Title: Explaining Hitler
Author: Ron Rosenbaum
"The more I learn about Hitler, the harder I find it to explain."
Superficially, Hitler barely needs an explanation. To those without an extensive knowledge of him, he is evil incarnate, seeking to destroy all that is pure and good and right, leader of a regime intent on enslaving the world. It isn't a question of whether or not Hitler was evil: Hitler defines evil. however, if you take a closer look, such certainty is replaced by many questions, not only about Hitler's true motives, but also about the nature of evil itself.
Ron Rosenbaum has not attempted to answer these questions. Instead, he explores those who seek to explain Hitler, and their results. The question of evil, for example. In order for a person to be evil, it can be argued that they must be aware of the true nature of their actions. A person who is responsible for the murder of millions would no doubt be destructive and a threat to humanity, but if he did this in the belief that it was absolutely necessary, that he had no choice, where does that leave us? Wouldn't that mean that while Hitler's actions were evil, Hitler himself might have seen himself as the saviour of mankind, as a good person. On the other hand, there are those who insist that Hitler was merely using the jews as convenient scapegoats, as means to an end. If that is true, then Hitler would indeed be aware of the true consequences of his actions, and that would make him truly evil in every sense of the word (not merely the religious one). Then again, it begs the question of whether or not Hitler was directly responsible for the holocaust, or if it was carried out by his subordinates who were true anti-semites.
There is also the question of whether Hitler was a product of his times (which would mean that if Hitler had not created Nazism, then somebody like him would have done it anyway), or if he was some sort of anomaly, a madman who, against all odds, reached a position where he would be responsible for the the suffering he caused.
He has interviewed advocates of the various theories, and vividly presents the despair some feel when they come to the realization that Hitler is beyond explanation, or the fear that if an explanation could be found for the holocaust and Hitler, then the result may be that Hitler did not act on his own, but was merely a vessel for an ideology, and thus, in a way, innocent.
Rosenbaum has written an extensive study of Hitler theories, and he has done it well. His description of the more outrageous theories about Hitler's nature (such as the one which claims that his penis had been bitten off by a goat and his alleged sexual perversions) are factual and objective, yet also almost morbidly amusing. While the book isn't exactly easy reading, it is well worth the effort. Rosenbaum has written a fitting tribute to those who have bravely attempted to explain what may be inexplicable.
None of the opinions/theories etc. stated above are necessarily my own, but belong to people described in the book