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These people are intolerable

Richard J. Evans: Hitler and Franco, 5 November 2015

Hitler’s Shadow Empire: Nazi Economics and the Spanish Civil War 
by Pierpaolo Barbieri.
Harvard, 349 pp., £22.95, April 2015, 978 0 674 72885 1
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... was crucial: ‘Franco,’ Hitler crowed, ‘ought to erect a monument to the glory of the Junkers Ju-52. It is this aircraft that the Spanish revolution has to thank for its victory.’ Over the course of the war the Condor Legion claimed to have shot down 320 Republican aircraft and sunk 60 ships. German anti-aircraft batteries destroyed another 52 ...

Men He Could Trust

Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Stormtroopers, 22 February 2018

Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts 
by Daniel Siemens.
Yale, 459 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 300 19681 8
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... When​ the International Military Tribunal convened at Nuremberg shortly after the end of the Second World War, one of the many objects of its attention were the Storm Divisions (Sturm-Abteilungen, SA) of the Nazi movement. The SA, the prosecution alleged, had been a criminal organisation involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ‘National Bolshevist’ Ernst Niekisch, imprisoned during the war, described the SA in 1953 asa counter-elite; it attracted all those characters who were rotten and frail from within ...

‘Equality exists in Valhalla’

Richard J. Evans: German Histories, 4 December 2014

Germany: Memories of a Nation 
by Neil MacGregor.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £30, November 2014, 978 0 241 00833 1
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Germany: Memories of a Nation 
British Museum, until 25 January 2015Show More
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... Twenty-five years​ after the fall of the Berlin Wall, two major exhibitions in London take stock of German identity, history and memory, each in its own way providing a powerful reminder of the legacies of a contested past in the culture of the reunited Germany of today. One of them, the beguiling exhibition at the British Museum curated by Barrie Cook, displays objects of many kinds, from the wooden sculptures made in the late 15th century by Tilman Riemenschneider to the metallic icon of the Volkswagen Beetle, in order to address the question of Germany’s fragmented sense of itself across the ages ...

Kisses for the Duce

Richard J. Evans: Letters to Mussolini, 7 February 2013

Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy 
by Christopher Duggan.
Bodley Head, 501 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84792 103 1
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The Fascist Party and Popular Opinion in Mussolini’s Italy 
by Paul Corner.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, July 2012, 978 0 19 873069 9
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... Shortly after he was forced out of office in November 2011, Italy’s longest serving postwar prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, told the press he was spending his time reading the last letters written by Mussolini to his mistress Clara Petacci. ‘I have to say,’ he confessed, ‘that I see myself in many aspects of those letters.’ In the Duce’s view, according to Berlusconi, Italy was ungovernable ...

Prophet in a Tuxedo

Richard J. Evans: Walter Rathenau, 22 November 2012

Walther Rathenau: Weimar’s Fallen Statesman 
by Shulamit Volkov.
Yale, 240 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 300 14431 4
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... On the morning of 24 June 1922, Walther Rathenau, the German foreign minister, set off for work from his villa in the Berlin suburb of Grunewald. The weather was fine, so he instructed his chauffeur to use the open-top limousine. The minister sat alone in the back. He took no security precautions, used the same route every day, and had dismissed the police protection he had been offered ...

Nuts about the Occult

Richard J. Evans: ‘Hitler’s Monsters’, 2 August 2018

Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich 
by Eric Kurlander.
Yale, 422 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 300 23454 1
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... A couple​ of years ago, a Russian television channel asked if they could interview me for a programme they were making about Hitler. I get these requests every so often, and agreed in the usual hope that I would be able to pour some cold water on whatever outlandish theories they came up with. On previous occasions I have been confronted with claims that the entire German population was drugged up to the eyeballs for the duration of the Third Reich, thus making life bearable; that Hitler escaped the bunker and went to live in Argentina with Eva Braun (and in some versions, Blondi the dog); that Unity Mitford gave birth to Hitler’s child early in the war; that 2014 was going to be, like 1914, a year in which world war broke out; and so on ...

Your Soft German Heart

Richard J. Evans: ‘The German War’, 14 July 2016

The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939-45 
by Nicholas Stargardt.
Bodley Head, 701 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 1 84792 099 7
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... We still​ do not know what Germans thought they were fighting for,’ Nicholas Stargardt announces at the outset of his ambitious and absorbing new book, ‘or how they managed to continue their war until the bitter end.’ This is not for want of trying: numerous historians have analysed German opinion and behaviour at every stage of the Second World War, using above all the Meldungen aus dem Reich, the regular confidential reports on civilian morale made by SS Security Service and local and regional government officials, together with diaries and correspondence, especially field-post letters to and from soldiers at the front, to chart the diverse and changing attitudes to victory and defeat ...

Disorderly Cities

Richard J. Evans: WW2 Town Planning, 5 December 2013

A Blessing in Disguise: War and Town Planning in Europe, 1940-45 
edited by Jörn Düwel and Niels Gutschow.
DOM, 415 pp., €98, August 2013, 978 3 86922 295 0
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... In 1941, the architect Hans Stosberg drew up ambitious plans for a new model town, with monumental public buildings grouped around a main square, and leafy boulevards branching off a central avenue which led to the factory complex that would provide the bulk of the work for a population of 80,000. There were to be twelve schools, six kindergartens, twenty sports fields, swimming pools, offices, banks, shops and a number of satellite settlements, every one of them constructed around a main square and equipped with similar public buildings and modern amenities ...

Autoerotisch

Richard J. Evans: The VW Beetle, 12 September 2013

The People’s Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle 
by Bernhard Rieger.
Harvard, 406 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 0 674 05091 4
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... When I first went to Germany, in the early 1970s, the roads were swarming with squat, misshapen little beasts, bustling about the city streets or rattling along the autobahns with noisy, air-cooled engines, curved roofs tapering down to the rear bumper and, in older models, tiny oval back windows, so small that I wondered how the driver could see anything at all in his rear-view mirror ...

Written into History

Richard J. Evans: The Nazi View of History, 22 January 2015

A World without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide 
by Alon Confino.
Yale, 284 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 300 18854 7
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How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust 
by Dan McMillan.
Basic, 276 pp., £15, April 2014, 978 0 465 08024 3
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... The 20th century​ was the age of genocide. Many periods in history have seen acts of murderous violence committed on racial grounds, but none has witnessed so many, on such a large scale, or so concentrated in time, as the era framed by the German massacre of the Herero tribe in Namibia in 1904-07 and the Hutu genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 ...

Wait and See

Richard J. Evans: The French Resistance, 3 November 2016

The French Resistance 
by Olivier Wieviorka, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Harvard, 569 pp., £31.95, April 2016, 978 0 674 73122 6
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... On 18 June​ 1940 Charles de Gaulle, speaking from London, where he had arrived the previous day, denounced the new government led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, which had called for an armistice after the comprehensive defeat of France’s armed forces at the hands of the Wehrmacht. ‘Nothing is lost for France,’ he declared. ‘The war is not over as a result of the Battle of France ...

The Conspiracists

Richard J. Evans: The Reichstag Fire, 8 May 2014

Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery 
by Benjamin Carter Hett.
Oxford, 413 pp., £18.09, February 2014, 978 0 19 932232 9
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... of two interviews with Hitler allegedly conducted in 1931 by a senior newspaper editor called Richard Breiting, and subsequently supposedly buried by him in a canister in his garden because he feared for his life should they be discovered. The interviews showed Hitler was making plans to burn the Reichstag two years before the event. ‘In my ...

Nothing They Wouldn’t Do

Richard J. Evans: Krupp, 21 June 2012

Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm 
by Harold James.
Princeton, 360 pp., £24.95, March 2012, 978 0 691 15340 7
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... Of all the names which have become associated with the Nuremberg Trials,’ declared the prosecutor at the proceedings intended to bring the surviving Nazi leaders to justice at the end of the Second World War, ‘I suppose that none has been a household name for so many decades – indeed for nearly a century – as that of Krupp.’ Its history, the indictment continued, had made the firm ‘the focus, the symbol and the beneficiary of the most sinister forces engaged in menacing the peace of Europe ...

Marx v. The Rest

Richard J. Evans: Marx in His Time, 23 May 2013

Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life 
by Jonathan Sperber.
Norton, 648 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 0 87140 467 1
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... Do we need another biography of Marx to go alongside the many we already have? The justification given by Jonathan Sperber is compelling. Previous accounts of Marx’s life have gone one of two ways. Either he is seen as a prophet of modern times, a seer whose theories help us understand the predicament we are in, especially in times of economic crisis, an inspiration to everyone who wishes to see state and society emancipated and transformed ...

Laid Down by Ranke

Peter Ghosh: Defending history, 15 October 1998

In Defence of History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Granta, 320 pp., £8.99, October 1998, 1 86207 068 7
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... Richard Evans hopes that this book will take the place of E.H. Carr’s What is History? and G.R. Elton’s The Practice of History as the ‘basic introduction’ to history as taught in the universities. Evans is a self-declared ‘Rankean’ empiricist, committed to Ranke’s view that facts and documents ‘speak for themselves ...

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