First published in America in 1939. ForgottenBooks publication in the UK in 2015.
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Today, after more than six years of feverish activities, Nazi Germany is still a mystery to the man in the streets of America. To him the Third Reich appears as a one-man show. He resents a social order built upon terror and fear and is indignant when he reads about Jewish pogroms, threats of invasion, and conquests of weak countries. But he is at an utter loss to explain the miraculous career of the "Austrian housepainter." He might, perhaps, pity the German people. But the longer he sees them ruled by a "fool" or a "madman," the more will his pity change into contempt, the more will his feeling grow that the Germans, after all, deserve a Government which they apparently are not able or even willing to overthrow.
For this man in the street the present book is written. It wants to acquaint him with the chief exponent of German fascism, with his ideas and plans and, moreover, with the forces he represents. The best way of doing it might still be to go back to the most authoritative source, Hitler's own book. The world would have been spared much guessing about the essence and aims of the National Socialist regime had it taken the trouble to study the Fuehrer's work carefully. History has seldom offered the opportunity of learning from a dictator himself his most guarded designs before he has been able to carry them out. But how are we to know that Hitler who has told so many lies, broken so many promises, and violated so many solemn treaties did not veil and distort the truth in his book?
I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible Hitler Is No Fool is. I have often found vintage books written for 'the man in the street' to be overly dry and scholarly by present-day standards, but this book is certainly an exception to that rule. Billinger takes Hitler's epic two-volume work, Mein Kampf, as his starting point and has essentially read it so that we don't have to! He distills the main ideas into easily comprehensible chapters, also exploring aspects of Hitler's life that are likely to have inspired the policies and explaining in chilling detail how so many thousands of the German people were persuaded to also adopt these ideas.
The similarities between 1930s Germany and the 2010s fascist resurgence have been frequently noted recently, but in reading this book I was shocked at the extent in which history is repeating itself. It's not just a question of substituting the word Muslim for the word Jew although directing public blame and dissatisfaction towards an easily visually identifiable minority group as a distraction tactic is the most obvious example. Having the majority of the country's media controlled by a single tycoon is also a repeat - indispensable for propaganda purposes - as is gaining the support of the big businesses who will benefit from drastically increased profit margins by the stripping back of workers rights and freedoms. Hitler Is No Fool is a scarily familiar portrayal of how simply a nation can be convinced to act totally against their own long-term interests. I would highly recommend it as essential reading, especially in the run-up to June's General Election.
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Books by Karl Billinger / Politics / Books from Germany