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The First Nazi
Erich Ludendorff, The Man Who Made Hitler Possible

by Will Brownell and Denise Drace-Brownell, published by Counterpoint, 2016

This is the best picture of the madness that befell Germany during World War I – Germany's challenge in the wake of being invaded by Russians and their French allies. The book so far appears to me better than documentaries I've seen on the subject and more powerful than books that are purely academic.

One day in Berlin, an overworked horse died in the street. Before it could be carted away, a mob of housewives, thinking perhaps of their children, descended on the carcass with knives in hand and tore the animal apart, leaving only the bones.

Rathenau [a leading German industrialist] wanted the war to end when few Germans realized how easily they could do this. He understood, and Churchill in England stated later, that all the Germans had to do was call for a peace based on no annexations and no indemnities. People would stop fighting and go home.

This could have been done as soon as it had been realized by the Germans that their plan for a quick victory had failed. Instead, Ludendorff, who was elevated to being in charge of the war and the war effort, in charge of Germany politically while the Kaiser remained timid, held that because Germans were a superior people defeat was not possible. Only a few Germans saw defeat in the continuous slaughter and suffering on the homefront.

Under Ludendorff,

... the German military hypnotized themselves into believing that the German Army could not fail because it was perfect, and the superpatriots convinced themselves that the German nation could not fail because God loved it. Together these groups were deliriously confident as they rushed to destruction.

At Amazon.com someone writes that the book is

... written from a definite point of view filled with pejoratives not appropriate in an academic work. Unfortunately, I think this has been off-putting to some other reviewers, which is a shame because I do think the authors make some good points ... please realize the book is not subtle and certainly doesn't attempt to be unbiased.

Someone else writes:

Ludendorff ... had a theory of Total War, with the concept that if you just kept throwing men at your enemy, you'd force them to exhaust all of their manpower, then you'd win eventually – a theory that cost millions & millions of lives – then when he had no more manpower & no more armaments he demanded that German politicians sign an immediate ceasefire, he disappeared while that was going on, then came back out of his rathole to claim that Germany only lost because the politicians & Jews stabbed the valiant army in the back & he became a key early ally of Hitler & the Nazis, who basically did it all over again with even more horrific results in WW II. The authors expose all this, which is valuable, but throw in this lame anti-communist bull-s*** out of nowhere.

I'm only halfway through the book. It's short for a big subject – 229 pages. I may have more to say later. I'm interested in historical accuracy but also in artistry that creates drama. So far I'm not with those who appear to prefer the kind of ponderous style common to academia that would have made the book 700 or more pages.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.