Chet Richards reviews “Hitler in Hell”, the most important book of the year

Summary: Here is Chet Richard’s review of Martin van Creveld’s new book, Hitler in Hell. “It’s not exaggerating to say that this might be the most important book you’ll read this year.”

Hitler burns in Hell

Hitler Lives?

Review of Martin van Creveld’s Hitler in Hell.
By Chet Richards at Slightly East of New.
Posted with his generous permission.

In Hell, anyway, in Martin van Creveld’s new novel, Hitler in Hell. Van Creveld asks: What might Hitler’s world view have been in order for his actions to have been logical and reasonable?  And then he proceeds to answer. Briefly, the two main pillars of his Weltanschauung, were:

  1. In order to survive, Germany must expand its territory to the East.
  2. Jews (racially defined) are inherently evil and must be driven out of German-controlled territory or, if that proves impossible, eliminated.

Pretty much all of Hitler’s actions, including the war, the invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Holocaust follow from these, as van Creveld’s Hitler relates over the course of some 390 pages.

Hitler in Hell
Available at Amazon.

Hell, in this telling, is more like Shaw’s depiction in the “Don Juan in Hell” section of Man and Superman than it is Dante’s The Inferno. There is, of course, no escape, so the implication is that Hitler has no incentive to spin anything.  What you get is a candid post-game interview, where the losing coach reveals what he was trying to do and why, and why it didn’t work. Although presented as a novel, Van Creveld intends it to be history made palatable. In the Afterword, he insists that he has stuck as closely as possible to “good evidence in the kinds of sources historians normally use.”

The main point of the story is that just characterizing Hitler as a “monster” not only tells us nothing but doesn’t help us prepare for monsters to come. Consider this: Seen from the inside, as it were, van Creveld’s Hitler is lucid and cogent if not likable. In places, chatty and gossipy. A talented politician.

It’s not exaggerating to say that this might be the most important book you’ll read this year. By its end, you will understand how a corporal with little formal education could capture the most advanced European country of his time, where he was not even a citizen until just before seizing power.  This is understanding worth acquiring. Orientation, as Boyd noted on Organic Design 16, is the Schwerpunkt, a term Hitler mentions when discussing the invasion of the USSR.

As I’m sure all my readers know, but I’ll repeat anyway, Martin van Creveld is one of the world’s premier historians, writing largely but not exclusively on military matters. Along the way, he produced arguably the most important work of modern strategic theory, The Transformation of War (1991), which explained if not predicted why we have become enmeshed in a series of conflicts from which there does not appear to be any escape. He recently retired from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The History of Hell
Available at Amazon.

Other great books about Hell

RecommendedThe History of Hell by Alice K. Turner (1995) — The WaPo calls it “a lively popular introduction to views of the other world from ancient Sumer to the present, with a rich concentration on the middle millennium of Hell’s history.” The publisher says it is a “survey of how, over the past four thousand years, religious leaders, artists, writers, and ordinary people in the West have visualized Hell-its location, architecture, purpose, and inhabitants.”

The most entertaining book about Hell: “Don Juan in Hell” from George Bernard Shaw’s play Man and Superman. A unique and fascinating vision of Hell, the opposite of van Creveld’s (in Shaw’s play, the damned enjoy Hell and would find Heaven boring — and vice versa).

John Milton’s story of Hell: Paradise Lost.

A great guidebook to Hell: Dante’s Inferno (illustrated by Dore).

For More Information

See Martin van Creveld’s Hitler in Hell: the afterlife of a man who changed the West. Also remember how much of the modern era was born in Nazi Germany, both good and ill.

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about Adolf Hitler, about Nazis, and especially these…

  1. Why they lose: the Left tells us that Trump is like Hitler.
  2. Edward Luttwak: Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future.
  3. America is mainlining fascism. It won’t end well for us.
  4. Godwin’s Law should force us to remember & fear our shared heritage with Nazi Germany.

5 thoughts on “Chet Richards reviews “Hitler in Hell”, the most important book of the year”

  1. Can anyone define for me as cogently as Mr. Van Creveld appears to have done for Hitler, the worldview driving the actions of Mr. Trump? Listening to some of his interviews from the 1980’s and 1990’s, I suspect they may exist, but it’s hard to discern them in the current chaos of Twitter and media frenzy?

    1. Jonn,

      Most people don’t have a world view in the you’re using it. He appears to have mostly right-wing political views, with some liberal ones mixed in — more inchoate than organized. That is commonplace for Americans (most “moderate Americans appear as such on one-dimensionals scoring systems because their far-right and far-left views balance out).

      More importantly, there is little connection between what he says and does. That’s not unusual among people. That’s typical among people who have the “Dark Triad” traits. See Wikipedia.

      He’s a common type, unusual because he inherited a billion dollars and got elected President.

      1. Thanks for introducing me to the concept of the Dark Triad. Politics will never be the same.

      2. John,

        Not just politics! We select our senior corporate leaders from men who have these traits — then wonder why our corporations become engines of social destruction. Women select men with these traits, then wonder why they are treated badly.

        Consider syphilis. A hundreds serious symptoms, only one cause — but a cause invisible for centuries, and so impossible to treat. Perhaps some similar “bug” has infected our society. We can’t treat it until we see it.

  2. Dear FM,

    Thanks for the pointer, and I will definitely check out the book. COL Richards is always good for interesting high signal-to-noise ratio content and I appreciate when you post it. Hitler was a monster, but he was a monster with a plan that he conveyed to millions to help him carry it out. Cf, Mein Kampf. It was hidden in plain sight. As COL Richards writes: just characterizing Hitler as a “monster” not only tells us nothing but doesn’t help us prepare for monsters to come. That’s pretty chilling to contemplate.

    To riff on your “Why they lose” link, what is unhelpful is when people brand people like Trump as Hitler or a Nazi. Trump has more in common with Kim Kardashian than Adolf Hitler. Trump does things for ratings, money, and the spotlight, if his public persona is to be believed. As President Trump, he can be dangerous, but not in the same way as Hitler was. Calling him Hitler does nothing to illuminate anything, has people tilting at imaginary bugbears, and distracts from what may be the real dangers and issues.



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