On September 23, 1939, Wladyslaw Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor live on the radio as shells exploded outside—so loudly that he couldn't hear his piano. It was the last live music broadcast from Warsaw: That day, a German bomb hit the station, and Polish Radio went off the air.
Though he lost his entire family, Szpilman survived in hiding. In the end, his life was saved by a German officer who heard him play the same Chopin Nocturne on a piano found among the rubble. Written immediately after the war and suppressed for decades, The Pianist is a stunning testament to human endurance and the redemptive power of fellow feeling.
From his illegitimate birth in a small Austrian village to his fiery death in a bunker under the Reich chancellery in Berlin, Adolf Hitler left a murky trail, strewn with contradictory tales and overgrown with self-created myths. One truth prevails: the sheer scale of the evils that he unleashed on the world has made him a demonic figure without equal in this century. Ian Kershaw's Hitler brings us closer than ever before to the character of the bizarre misfit in his thirty-year ascent from a Viennese shelter for the indigent to uncontested rule over the German nation that had tried and rejected democracy in the crippling aftermath of World War I. With extraordinary vividness, Kershaw recreates the settings that made Hitler's rise possible: the virulent anti-Semitism of prewar Vienna, the crucible of a war with immense casualties, the toxic nationalism that gripped Bavaria in the 1920s, the undermining of the Weimar Republic by extremists of the Right and the Left, the hysteria that accompanied Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 and then mounted in brutal attacks by his storm troopers on Jews and others condemned as enemies of the Aryan race. In an account drawing on many previously untapped sources, Hitler metamorphoses from an obscure fantasist, a "drummer" sounding an insistent beat of hatred in Munich beer halls, to the instigator of an infamous failed putsch and, ultimately, to the leadership of a ragtag alliance of right-wing parties fused into a movement that enthralled the German people.
This volume, the first of two, ends with the promulgation of the infamous Nuremberg laws that pushed German Jews to the outer fringes of society, and with the march of the German army into the Rhineland, Hitler's initial move toward the abyss of war.
For months two captives of the Soviet Army--Otto Guensche, Hitler's adjutant, and Heinz Linge, his personal valet--were interrogated daily, their stories crosschecked, until the NKVD were convinced that they had the fullest possible account of the life of the Führer. In 1949 they presented their work, in a single copy, to Stalin. It is as remarkable for the depth of its insight into Adolf Hitler--from his specific directions to Linge as to how his body was to be burned, to his sense of humor--as for what it does not say, reflecting the prejudices of the intended reader: Joseph Stalin. Nowhere, for instance, does the dossier criticize Hitler's treatment of the Jews.
Today, the 413-page original of Stalin's personal biography of Hitler is a Kremlin treasure and it is said to be held in President Putin's safe. The only other copy, made by order of Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1959, was deposited in Moscow Party archives under the code number 462A. It was there that Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl, two German historians, found it. Available to the public in full for the first time, The Hitler Book presents a captivating, astonishing, and deeply revealing portrait of Hitler, Stalin, and the mutual antagonism of these two dictators, who between them wrought devastation on the European continent.