Monday, August 31, 2009

1 September - a significant date in history

On 1 September 1939 Hitler invaded the western half of Poland (and Stalin the eastern half 17 days later), so beginning World War 2. Much has written about what happened during the war, but not so much has been done to understand what led Hitler and Nazis to develop their notions with such intensity. Although known as the person who burned books, Hitler was an avid reader and his personal library in 1945 amounted to 15,000 volumes. Many were books that were gifts he never saw, but about 3,000 were clearly books he poured over, an average of one a night, according to this author. Apart from anti-semetic canards, military almanacs, and the like, there was a surprising range of eclectic books in the library that was discovered, much of which is now in Washington DC. These included Shakespeare (who Hitler considered "superior in every respect" to Goethe and Schiller), Karl May novels and the prophecies of Nostradamus (the Nazis used the ones they recognised themselves in as propoganda, as did the Allies in turn). But the racial notions and the theories of pseudo-scientists that were believed are the most significant. It is a reminder of a time when books were both read and were influential.

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