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Joseph Goebbels was one of Adolf Hitler’s most loyal acolytes. But how did this club-footed son of a factory worker rise from obscurity to become Hitler’s malevolent minister of propaganda, most trusted lieutenant and personally anointed successor?
In this definitive one-volume biography, renowned German Holocaust historian Peter Longerich sifts through the historical record – and thirty thousand pages of Goebbels’s own diary entries – to answer that question. Longerich paints a chilling picture of a man driven by a narcissistic desire for recognition who found the personal affirmation he craved within the virulently racist National Socialist movement – and whose lifelong search for a charismatic father figure inexorably led him to Hitler.
This comprehensive biography documents Goebbels’ ascent through the ranks of the Nazi Party, where he became a member of the Führer’s inner circle and launched a brutal campaign of anti-Semitic propaganda. Goebbels delivers fresh and important insight into how the Nazi message of hate was conceived, nurtured, and disseminated, and shreds the myth of Goebbels’ own genius for propaganda. It also reveals a man dogged by insecurities and – though endowed with near-dictatorial control of the media – beset by bureaucratic infighting. And, as never before, Longerich exposes Goebbels’s twisted personal life – his mawkish sentimentality, manipulative nature, and voracious sexual appetite.
This complete portrait of the man behind Hitler’s message is sure to become a standard for historians and students of the Holocaust for decades to come.
Longerich (The Unwritten Order), a historian of modern Germany at Royal Holloway University of London, explores in depth three aspects of the career and life of the Third Reich's infamous minister of propaganda: "his development from a failed writer and intellectual to a Nazi agitator"; his "efforts... to introduce uniformity into the media, cultural life, and the public sphere"; and his "role as a wartime propagandist and advocate of total war.' " He labels Goebbels a narcissist, an "ice-cold evil genius" who uncritically idolized Hitler for embodying the "German soul." The book's greatest strength and greatest weakness lies in Longerich's deep explorations of the most intimate and specific aspects of Goebbels's personal life. Readers get a clear window on his perspective, but a broader context is often lacking. Some sections are packed with excessive description, though when Longerich writes of Goebbels's attempts in 1945 to maintain popular morale even as a German defeat in WWII grew imminent he lacks solid details on the state of the population's collective consciousness. Longerich is a master of portraying the Nazi leadership and its infighting, if not a particularly colorful writer. This biography is now the definitive work on Goebbels in English, and will be of major interest to scholars and serious students of the Third Reich.