striking features of Hitler’s 1914-18? That he survived all 4½ years of it on the Western Front. That he was a brave soldier and deserved his two Iron Crosses. That he was exhilarated by the dangerous life of combat. That he was disgusted by defeatism on the part of his comrades (although any suggestion of intim­acy in that word hardly applies). That he resented whingeing and poor morale on the home front. That he saw the heavy losses in the First Battle of Ypres as the malign doing of the German political and military establishment.

Naturally, all or much of this played into the man’s evolving personality. But certain central traits of the “mature” Hitler don’t seem to have had a Great War genesis or particular encouragement — his anti-Semitism, for example. At length, Ham refers to the anti-Semitic miasma in the air in Hitler’s youthful days in Vienna and Munich, but keeps commenting that Hitler was not irrevocably infected then. And it wasn’t the war that did it either: Hitler’s Iron Cross First Class was recommended by his Jewish officer, and Hitler doesn’t seem to have noticed or minded, much less felt disgusted or ashamed.

If anything — and this seems the strong countercurrent of Ham’s book — it was ­Hitler’s experience of the aftermath of the war, rather than 1914-18 itself, that was responsible for the final fuhrer mould. Hitler bitterly embrace­d the myth of the stab in the back as an explanation for Germany’s defeat, and he threw himself into the business of fingering and nailing the assassin. In the end, this came down to being the entirely imaginary figure of Jewish Bolshevism.

Despite, it seems to me, arguing against himself, Ham has written an interesting primer. For the serious Hitler aficionados, brought up on Bullock and Kershaw, the obvious next step is Ullrich’s 2016 book Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939. But Ham’s Young Hitler works well as an introductory text. It has a good parade of the non-partisan witnesses to his youth, a discriminating account of Hitler’s war service, and offers just as much of Mein Kampf as a strong stomach can handle.

Yet a slight air of amateurishness hangs over the book. There’s a non-nuanced reference to the causes of the war, which seem to come down to Prussian militarism. Ham’s bibliog­raphy strik­ingly omits great Australian histor­ian Christopher Clark’s groundbreaking 2012 book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. And there is no trace of what I might even call empathy for Hitler. Despite the book’s avowed intention, there is no prising open the psyche of the as-yet-unformed young man. His devotion to his mother comes across more as an aberration than any kind of possible key to a flicker of a less-egocentric consciousness.

Ham’s earliest assessment of the child is as “sullen and resentful” and “by the age of 12 Hitler­ had grown into an emotionally indulged self-absorbed boy with a marked contempt for authority and the temper of a bully”.

It could be said that Ham has taken a pre­determined set against him. Maybe he can simply­ find no spark of humanity even in the child. “Whence came this juvenile rage at the world? … The answer has eluded the powers of psychiatrists.” It’s as though the evil machine was born ticking over and just waiting to be pointed toward­s its destined field of destruction.

Ham’s epilogue opens out into an analysis, a sermon, even a harangue on the present. Conventi­onal wisdom has long been that once you bring Hitler into your argument, you’ve lost it. Present times, however, seem to call for the overthrow of this maxim.

In April, historian Christopher Browning devoted his review of Ullrich’s Ascent in The New York Review of Books to a comparative, and very sane, essay on the rise of Hitler and the rise of Donald Trump. For Ham’s last eight pages he says “a few points are worth making about Hitler­’s legacy”. What follows is a fairly cosmic denunciation of white supremacists, far-right European parties, Steve Bannon, Islamophobia, trickle-down economics, Western inequity …

Ham then lays down his own combative program­ in a series of paragraphs that begin: “The solution …” As it happens, there’s little I dis­agree with, but the style is denunciatory, highly generalised and flamboyantly rhetorical. Is this intentional? Too much unnerving Hitler here.


An interesting collage

British Council manager who was sacked for posting a Facebook message calling Prince George ‘the face of white privilege’ loses her claim for compensation

A British Council manager, who was sacked for posting a Facebook message calling Prince George 'the face of white privilege' has lost her employment tribunal claim for compensation.

Angela Gibbins, who earned £80,000-a-year as head of global estates at the organisation, was sacked after her 'distasteful and personal attack' on the future King went viral in July.

Ms Gibbins – dubbed by colleagues at the charity as the ‘red under the bed’ and the ‘quiet Corbynista’ – had previously refused to meet Prince Charles when he visited her office, stayed at her desk as colleagues watched Lady Thatcher’s funeral, and turned down a Buckingham Palace garden party invitation.

Yet Judge Sarah Goodman and tribunal colleagues ruled the British Council was right to fire the staunch republican for her 'reckless lack of judgment, inexcusable in someone in a senior position' - despite her claims that she had a 'slip of judgement'.

Ms Gibbins sparked outrage after her Facebook comments under a photo of Prince George hit the headlines a year ago. The picture, released to mark George’s third birthday, was originally posted on Facebook with vile comments by the band Dub Pistols.

There followed a debate among Ms Gibbins’s friends of social media about the Royals, Central London Employment Tribunal heard.

She wrote the offending comment in response to a photo placed by the band Dub Pistols, with the caption: 'I know he's only two years old, but Prince George looks like a f***ing d***head.'

This was followed by the comment 'too much?', which sparked a debate among Ms Gibbin's friends about white privilege, Central London Employment Tribunal was told.

She also posted: ‘White privilege. That cheeky grin is the (already locked-in) innate knowledge that he’s Royal, rich, advantaged and will never know any difficulties or hardships in life. Let’s find photos of 3yo [sic] Syrian refugee children and see if they look alike, eh?’

Later she posted: ‘I’m sound in my socialist, atheist and republican opinions. I don’t believe the Royal Family have any place in a modern democracy, least of all when they live on public money. That’s privilege and it needs to end.’

Yet in a written ruling, the judge said: 'The Tribunal agrees "reckless lack of judgment" which had caused disrepute is sufficient for gross misconduct.

'We concluded that it was not the expression of republican belief that was the reason for concluding that the claimant had lacked judgment and thereby brought the respondent into disrepute.

'It was that she had associated herself with a distasteful and personal attack on a small child.'

Ms Gibbins had taken the British Council, which promotes British culture abroad and has the Queen as the patron, to an employment tribunal in July. She had claimed unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and 'belief discrimination'.

She said the British Council were limited by the lack of expert evidence on Facebook and had little practical experience of social media themselves.

But Judge Goodman added: 'Nevertheless we agree that posting controversially expressed views associated with an obscene remark about a child to 150 people by itself raised a risk that at least one of those might be so outraged by her comment as to pass it on.

'The claimant agrees that her remarks would have been unacceptable if associated with the British Council.'

Despite posting her remarks on her Facebook, which has secure privacy settings, they were leaked out and two days later a story was published which sparked a huge row and widespread media coverage.

The British Council, which employs 12,225 staff across over 100 countries and gets 16 per cent of its budget from the publicly funded Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said it received at least 700 complaint emails, including some from MPs.

Judge Goodman said: 'Against the information to staff about social media use, this was on a par with gross negligence, and did amount to reckless risk taking. It did also bring the respondent into disrepute.

'It is relevant she was a senior employee. It was conduct undermining the respondent's trust in her to express her views responsibly and not to bring them into disrepute.'

Ms Gibbins said that she had received a barrage of abuse and threats on Twitter, including that she would be 'Jo Cox'd' for making supportive comments about refugees and Syrians.

She also added that she has been unable to secure another job since her outburst.

Rebecca Walton, the British Council's EU regional director, who oversaw the disciplinary hearing, told the tribunal: 'My concern would have been the same whoever our Patron was, whether from the Royal Family or not.'

She added: 'I believe there is a recklessness that comes into play when you choose to comment under a picture of a three-year-old child about that three-year-old child.

'It is common knowledge that it is hard to keep your social media to 150 people, and 150 people alone are a lot of people. 'She didn't think through the consequences of her actions.'

Ms Gibbins, of Walthamstow, east London, had said she either wanted her job back with compensation, another job or just compensation.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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