Magazine article The Spectator

The Devil's Disciples: The Lives and Times of Hitler's Inner Circle

Magazine article The Spectator

The Devil's Disciples: The Lives and Times of Hitler's Inner Circle

Article excerpt

THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLES: THE LIVES AND TIMES OF HITLER'S INNER CIRCLE by Anthony Read Cape, £25, pp. 984, ISBN 0224060082

Rivals at the court of King Adolf

One of the Great War's consequences may have been the dethronement of the Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohcnzollcrns hut - as a new generation of scholars are attempting to show - court politics proved far more enduring. Although the costumes may have been cut from coarser cloth and the manners far cruder, the centres of power in totalitarian regimes continued to provide all the old opportunities for positional jostling that had been commonplace in the audience chambers and ante-rooms of the old dynasties.

In his recent book, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore proffered a fascinating whiff of the atmosphere surrounding Stalin and his associates. Now, with The Devil's Disciples, Anthony Read gives an account of Hitler's inner circle. Montefiore wrote that 'Stalin and the Bolshevik magnates lived like the inhabitants of a tiny village or even an Oxbridge college - the courtyards and alleys of the Kremlin was a little community of friendships, ambitions, affairs and seething hatreds'. Anthony Read conveys a less intimate world where the lead characters were magnetically drawn to the Fuhrer but mutually repulsed by each other. They went through the motions of celebrating their rivals' birthdays and clicking heels at the appropriate junctures, but, for the most part, they were not intimates who holidayed or caroused together in their free time. At risk of extending the metaphor, if the Kremlin really was a sort of power-drunk brutalised Balliol, the Reich Chancellery was the grand central terminus for disparate and competing railway lines converging only upon one thing, or rather, person.

This, then, was a court, but one of a particularly dysfunctional kind. It is a daunting task to discuss in any depth the lives and times of men like Himmler, Goring and Goebbels and hardly surprising that it takes Read over 900 pages to get a reasonable crack at it. That he extends the narrative to lake account of others like Ribbentrop, Bormann, Strasser and Spcer makes matters yet more complicated. They came from different social backgrounds, different religions and different regions. Some were with Hitler almost from the first. Others jumped on the band - wagon later. Some led happy family lives. Others fell noticeably short of that ideal. Some were boorish, unimaginative dullards while others - like Goring - were talented, multifaceted men navigating without a moral compass. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.