Sunday, March 02, 2014

John Toland. Hitler: the Pictorial Documentary of his Life (1978)

     John Toland. Hitler: the Pictorial Documentary of his Life (1978) Well, it’s a documentary, and a good one for giving an overview of the man. Toland begins each chapter with an excerpt from his biography, and captions round out the narrative. The book is apparently intended for an audience of students and the casually interested, and for them it fulfills its limited purposes.
     However, by presenting a chronicle rather than a story, the book may encourage deeper study. It raises questions. For example, why and how was Hitler able to achieve his goal of political power and domination of Germany? This question unanswered tends to perpetuate the popular misconception that he used some kind of force (never specified in this story, however). For us, the most important lesson is that Hitler ensured that at every step he had at least quasi-legitimate justification for what he did. Legality mattered.
     The political images are almost meaningless without knowledge of the events they portray, but the private, personal life is intelligible to anyone aware of his own milieu. The overall impression is that Hitler’s personal life was that of a man with limited taste who yearned for the apparent sophistication of the moneyed classes. An odd miasma of lower-middleclass respectability hangs over it all.
     The reproduction of the photos is average. Many original photos were of poor quality, or apparently exist only as poor copies of the originals, which doesn’t help. ** (2012)

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