A riveting account of how the Nazi Party came to power and how the failures of the Weimar Republic and the shortsightedness of German politicians allowed it to happen
Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? In The Death of Democracy, Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.
To say that Hitler was elected is too simple. He would never have come to power if Germany's leading politicians had not responded to a spate of populist insurgencies by trying to co-opt him, a strategy that backed them into a corner from which the only way out was to bring the Nazis in. Hett lays bare the misguided confidence of conservative politicians who believed that Hitler and his followers would willingly support them, not recognizing that their efforts to use the Nazis actually played into Hitler's hands. They had willingly given him the tools to turn Germany into a vicious dictatorship.
Benjamin Carter Hett is a leading scholar of twentieth-century Germany and a gifted storyteller whose portraits of these feckless politicans show how fragile democracy can be when those in power do not respect it. He offers a powerful lesson for today, when democracy once again finds itself embattled and the siren song of strongmen sounds ever louder.
BENJAMIN CARTER HETT is a Canadian historian and the author of three previous books: Burning the Reichstag, Crossing Hitler, and Death in the Tiergarten. He is a professor of history at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and holds a PhD in history from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Toronto. He grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, and now lives in New York City.
A Fareed Zakaria book of the week
“A fast-paced narrative enlivened by vignette and character sketches…Hett reminds us that violence was at [the Nazi’s] core.”—PoliticsOfHope.com
“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.” —The Washington Post
“Hett's brisk and lucid study offers compelling new perspectives inspired by current threats to free societies around the world…It is both eerie and enlightening how much of Hett's account rings true in our time.” —E.J. Dionne
“Careful prose and fine scholarship…fine thumbnail sketches of individuals and concise discussions of institutions and economics.” —Democratic Underground
“With a wealth of telling detail, a keen eye for human character, and a talent for gripping narrative, Benjamin Hett analyses the end of the Weimar Republic and the inauguration of the Nazi regime. It is a chilling and warning tale, for he shows that Hitler’s victory was by no means inevitable. Rather, it was the result of human folly, greed, selfishness and, on the part of those who invited him, an unwillingness to confront the true meaning of Nazism and a willful insistence that they could use Hitler.” —Margaret MacMillan, author of The War That Ended Peace: The Road To 1914