The best Adolf Hitler books

14 authors have picked their favorite books about Adolf Hitler and why they recommend each book.

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Adolf Hitler

By Spike Milligan,

Book cover of Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall

Many people will remember Spike Milligan as the anarchic comedian from the Goon Shows. But long before he became a radio and television celebrity, he served with the Royal Artillery in North Africa and then Italy, until he was physically wounded, psychologically traumatised, and then medically downgraded.

Milligan wrote a series of war memoirs beginning with Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall. Some of the humour may appear a little dated now, especially to younger generations. But to me the books are hilarious, full of satire, irony, and pathos, albeit written in tones – reflective of the times – that are, well, let’s just say, are not ‘politically correct’. Underneath the humour though, is a story of the unutterable sadness and personal tragedy of war. But leaving all these ‘big’ issues aside, in a personal sense, I’ve always like Milligan because he was different, an oddball, someone willing to…


Who am I?

Robert Widders is one of the few men who have served in both the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force. His books on military history have been quoted in the Irish parliament and Senate and were the focus for a BBC documentary episode of Face the Facts.


I wrote...

Forged in Blood and Music: A story of friendship, courage, and survival.

By Robert Widders,

Book cover of Forged in Blood and Music: A story of friendship, courage, and survival.

What is my book about?

On the 27th of September 1942, 1,816 British prisoners of war embarked upon the Japanese transport ship, Lisbon Maru, to sail to Japan to be used as slave labour in Japanese industry. A week later, over half of them were dead, killed in a calculated act of murder by their Japanese military captors. Over the next two-and-a-half years, many more died as a result of torture, brutality, starvation, overwork, and the withholding of medical treatment.Here is the story of just one of them, Lance Bombardier Joseph Denton, an ordinary man who found the courage and willpower to survive through extraordinary events.

Fatherland

By Robert Harris,

Book cover of Fatherland

Fatherland was Robert Harris’s first book and arguably one of his finest. A portrait of functional totalitarian evil, it is a projection of what might have happened if Hitler won the war - the first of this genre. I loved it for both the visceral atmosphere of Berlin under fascism albeit futuristic and also the very fallible moral quandary of the German detective protagonist. Originally recommended by a Dutch boyfriend of mine, I found it both terrifying - I genetically would not have existed under such a regime - and fascinating. The other thing I love about this book is the ironic manner Harris sets the actual real-life world leaders up in the 1960s and how they might have quite likely thrived under Hitler’s world dominance.

Who am I?

I’ve also always been interested in the unexplained, which is why my thrillers usually have a blend of the political and mystical. Perhaps it’s the mixed background Russian/Polish/English, Jewish/Protestant, and being a global citizen I've felt compelled to illuminate these lesser-known corners of history. I find the thriller structure to be the most entertaining and accessible both as a reader and writer. I also write historical fiction and erotica as well as short stories. My original training was as a sculptor and writer for screen and stage, and I like to create as visceral and visual a read as possible for my readers. 


I wrote...

Sphinx

By Tobsha Learner,

Book cover of Sphinx

What is my book about?

A thriller set in Alexandria, Egypt in 1977 against a backdrop of political turmoil – when Oliver Warnock, a self-made English geophysicist working in the oil trade loses his marine archaeologist wife in an unexplained drowning amid the underwater ruins of Cleopatra’s palace he finds himself swept up in a quest for a mysterious ancient astrarium that transforms his life, his world and even the way he thinks about time.

'48

By James Herbert,

Book cover of '48

It’s been a while since I have read this one but it has always been one of my favorites. An American pilot is stranded in post World War 2 Britain. In this reality, moments before defeat, Adolf Hitler released a biological weapon that decimated the population. A hemorrhagic virus that attacks certain blood types, those not killed initially are slowly dying and desperate for a cure that they think is in the main character's blood since he is unaffected. The action in this book is some of the best I have ever read as the ‘Black Shirts’ chase our hero through the war-torn city.

Who am I?

What would I do if I was the last person on Earth? I have wondered this since I was a child after watching apocalyptic movies; Damnation Alley, Night of the Comet, and of course the Romero Living Dead movies. Would I be able to make it? Could I not only survive but contend with whatever menaces there were to face be they aliens, monsters, the living dead, or the actual living. My imagination would run loose, putting myself in the shoes of the characters to see how I’d fare, what would I do differently. These little escapes grew and matured into my own stories.

I wrote...

Life Among The Dead

By Daniel Cotton,

Book cover of Life Among The Dead

What is my book about?

There are over a million people in the city of Waterloo. Today, most of them have died, and now they're hungry. Corporal Dan Williamson is caught in the middle of the outbreak, desperately trying to reach his wife who is somewhere amid the urban decay. There are other souls out there, other tales of survival among the horror. Dan will soon learn that the living may prove to be an even bigger threat than the dead in this zombie epic.

Blood & Banquets

By Bella Fromm,

Book cover of Blood & Banquets: A Berlin Social Diary

Fromm, too, was a journalist alarmed by the rise of Nazism and Germans’ increasing embrace of hatred and falsehood. She differs from Halton and Shirer in that she was 1) born in Germany, and thus had a deeper perspective on Nazism’s place in German history and culture, 2) a woman, and thus expected to report on “society” and fashion stories, although her interests and abilities soon drew her to politics, and 3) Jewish, and therefore subjected to the daily indignities, threats, and violence that in 1938 led her to flee a land her family had inhabited for five centuries. Fromm seemed to know everybody, including Nazi bigwigs, and was continually astounded by the degrees to which foreign visitors fell for blatant Nazi propaganda. Mackenzie King should have been listening.


Who am I?

Since 2011 I have taught a summer course at Freie Universität Berlin, and have grown fond of the city, including its admirable efforts to acknowledge and atone for its former status as the capital of the Nazi empire. I’ve seen pictures of Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King touring the city and interacting (cheerfully) with Reich officials, and a couple of years ago I made a point of retracing his steps to observe the vestiges (very little) of prewar Berlin. This compelled me to dig deeply into what motivated King to break bread with Nazis, and how the prime minister’s trip was viewed by Canadians and the world – at the time, and since.


I wrote...

Four Days in Hitler's Germany: MacKenzie King's Mission to Avert a Second World War

By Robert Teigrob,

Book cover of Four Days in Hitler's Germany: MacKenzie King's Mission to Avert a Second World War

What is my book about?

In 1937, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King travelled to Nazi Germany in an attempt to prevent a war that, to many observers, seemed inevitable. The men King communed with in Berlin, including Adolf Hitler, assured him of the Nazi regime’s peaceful intentions, and King not only found their pledges sincere, but even hoped for personal friendships with many of the regime's top officials.

Four Days in Hitler’s Germany is a clearly written and engaging story that reveals why King believed that the greatest threat to peace would come from those individuals who intended to thwart the Nazi agenda, which as King saw it, was concerned primarily with justifiable German territorial and diplomatic readjustments.

Soldier in the Downfall

By Baron Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorff, Anthony Pearsall (translator),

Book cover of Soldier in the Downfall: A Wehrmacht Cavalryman in Russia, Normandy, and the Plot to Kill Hitler

On 21 March 1943 Gersdorff, a German colonel, showed Hitler around a display of captured weapons in Berlin. He set off the timer for a bomb secreted in his capacious army pocket, but Hitler suddenly left the building: Gersdorff was unable to follow, and had to race to a toilet cubicle to tear the fuse from his bomb. Gersdorff was a committed opponent of the Nazis, and his account traces the highs and lows of the German opposition.

Who am I?

I’ve lived with the example of Claus von Stauffenberg and other members of the German resistance for most of my adult life. Their clarity of purpose – when most around them clamoured in support of the Führer and his regime – is a recurring source of inspiration. This impelled me into ever deeper research into the topic, including accessing archives in several countries and using my legal training to weigh evidence. Today we face different challenges, but we can draw strength from the courage of these men and women. They failed, and many died, but there is life in a struggle for a just cause.


I wrote...

Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

By Brian Walters,

Book cover of Treason: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Plot to Kill Hitler

What is my book about?

When he placed his briefcase bomb in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair conference, Claus von Stauffenberg was 36 years old, married, with four children. His wife was pregnant with their fifth. He was a decorated war hero, maimed, and one of the most brilliant staff officers of the German army. He set out to rid his country of Hitler, and bring the Second World War to an end. What led him to this point? 

Treason recounts the page-turning story of Germans prepared to give their all to free their country from the Nazis. Many of these men and women paid with their lives for their principled stand. The text is complemented by hundreds of photos and hundreds of biographical glossaries.

Coming January 2022.

Hitler. Eine Biographie.

By Joachim C. Fest,

Book cover of Hitler. Eine Biographie.

This was not the first biography of Hitler, but it was the first to try to explain Hitler’s power in terms of his relationship with the German people. For Fest, Hitler’s power rested on his ability to channel ordinary Germans’ hopes, fears, aspirations, and resentments. Fest came from a solidly anti-Nazi bourgeois background and in his insistence on reading Hitler as an expression of populist resentments ‘from below’ we may detect an inability to countenance the idea that Nazism came just as much from the centre of educated German middle-class society. In that sense, the book is a fascinating insight into what was at stake in the postwar period when Germans argued over who or what had been to blame for the catastrophe of Nazism. It remains, however, a classic among earlier accounts of Hitler’s career.


Who am I?

I am Professor of Modern European History at the University of Southampton, UK, and publish widely on diverse aspects of Nazi Germany. The first history book that I ever read was Alan Bullock’s Hitler. A Study in Tyranny - the first scholarly biography of Hitler to appear. I still recall the fascination of reading this as a teenager: it sparked a curiosity that formed the basis of a scholarly career that has spanned nearly three decades. The desire to make sense of the phenomenon of Nazism was never purely academic, however – my own family origins in Germany, and the stories elderly relatives told of their wartime experiences, gave the history texture, immediacy, and urgency.


I wrote...

How to Read Hitler

By Neil Gregor,

Book cover of How to Read Hitler

What is my book about?

This short book introduces the general reader to the ways in which we might read and understand the most writings of Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party. They are notoriously badly written, and often dismissed as incoherent ramblings with little to tell us about what Hitler intended to do when he came to power. Taking a series of key passages and subjecting them to close analysis, this book shows how the careful reader can detect a coherent worldview in Hitler’s writings. It shows how Hitler may not have had a clear plan for conquest and genocide, but he did have a clearly genocidal vision, and a mindset of extreme violence to accompany it.

Hitler at Home

By Despina Stratigakos,

Book cover of Hitler at Home

This fascinating book takes the seemingly banal topic of Hitler’s domestic interiors as a way into exploring both how Hitler chose to project himself and how others – from foreign diplomats to ordinary Germans – learned to see him. From his initial humble quarters in Munich to his conservatively furnished apartments in Berlin and his mountain retreat in the Alps, the evolution of Hitler’s interior design ethos reflected his move from ordinary front soldier to European statesman. The reproduction of his furnishing choices in glossy consumer magazines, meanwhile, offered aspirational Germans a chance to remake their own homes in emulation of their idol. If this sounds familiar, well, that may be the point.


Who am I?

I am Professor of Modern European History at the University of Southampton, UK, and publish widely on diverse aspects of Nazi Germany. The first history book that I ever read was Alan Bullock’s Hitler. A Study in Tyranny - the first scholarly biography of Hitler to appear. I still recall the fascination of reading this as a teenager: it sparked a curiosity that formed the basis of a scholarly career that has spanned nearly three decades. The desire to make sense of the phenomenon of Nazism was never purely academic, however – my own family origins in Germany, and the stories elderly relatives told of their wartime experiences, gave the history texture, immediacy, and urgency.


I wrote...

How to Read Hitler

By Neil Gregor,

Book cover of How to Read Hitler

What is my book about?

This short book introduces the general reader to the ways in which we might read and understand the most writings of Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party. They are notoriously badly written, and often dismissed as incoherent ramblings with little to tell us about what Hitler intended to do when he came to power. Taking a series of key passages and subjecting them to close analysis, this book shows how the careful reader can detect a coherent worldview in Hitler’s writings. It shows how Hitler may not have had a clear plan for conquest and genocide, but he did have a clearly genocidal vision, and a mindset of extreme violence to accompany it.

Dispatches from the Front

By David Halton,

Book cover of Dispatches from the Front: The Life of Matthew Halton, Canada's Voice at War

The story of a brave and insightful Canadian journalist sent by the Toronto Star to get a read on the Nazi regime shortly after Hitler’s 1933 seizure of power. As soon as he set foot in Germany, Matt Halton had a good sense of where this might be headed, and he remained in Europe for the next decade as Hitler ran roughshod over international treaties and norms and then plunged the continent, and much of the world, into war. You can sense the indignation in Halton’s public and private pronouncements – not just over Nazism’s outrages, but over the failure of politicians, other journalists, and the wider public to see what he was seeing. A timely reminder of why good journalists matter, and why authoritarian leaders hate them.


Who am I?

Since 2011 I have taught a summer course at Freie Universität Berlin, and have grown fond of the city, including its admirable efforts to acknowledge and atone for its former status as the capital of the Nazi empire. I’ve seen pictures of Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King touring the city and interacting (cheerfully) with Reich officials, and a couple of years ago I made a point of retracing his steps to observe the vestiges (very little) of prewar Berlin. This compelled me to dig deeply into what motivated King to break bread with Nazis, and how the prime minister’s trip was viewed by Canadians and the world – at the time, and since.


I wrote...

Four Days in Hitler's Germany: MacKenzie King's Mission to Avert a Second World War

By Robert Teigrob,

Book cover of Four Days in Hitler's Germany: MacKenzie King's Mission to Avert a Second World War

What is my book about?

In 1937, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King travelled to Nazi Germany in an attempt to prevent a war that, to many observers, seemed inevitable. The men King communed with in Berlin, including Adolf Hitler, assured him of the Nazi regime’s peaceful intentions, and King not only found their pledges sincere, but even hoped for personal friendships with many of the regime's top officials.

Four Days in Hitler’s Germany is a clearly written and engaging story that reveals why King believed that the greatest threat to peace would come from those individuals who intended to thwart the Nazi agenda, which as King saw it, was concerned primarily with justifiable German territorial and diplomatic readjustments.

Hitler

By Ian Kershaw,

Book cover of Hitler: A Biography

If you only have time to read one book on the Nazi leadership, it should be this one. It is not the lightest of books (and it has two volumes), but it is well worth your time. Adolf Hitler was obviously central to the Nazi dictatorship and the number of books written about him reflects that. There are lots of biographies on Hitler – even a lot of good ones – but Ian Kershaw’s two-volume life of Hitler remains unsurpassed in my view. Kershaw skillfully combines his biography of the dictator with a wider social and political history of the Nazi dictatorship, so readers learn a great deal about both the man at the top of the regime and the ways in which the Third Reich functioned.


Who am I?

Robert Gerwarth is a professor of modern history at University College. After completing his DPhil at Oxford, he has held visiting fellowships at Harvard, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author and editor of more than ten books on modern German history, most recently November 1918: The German Revolution.


I wrote...

Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

By Robert Gerwarth,

Book cover of Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

What is my book about?

Reinhard Heydrich is widely recognized as one of the great iconic villains of the twentieth century, an appalling figure even within the context of the Nazi leadership. Chief of the Nazi Criminal Police, the SS Security Service, and the Gestapo, ruthless overlord of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and leading planner of the "Final Solution," Heydrich played a central role in Hitler's Germany. He shouldered a major share of responsibility for some of the worst Nazi atrocities, and up to his assassination in Prague in 1942, he was widely seen as one of the most dangerous men in Nazi Germany. Yet Heydrich has received remarkably modest attention in the extensive literature of the Third Reich.

Robert Gerwarth weaves together little-known stories of Heydrich's private life with his deeds as head of the Nazi Reich Security Main Office. Fully exploring Heydrich's progression from a privileged middle-class youth to a rapacious mass murderer, Gerwarth sheds new light on the complexity of Heydrich's adult character, his motivations, the incremental steps that led to unimaginable atrocities, and the consequences of his murderous efforts toward re-creating the entire ethnic makeup of Europe.

Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays

By George Orwell,

Book cover of Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays

No surprise that George Orwell, author of the two defining parables of the 20th century, should be at the top of my list, especially as his five years in Burma attuned him to the suffering of the oppressed. More moving than ‘Burmese Days’ is his short story ‘A Hanging’ in which he watches a condemned criminal walk towards the gallows … and sidestep a puddle. In that fleeting moment Orwell marks the preciousness of human life and the heartlessness of power.


Who am I?

Rory MacLean is one of Britain's most innovative travel writers. His books – which have been translated into a dozen languages — include UK top tens Stalin's Nose and Under the Dragon as well as Pravda Ha Ha and Berlin: Imagine a City, "the most extraordinary work of history I've ever read" according to the Washington Post which named it a "Book of the Year". Over the years he has travelled throughout Burma – apart from when banned by the military government for his writings – coming to know it as a deeply-wounded and fractured golden land of temple bells, be-medalled generals who enrich themselves through drug deals and ever-optimistic men and women who fight on to restore its ‘democratic transition’.


I wrote...

Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land

By Rory MacLean,

Book cover of Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land

What is my book about?

Thirty-four years ago the Burmese people rose up against their military government. The unarmed demonstrators were cut down, leaving more than 5,000 dead. In Under the Dragon, Rory MacLean meets the victims and perpetrators of that first great national uprising, unravelling a paradox of selfless generosity and sinister greed in a country stitched together by love and fear. He exposes the tragedy of a thousand betrayals, giving voice to those too frightened to speak for themselves. Under the Dragon is an important, perceptive, historical, and heart-breaking portrayal of a golden land that remains shot through with desperation and fear, but also – in even the darkest places -- with beauty and courage.

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