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Last night, I finished reading Hitler: The Ascent.

While working in a shop in Obersalzberg in 1926 Maria Reiter met Hitler. She was 16. And he was 37. Hitler’s next ‘love’ (which isn’t exactly the right word) Geli Raubal was 19 years younger than he was. Unity Mitford – who he met at a Nirenberg rally – was 25 years younger. Eva Braun was 23 years younger.

Two attempted to kill themselves. One did kill herself – or at least she was killed by a pistol from Hitler’s desk drawer, found lying on the floor beside her in her bedroom. The other died in an asylum.

Why he pursued twenty-years-younger-than-he-was women is a mystery. History’s ambiguous. A shroud descends.

He was a Socialist who rode a wave of working class anger at German elites into power, then allied with the elites; he used the Brown Shirts to gain power then to keep power he destroyed them; he hated the Communists but allied with Stalin – then betrayed Stalin.

He talked like an ideologue but didn’t act like one – a perpetual motion machine he would fret, worry, then gamble everything on a roll of the dice: He was elected Chancellor on January 30; the next day he dissolved Parliament; in the next five months he outlawed the Communist Party, outlawed the Trade Unions, outlawed all other parties, passed a law giving himself unlimited power, and won another Election.

Rolling the dice four times in three short years he marched into the Rhineland, occupied Austria, took the Sudetenland, and then took the rest of Czechoslovakia. But the longer he held power the more erratic he became: He lost control of himself three times during the Munich Crisis, erupting, and ranting at British diplomats.

In the Spring of 1939, after he sent lines of tanks rolling into Czechoslovakia, blinded by his own luck, he never saw his star was already descending.


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