Brow Beat

This Review of a New Hitler Biography Is Basically an Amazing (and Terrifying) Trump Subtweet


Joe Raedle

Michiko Kakutani’s review of Volcher Ullrich’s new book Hitler: Ascent, 1889–1939 for the New York Times is, frankly, dark. It starts out simply enough, asking a decades-old question: How, exactly, did Adolf Hitler rise to power? Yet as it delves into the specifics and arguments of Ullrich’s biography, the review seems to evolve into something far more disturbing: a thinly-veiled Trump subtweet.

Kakutani’s evaluation of the book goes bullet point by bullet point as it ostensibly doubles as commentary on America in 2016. “Reading [Hitler’s] speeches in retrospect,” she writes before quoting Ullrich, “ ‘it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences’ with ‘repeated mantralike phrases’ consisting largely of ‘accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.’ ” And: “Hitler had a dark, Darwinian view of the world. And he would … become, in Mr. Ullrich’s words, ‘a mouthpiece of the cultural pessimism’ growing in right-wing circles.’ ”

There are several other unfortunate parallels throughout the review, touching on everything from Hitler’s (and Trump’s) increasingly “messianic” presentations to the naïveté of Germans (and Americans) in failing to appropriately counter the “ruthlessness and tenacity” being demonstrated before them. It’s safe to say that these comparisons have been made before. (And too hastily, some have argued.) But by completely declining to even allude to Trump, Kakutani’s silent case is one of the sharpest ones yet.