German democracy in the 1920s was far newer than America’s today; yet, Hett reminds us, universal voting (for men) was well-established, in place longer even than in England. But it was beset with serious problems ... Hett’s tale does not so much change our view of demagogues as it highlights the crucial role of those who would halt their progress. Faced with jingoist politicians who resort to poisonous lies, his book fairly proclaims, the forces of democracy can prevail only if they muster courage, resolve and cooperative spirit.
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.