The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. This is a heavy read and a very big one (I am only at 7% on my Kindle and I began a week back).
My interest in this book was piqued by a colleague who is in the habit of picking up and tackling esoteric volumes that leave me feeling markedly inferior. Of course, I had let the complex slide, until a couple of weeks back, when I was at the theatre watching Dunkirk (what an amazing movie!), and realised that I am an ignorant fool. That night, I downloaded the book on my Kindle.
So far I have reached only upto the parts where the young Adolf Hitler has just completed the Munich Beerhall Putsch. The chapter ends with snippets of Mein Kampf. Those parts were probably the hardest and I had to reread each paragraph twice to get through the convoluted language and the horribly twisted ideology (I mean, how did people fall for this in the first place ?). That, right there, is slowing me down too.
The preliminary details about Hitler's life are well known anyway. What the book tries to portray is the impact of upbringing and circumstances on the young mind of the boy. Turns out, he was like any of us throwing a fit every now and then. School was a bore, he had lofty ambitions about being an artist and fought continually with his father about that; the father, meanwhile, wanted young Adolf to
enroll as a civil servant. How different is that from the life of every other teenager that has ever lived?
The death of the father and the blind love of a dying mother made it possible for Hitler to leave in pursuit of his unattainable dream to be an artist, to Vienna. Cities are never kind to strugglers; even those with talent have it rough. Hitler, apparently, had very little of that and was subsequently pushed to the very limits of poverty and mendicancy. This story is not new. This story still rings true for thousands out on the street across ages. Not all end up being the Chancellor of Germany, wielding unimaginable power and cruelty the world over. Within this youngster there was something wild that obviously got overlooked, and it cost us the world.
The content so far also reiterates the importance of education, We do not like it as we get it, but our problem is with the messenger, not the message. Somewhere down the line, we get overwhelmed by the system, and forget the main purpose. Education, coupled with a sane upbringing, or the lack of it, can make or break a man's life. If Hitler was possessed of such zeal, imagine the amount of good he could have done, had his potential been channeled in the right direction.
By his own admission, the views he had formed by his early twenties in Vienna hardened into a life-long, unyielding passion. This is probably the first sign I found of something that I can attribute wholly to himself: the inability to adapt, a quality which has Darwinistic roots. For a man as shrewd as Hitler, he sure was deficient in one of the most essential of qualities of survival. We all know how it ended. Unfortunately, his obstinacy cost unimaginably more than his life.
Circumstances seem to have been ripe to have harboured his sentiments too; and quite worryingly, we do not live in a world which is very far from the kind of undercurrents that ruled the little world of Vienna back in the time of Hitler. Societies are still narrow-minded, people are still resented and the blame-game and the disinclination to own up are rampant in nearly every form of governance. Who is to stop another unpolished mind from rearing head again?
As I am about to find out, this is not going to end well.
P.S. I really need to pick up something light to compensate for this brick of a book, because the other two on my reading list are the weirdly eccentric Women Who Run With The Wolves, and Manfred, which is causing me to read too much between the lines. Here's to serious readings...