book report: Bullock's biography of Hitler

I finished the abridged version of Bullock’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. I want to share a couple more quotes from it before I give my final book report.
War, the belief in violence and the right of the stronger, were no corruptions of Nazism, they were its essence. Recognition of the benefits which Hitler’s rule brought to Germany in the first four years of his régime needs to be tempered therefore by the realization that for the Führer, and for a considerable section of the German people- these were the by-products of his true purpose, the creation of an instrument of power with which to realize a policy of expansion that was to admit no limits. (199)

A relative of mine asserts that Hitler did many good things for Germany, but the data show the benefits were only a by-product of gearing up for empire building. He stopped paying war reparations and put people to work by ordering weapons and munitions for his near future intentions.
Hitler had been brought up as a Catholic and was impressed by the organization and power of the Church. For the Protestant clergy he felt only contempt: ‘They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them. They have neither a religion they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.’ It was ‘the great position’ of the Church that he respected; towards its teaching he showed the sharpest hostility. In Hitler’s eyes Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest. “Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.’ From political considerations he restrained his anti-clericalism, seeing clearly the dangers of strengthening the Church by persecution. Once the war was over, he promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches, but until then he would be circumspect. (219)

Those with an ax to grind against Christians will claim that Hitler was a Christian. He was by culture but not in his heart. As John the Baptist told the hypocritical religious leaders of Israel, and don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Matthew 3:9 (NET) As preachers like to say, if being in a garage won’t make you a car, neither will coming to church make a Christian. It’s repentance, a change of heart, that, obviously, Hitler did not partake of. Many of the new atheists today have as little respect for Christians as Hitler did. Science has no place for compassion. It’s the world of rules and laws. Only Jesus brings grace to our culture.
The basis of Hitler’s political beliefs was a crude Darwinism. ‘Man has become great through struggle. … Whatever goal man has reached is due to his originality plus his brutality…. All life is bound up in three theses: Struggle is the father of all things, virtue lies in blood, leadership is primary and decisive.’ It followed from this that ‘through all the centuries force and power are the determining factors…. Only force rules. Force is he first law.’ Force was more than the decisive factor in any situation; it was force alone which alone created right. ‘Always before God and the world, the stronger has he right to carry through what he wills.’ (225-6)

Hitler found justification in his actions in Darwin’s evolutionary theory. The laws state that the strong survive. There is no grace in the evolutionary perception of the animal kingdom. Evolutionary theory was applied world wide in the separation of human races. Hitler found it convenient for justifying his oppression and execution of Jews and Slavs. As we now know, race is a myth that is only skin deep. We are all the same blood, children of the same ancestor.

Bullock writes an extremely informative biography. I appreciated knowing about Hitler’s childhood and young adult life. I thought his analysis of Hitler’s motives was consistent and likely true. One unusual feature of his writing was its sleep inducing effect. His writing is excellent but his prose is dense. There is much to digest after 20 pages, enough to require a nap. It may also be that the close examination of a monster is also wearying in its own right. He made his own glory the chief aim of his existence, and he did not care if that resulted in millions of lives lost at his initiative.


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