Richard Overy. The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia. London: Penguin Books, 2005. Paperback, xl + 849 pp. This book is also available in hardcover from W. W. Norton, New York.
With the rise of totalitarianism in the United States, the historical lessons of the failed empires of Hitler and Stalin become ever more topical. The present work by the renowned British military historian Overy is a veritable tour-de-force in understanding how these two psychopathic personalities managed to build and for a while sustain totalitarian regimes that brought endless suffering into the world.
For such oppressive political systems to be even possible, Overy acknowledges at the beginning of his detailed study, widespread complicity is necessary. He is primarily interested in exposing the many historical circumstances that contributed to the emergence of the two dictatorships, which share many similarities, not least the cults of personality woven around the two dictators and the utopian rhetoric of cultural renewal.
Overy’s analysis exposes many of the socio-political and historical factors that the astute reader will also detect as being present in our own time and relative to America’s imperialism. This makes for scary reading, though the author himself refrains from drawing obvious parallels to present-day US politics.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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