Historian Richard J. Evans explores this new golden age of conspiracy theories and what underlies it by focusing on five of the most enduring conspiracies theories of the Nazi period, including those that fueled Hitler's rise in the first place.
This is a wonderful book that’s both hard to put down and brilliantly insightful in its analysis of the ways in which conspiracy theories and so-called 'alternative facts' are constructed and justified - and why they’re such nonsense ... The established facts about each event, and why the conspiracists are wrong, are set out lucidly in succeeding chapters of detective style sifting of the evidence that provide enjoyably insightful reading in their own right. But at a time when social media is helping conspiracy theories spread rapidly and with claims of 'fake news' predictably engulfing the US presidential campaign, the lessons that Evans imparts about how to distinguish truth from fiction have a universal value that stretches beyond improving knowledge about the detail of Nazi era controversies ... At times it’s possible to sense the exasperation felt by this eminent historian that he’s having to bother devoting energy to dismantling the claims of those whose methods are so much less rigorous than his own ... Indeed, the only reason not to pick up this book would be that the reader, like the author, has to spend time digesting the delusional fantasies of the various conspiracy theorists whose claims are so effectively rubbished inside. But Evans performs his task with such withering and entertaining wit that it’s worth putting up with the nonsense to enjoy the brilliant demolition.Towards the end , Evans highlights the undeservedly high ratings given on Amazon by reviewers of some of the books he’s trashed. But there’s no need to doubt the top marks that his book deserves. It’s a 5 out of 5 masterpiece.
In the days when crowds still thronged airport bookshops, any work entitled The Hitler Conspiracies would surely leap off the shelves. This one ought to flourish in our more immobile times – not least because it unpicks twisted ways of thinking that stretch far beyond the legacy of the Third Reich and its leader ... Much of this hare-brained hogwash would count as comedy gold – were it not for two aspects of the Hitler survival business Evans highlights. First, in the internet age, the Führer-in-Argentina advocates blend into other communities of 'alternative knowledge' to create a sort of online Conspiracy International. Their comrades range from anti-Obama 'birthers' to old-style anti-Semites and up-to-date zealots on the Trumpian alt-right. No doubt, since Evans completed this work, the Covid denialists have joined the party too. Perhaps more sinister than this intersectional underworld of fantasists and fanatics, big bucks from the entertainment industry have helped to keep the leaky hulk of myths and lies afloat ... From internet chatrooms to Hollywood boardrooms, the follies and falsehoods Evans dissects not only aim to portray serious historical research as an 'official' or 'mainstream' smokescreen that keeps what really happened away from the public view. More gravely, they cast cumulative doubt on 'the very idea of truth itself' – the playbook of the propagandistic alt-right now, as in the days of their intellectual forerunner Dr Goebbels ... More than ever, we need the sort of intellectual firewall that this sober, scrupulous work supplies as a defence. That makes The Hitler Conspiracies not just a fairground freakshow but, as Evans writes, 'a book for own own troubled times'.
... seems long overdue ... Evans’s version of history is satisfyingly complicated ... Trenchant, carefully researched and often very funny, Evans’s book is a pleasure to read. But will it make a difference? Probably not. The Nazi-conspiracy industry is too entrenched to be undone by a single book. And conspiracy theories, unfortunately, will always be with us.