Books: Why Was He So Evil?

Was it ancestry? Psyche? Sexuality? A brilliant survey of the theories that seek to explain Hitler

Hitler and the holocaust remain the 20th century baseline for the discussion of evil, the ne plus ultra. But as Ron Rosenbaum writes in his restlessly probing and deeply intelligent book Explaining Hitler (Random House; 444 pages; $30), Hitler has escaped intellectual capture. The old tabloid survival myth (HITLER ALIVE IN ARGENTINA!) perversely comes true in the realm of our historical deliberations. "The search for Hitler," says Rosenbaum, "has apprehended not one coherent, consensus image of Hitler but rather many different Hitlers, competing Hitlers, conflicting embodiments of competing visions."

The British historian Alan Bullock's early interpretation, for example, had Hitler...

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