Deeply researched and well balanced, Hett’s book offers profound lessons for Americans and others—warnings about the political dangers they face and what real democrats should oppose ... Given that Hett tells this story in a relatively short compass, he could have done more to assess the role of external forces ... Hett could have done more to underline how Stalin’s directives to the German Communist Party prevented a leftist voting bloc against Hitler in 1932 elections. Too late Stalin saw his mistake ... Germans, Hett concludes, could hardly be blamed for not foreseeing the unthinkable. 'We who come later have one advantage over them: we have their example before us.'
AJP Taylor once argued that Hitler’s rise was as inevitable and unsurprising as a river flowing into the sea. Hett rejects that notion, offering instead a perfect storm of economic misery, government incompetence, popular prejudice, a flawed democratic structure and a febrile public mood. This is an intelligent, well-informed explanation, but not original ... Hett’s stories promise much, but he is much more interested in sober analysis of politics at the highest levels and the sometimes tedious machinations of scheming politicians in the Weimar years. I missed the ordinary people, the banal multitude who made evil possible.
While Hett does not much address the underlying structural issues that faced Weimar, it is intelligently written and brings out two points ... One is the critical importance of the experience of the first world war and the prevalence of paramilitary violence. Riley’s account is a little bloodless: fascists somehow became hegemonic where liberal elites failed. Hett reminds us that violence was at their core. But he also insists that Hitler did not prevail because Weimar was doing badly. On the contrary, it was doing remarkably well in tough conditions: the end came because conservative elites thought they could use the Nazis for their own purposes and realised their mistake too late.