... 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.