BOOKS: The Hitler Years: Triumph, 1933-1939: Frank McDonough

·2 min read

Aug. 6—Adolf Hitler was democratically elected by the German people, was appointed chancellor of a coalition government, then immediately began dismantling democratic institutions throughout the nation.

He became a dictator at first through deft compromise, followed by political daring then persuasive force. As one high-ranking Nazi official said, the dominance of Hitler and Nazism happened as planned but much sooner than even they expected.

In "The Hitler Years: Triumph 1933-1939," Frank McDonough jumps right into Adolf Hitler coming to power in January 1933. McDonough shares some background about Hitler and his Nazi cohorts but the historian remains true to the mission stated in his title: 1933-1939.

Each year during this period is a chapter, dealing with Hitler dominating German politics and societal norms to eventually all areas of German life to dominating the political stage in Europe and the world.

McDonough's prose never reaches the artistic expression claimed by one back-cover blurb that the "book unfolds like a thrilling (Martin) Scorese-directed gangster movie" but he does paint a brutal picture of thugs reaching the upper levels of power.

Hitler promises to overturn the German humiliations of the Treaty of Versailles as he rises to power, offering a stronger Germany for Germans while offering the protection of his state to people he deems Germanic. Meanwhile, he cajoles and outmaneuvers his opponents then uses intimidation and force to bring them into line or terminate them. All while the Nazis disenfranchise the Jewish population and rebuild the German military.

Hitler states what he plans to do. He plans to forcibly take lands he claims belong to Germany. With most older European leaders living in the terrible shadow of World War I, they capitulate to Hitler's demands to avoid war. During the late 1930s, Hitler takes lands by brokering deals and simply marching his armies into them, without a shot being fired. Until Poland in late 1939.

"The Hitler Years: Triumph, 1933-1939" is formatted like a very readable text book. As mentioned, each year is a chapter. Each chapter sets the course for major events in the Nazi regime through that specific year. Numerous photos and photo spreads are positioned throughout the book's nearly 500 pages.

McDonough's second volume, "The Hitler Years: Disaster 1940-1945," chronicling the war years is also available.

The first volume is a much simpler read than William Shirer's massive classic, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" — through McDonough references Shirer several times, but it serves as a strong history lesson and a chilling reminder of what a civilized nation can become once it gives into the cult of personality and allows its safeguards to be destroyed.