PDA

View Full Version : Hitler's library



ColoradoGuy
05-06-2009, 08:16 PM
There have been a couple of recent reviews of a book called Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life. It attempts to understand a little more about Hitler by examining the books in his library. The one in the New York Times here (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/books/review/Heilbrunn-t.html) is interesting (you may need to sign up on the NYT site to see it, but that's free). I think the most useful article is here (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22659), from the New York Review of Books.

Hitler read a lot -- his personal library was about 16,000 volumes. After the war it got scattered all over the place, but 1,200 volumes ended up in the Library of Congress. Some of these have annotations in Hitler's hand (although mostly these are underlinings and marginal squiggles). There were a lot of military history books, of course, plus some pornographic ones (of course). That latter books, interestingly, were shelved with books about Catholicism (!).

Some of the most intriguing books were about the occult. Hitler was apparently a great believer in astrology, and had extremely detailed star charts made documenting the state of the heavens on important days of his life.

It's been known for quite a while that Hitler loved since boyhood the cowboy-and-Indians pulp fiction novels of the German author Karl May, and continued to read them as an adult. They probably informed at least some of his ideas about the USA -- a dime-novel pastiche.

Anyway, it's a good article, and it raises the question about the extent to which our personal libraries tell others about us. I'm sure anyone rummaging through mine would emerge more confused than enlightened.

Medievalist
05-06-2009, 08:39 PM
This is a bit of a tangent, but one of the things I love about LibraryThing is that there are a bunch of volunteers cataloging the libraries of the deceased but notable:

http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Completed_libraries

Ken
05-06-2009, 09:06 PM
the library was probably just for show,
to convince people he had intelligence.

scarletpeaches
05-06-2009, 09:10 PM
Also, he only had one ball.

ColoradoGuy
05-06-2009, 09:47 PM
the library was probably just for show,
to convince people he had intelligence.
I don't think so. All who knew him, dating back to his comrades in the trenches and his acquaintances (he had no friends) during his hard times in Vienna, recalled he was a constant reader, that he lived through his books. Hence the interest in what he read.

Ruv Draba
05-07-2009, 12:38 AM
Alas, but looking at libraries doesn't really tell us how someone understood or used the books they read (unless they like writing marginalia etc...). I think that it could be far more illuminating to look at Hitler's library from the perspective of 'books kept by an INFJ (http://typelogic.com/infj.html) idealist' than 'books kept by a former chancellor of early 20th century Germany'.

The thing about idealists is that you know that they'll be drawing connections between disparate topics, so adjacency is probably evidence of connection: "Ah.. for this man, American frontier adventure stories connect to Lebensraum, and Catholicism is somehow sexy". You might also begin to guess that parts of his library were devoted to borrowing/synthesising authority for certain beliefs, and so you might start looking at where the weight of topic and philosophy lay.

On the other hand, if you knew that I had an INTP personality you'd quickly guess that I throw/give away an awful lot of publications, that I order my domestic reading by categories of 'how to' and 'what if', and that my home bookshelves are stratified into archaeological layers of transience and ephemerality according to my esteem of the writer (my shelves are several books deep, and the books at the back of the shelves I hold in greater regard than the books at the front, which I purge frequently). You'd probably also think to check my 'favourites' list in my browser and look on my hard-disk for the 10,000+ titles I have stored electronically, since most of my reference library these days is in electronic form, for efficiency's sake. Lastly, you'd have to hunt my workplace as well as my home library since my compartmentalised mind insists on keeping all my IT management books out of my home. Without knowing such things, like CG's shelves I think it would cause confusion.

ColoradoGuy
05-07-2009, 03:39 AM
The article's author, in fact, speculates that books may not have changed Hitler that much. Rather, Hitler sought out books that reenforced his already-formed notions.

Cranky
05-07-2009, 03:44 AM
The article's author, in fact, speculates that books may not have changed Hitler that much. Rather, Hitler sought out books that reenforced his already-formed notions.

That makes perfect sense to me. I think a lot more people than Hitler are prone to doing the same thing. I think there is a term for it, but I can't recall what it is...

Still and all, I think it would be a morbid curiosity, to see his library. I wonder if he had books about Atlantis, as well, since as IIRC, the Nazis were looking for it, as a plan to get proof that the Aryans were --in fact-- the Master Race.

*squick*

ETA: Confirmation bias!! That's what it's called. I think.

rugcat
05-07-2009, 03:57 AM
Some of the most intriguing books were about the occult. Hitler was apparently a great believer in astrology, and had extremely detailed star charts made documenting the state of the heavens on important days of his There have been quite a few books written about Hitler's fascination with the occult and the influence it may have had on him.

Would this be Godwinning a thread?

Jennifer
05-07-2009, 03:58 AM
Thank you for finding this article, I wrote a book tangential to Hitler. I didn't even think of his reading.

Ruv Draba
05-07-2009, 04:44 AM
The article's author, in fact, speculates that books may not have changed Hitler that much. Rather, Hitler sought out books that reenforced his already-formed notions.That's awfully consistent with the personality type: don't read to find out how things might be; read to confirm how things ought to be. :) Idealists can look inoffensive and fey until they take control, but they make the very worst dictators. :e2seesaw:

My advice: if you ever feel that you need a dictator, get a hedonist like Nero, or a robber-baron like Hearst, or an entrepreneurial cynic like PT Barnum. They'll have more interesting libraries too! :)

Higgins
05-07-2009, 05:03 PM
That makes perfect sense to me. I think a lot more people than Hitler are prone to doing the same thing. I think there is a term for it, but I can't recall what it is...

Still and all, I think it would be a morbid curiosity, to see his library. I wonder if he had books about Atlantis, as well, since as IIRC, the Nazis were looking for it, as a plan to get proof that the Aryans were --in fact-- the Master Race.

*squick*

Nazi prehistory -- I mean the prehistory of the world as envisioned by Nazis -- is pretty goofy.

It's enough to scare the South Sudanese in 2006:

http://www.gurtong.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=2502

EFCollins
05-08-2009, 01:46 AM
Personally, looking at his library wouldn't tell me much about him, or even begin to make a person understand him. Hitler seeking affirmation in the books he read seems fairly accurate, as what he read and approved of were "approved" for the public too. He would, in theory, only approve books for the public that backed up his ideals.

Pseudolus
09-01-2009, 06:25 PM
If I had the time, I'd read the books in Hitler's library, just to see what effect they'd have on me.

Kind of an experiment that could possibly result in genocide.

talkwrite
09-02-2009, 11:16 PM
I remember hearing about an author of a book on a form of mind control that Hitler made famous in his earl;y years in power. He hired the guy to test out his SS guards and he was able to get past them. I don't remember the name of the author or book but I'd be interested in finding it.
But this does lead to the point that there are people that you hope don't publicize admiring your work....