*A TIMES AND TELEGRAPH BOOK OF THE YEAR*
WHAT CAUSED THE FALL OF THE MOST PROGRESSIVE GOVERNMENT IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY EUROPE, AND THE RISE OF THE MOST TERRIFYING?
In the 1930s, Germany was at a turning point, with many looking to the Nazi phenomenon as part of widespread resentment towards cosmopolitan liberal democracy and capitalism. This was a global situation that pushed Germany to embrace authoritarianism, nationalism and economic self-sufficiency, kick-starting a revolution founded on new media technologies, and the formidable political and self-promotional skills of its leader.
Based on award-winning research and recently discovered archival material, The Death of Democracy is a panoramic new survey of one of the most important periods in modern history, and a book with a resounding message for the world today.
'Extremely fine... with careful prose and scholarship, he brings these events close to us.' Timothy Snyder, The New York Times
'Intelligent, well-informed... intriguing.' The Times
'With the injection of fresh contemporary voices, The Death of Democracy is also a thoughtful reflection of how our time more resembles the Thirties than the Noughties.' Daily Telegraph
Hett, an associate professor of history at Hunter College and CUNY, persuasively challenges familiar arguments that the rise of Nazi Germany was an inevitable consequence of abstract forces like racism, militarism, and capitalism. Hitler's appointment as chancellor in 1933 was, he argues, a political gambit orchestrated by "a small circle of powerful men... who sought to take advantage of his demagogic gifts and mass following to advance their own agenda." This cabal of businessmen, generals, and administrators held Hitler and his message in contempt and were confident they could use and discard him, detaching him from his base and shepherding his followers into a conventional right-wing authoritarian system. Hett's page-turning account lays out the dire consequences of their simultaneously underrating Hitler's ability and grievously overestimating their power. He demonstrates that Hitler played a deeper game, exploiting his opponents' narrow self-interests and using sophisticated sleight of hand to score and build on seemingly inconsequential successes. The increasing bewilderment of this cabal defies conventional explanation, but Hett concludes with a possible clue: the "incongruous innocence" of a society unable to imagine that the worst could happen. Scholars and general readers alike will learn something from Hett's credible analysis of right-wing power brokers' role in Hitler's ascent.