Hitler's Vienna

Hitler's Vienna : A Dictator's Apprenticeship

4.26 (142 ratings by Goodreads)
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Hitler's Vienna is the authoritative biography of Adolf Hitler's early life until his departure from Austria as a 24-year-old. It is also the cultural history of Vienna as Hitler encountered it during his formative years: the Vienna of immigrants, the unemployed, and the homeless, and also of German Nationalism and anti-Semitism. Brigitte Hamann examines for the first time the few accounts of eyewitnesses and the many legends of Hitler's early years, bringing to light newly discovered letters and facts about his close contact with Jewish friends and benefactors. She also analyses the influence of the politicians who determined Hitler's political path: Georg von Schonerer, the 'Fuhrer of the German people', the folk tribune and mayor Dr Karl Lueger, the German radical Karl Hermann Wolf, and the All-German Workersleader Franz Stein - all four full of hatred, and adversaries of the Jews and of international social democracy. No one has produced such an extensive and well-founded picture of the climate and milieu in which Hitler's character and ideas matured. Hitler's Vienna demonstrates, using a wealth of individual examples, that central elements in Hitler's world-view were acquired during this formative period in Vienna.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 490 pages
  • 148 x 238 x 44mm | 879.98g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • halftones, line drawings, bibliography, index
  • 0195125371
  • 9780195125375

Review Text

A valuable social history of Vienna's netherworld and an attempt at explaining Hitler's anti-Semitism. Most biographies of Hitler will, of course, spend some time on his contested family history, often an expression of how deeply Freud has penetrated the craft of biography. Yet the time Hitler spent in Vienna as a down-and-out painter may have contributed more to his character than previously assumed. At least, this is the thesis that historian Hamann (The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, not reviewed) brings to life here. Hitler was 17 when he first arrived in the Austrian-Hungarian capital in 1906 with aspirations of becoming an artist. Hamann is sometimes overly detailed; for example, we are informed that in 1906 Vienna there were 176 arc lamps providing electrical light, 657,625 incandescent lamps, 354 automobile accidents, 997 hansom cabs drawn by two horses, 1,1754 one-horse carriages, and 1,101 cabs, which altogether caused 982 accidents. Hitler, though, is never overwhelmed in this profusion of detail; instead we get a meticulous portrait of everyday life in the artistically and philosophically modernist metropolis. That everyday life was not modernist at all, but materialistic, anti-Semitic, petit-bourgeois, and petty. As the most multinational of the European empires, Austria-Hungary was obsessed with concepts of "nation," "race," "degeneracy," and "Jewish modernism"; obsessions that soon became Hitler's own. Acknowledging the problem of sources, Hamann has hit upon a working - but not unproblematic - solution: liberally sprinkled through the text are italicized excerpts from Hitler's monologues, speeches and writings. Hitler revealed that "for me this was a time of the greatest spiritual upheaval I ever had to go through. I had ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and became an anti-Semite," and more ominously, "the visual instruction of the Viennese streets had performed invaluable services." Hamann concludes that Vienna's fin-de-siecle malaise was a critical ingredient in the madness that became Nazi Germany. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

Preface; 1. From the Provinces to the Capital; Excursus: Hitler's Ancestors in Waldviertel; 2. The Vienna of the Modern Era; Excursus: The term Degenerate; 3. The Imperial City; Excursus: Days in March and the Heldenplatz; 4. In Parliament; 5. The Social Question; 6. As a Painter in the Men's Hostel; Excursus: Sources on the Men's Hostel; 7. Theoreticians of Race; 8. Political Role Models; 9. Czechs in Vienna; 10. Jews in Vienna; Excursus: Two Examples; 11. Young Hitler and Women; 12. Before the Great War; Selected Bibliography; Indexshow more

Review quote

fascinating and impressive George Steiner, TLSshow more

About Brigitte Hamann

Brigitte Hamann is a Ph.D. and specialist in 19th and 20th-century history, specifically of Austrian history. She is the author of many books in German, some of which have been translated into English, including The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Bertha von Suttner. A Life for Peace.show more

Rating details

142 ratings
4.26 out of 5 stars
5 44% (62)
4 42% (59)
3 13% (18)
2 1% (2)
1 1% (1)
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