... meticulous ... For some readers, Ullrich’s portrait of Hitler may be difficult to take, since we are so used to seeing him as inhuman, even subhuman, a madman or a beast. Even Sir Ian Kershaw, whose two-volume biography represents the gold standard in 20th-century history, saw Hitler as a 'non-person', a lazy, talentless mediocrity onto whom people projected their hopes and anxieties ... But Ullrich argues that Hitler was all too human. And although his second volume covers almost exactly the same period as Kershaw’s second book —the Second World War — the focus is quite different. Kershaw’s real interest lay in the Nazi dictatorship. Ullrich is more interested in Hitler the man ... [Ullrich] is also excellent on the dictator’s health and appearance ... Some of this, of course, is very familiar: the rages, the Stauffenberg bomb plot, the final scenes in the bunker. So if you know the story, do you need to bother? ... The answer is yes. Smoothly written and splendidly translated, Ullrich’s book gives us a Hitler we have not seen before, at once cold-blooded and idealistic, chillingly narcissistic and cloyingly sentimental. And precisely because he seems so much like the rest of us, it is probably the most disturbing portrait of Hitler I have ever read.
... skillfully conceived and utterly engrossing ... accomplished ... Readers and writers persistently return to the rise and fall of Hitler — Ullrich’s biography is the latest on a long shelf. There is the force of Hitler’s personality and the consequence of the will of a single individual, of course. But we also return because the Third Reich reveals the power of public fantasies. The liberal mind-set is not the default position.
In Jefferson Chase’s translation, the narrative moves swiftly, and it will absorb even those who are familiar with the vast library of Hitler books. To read Downfall is to see up close how Hitler lashed out — compulsively, destructively — whenever he felt boxed in.
Ullrich is a fine writer and the book is well organised, but perhaps its most important characteristic is that it is written by a German ... there is no hint of the revisionism that has allowed some historians to try to absolve the German people from responsibility for Nazi crimes, or that has permitted some military historians to portray the Wehrmacht as soldiers doing their duty, albeit on the wrong side ... Soldiers and civilians, Ullrich establishes firmly and repeatedly, were complicit.
... magisterial but unoriginal ... Elegantly translated by Chase, this biography steers a course between the structuralist view of historian Ian Kershaw, who sought to explain Hitler through historical and social context, and the great-man school of history represented by Joachim Fest, who emphasized Hitler’s 'singular personality' ... None of these insights are original, but they are lucidly formulated for a new generation of readers and scholars ... A cogent retread of old ground, much of this densely detailed volume is about World War II and not Hitler personally; readers expecting a psychological deep dive should look elsewhere.
... superb and will be considered the definitive work about this evil despot ... Ullrich’s work is a monumental undertaking, with 632 pages of text, followed by an extraordinary set of notes and maps of the war. Jefferson Chase, a Berlin-based journalist, translated Ullrich’s text, retaining the cadence of the original German ... Even students of the Fuhrer’s notorious rule will learn about new incidents that occurred during Hitler’s regime ... Ullrich’s work is a remarkable treatise on the malevolence of power in modern times. Take care, lest we fall into the trap of autocracy.
... comprehensive ... Ullrich has numerous concerns in this significant project, which, like the first installment, remains readable across its 800-plus pages ... An endlessly revealing look at the Nazi regime that touches on large issues and small details alike.