This review contains some spoilers. (But, like, it’s history. We know what happens.)
This book was received from the author for review. All opinions are my own.
What happenings and environments wrought the most hated man in history? How does a child become a young man who evolved into a self-proclaimed messiah? Why did this one man become a psychotic who was responsible for the deaths of more than 50 million people?
This book follows the first, formative years of Adolf Hitler’s life. Presented as a personal journal, this is a fact-supported re-telling of a desperate existence, as viewed by Hitler, and tracks the points of pain that forged his beliefs. From a childhood of abuse and cheating death to an agonizing unrequited love to torturous years as a beggar in Vienna to finally finding his destiny. Enflamed by delusions, Hitler embraced the powers he believed guided his life.
This is a story of dire happenstances that broke a mind and spirit, created beliefs that twisted innocence, ultimately morphing into a malicious brew that changed the world forever.
This is the one story that’s never been told.
Well, I’ve come out of this book with very mixed feelings. Not on the book–no. On the man. I still absolutely abhor everything this man decided to stand for, and what he did, but seeing things from someone’s eyes, however fictitious it may be, will always complicate things. Doesn’t make me like him any more than I did before going into the book, but it does help see the person from other points.
The story as a whole starts off very strong in my opinion, because the forward was so well-written that I was enraptured before the the actual story had even begun. I might even go to say that the forward was my favorite part of the whole book. I read so many things on WWII and, by extension, Hitler, that I have to say the way that Mogen wrote the forward alone conveys my own feelings and fascination for Hitler and what he did wonderfully. He was a horrible, horrible person because of the things he did, but the scariest part of it all for me sometimes is that at the end of it, behind the monster of a person he was, he was still just, and very much so, a human. So, yeah, I think I have to say that my favorite part overall really is the forward, though the rest of the book really is very good.
Seeing things from Hitler’s side was absolutely fascinating, especially when you realize he didn’t hold anti-semite views until he went to follow his dream of being an artist. (Which, I had never realized, he hadn’t even had the chance at–I learned he was kicked out, but, if the book holds true in this aspect, he never even got in!) Also seeing the way he went about making friends was interesting, and I have to say Gustl was one of my favorite characters (it feels weird calling them “characters” when they were real people, so maybe I won’t say that again) that Hitler interacted with. I really wish I could have learned more about what happened with Gustl after Hitler lost contact with him, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
Another strange side-effect of having read the book is that, for a while while reading it, I had a lot of trouble considering “Hitler” to be “Hitler” rather than “Adolf”. I don’t know if this is because he was young for a majority of the book’s content and I, as a former substitute teacher, have trouble referring to children by their last names, or if it was some strange way of seeing him as a person rather than just the monster he became. I really can’t tell, but I can tell you the longer I kept on, up until the anti-semitism started up, I really did struggle to see the child I was reading about as the infamous name he owned.
All in all though, an absolutely fascinating read. I have no idea just how much of it really was true, and where it bent from the truth (since it is in first person, and you can’t stay perfectly true when you’re telling a story from someone else’s eyes), but it was still a super interesting read all the same.
Thanks for reading!