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02 March 2024

A dictator's reads

Hitler's Private Library By Timothy Ryback. (SUPPLIED)

By Anthony Looch

A hitherto neglected, but highly significant, aspect of Hitler's life is brilliantly explored in Timothy Ryback's new book, Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life.

Its source material is the approximately 1,600 surviving volumes – many bearing the German dictator's book-plate and sometimes scribbled marginal notes – from his original private library of 16,000 books. Ryback has focused on those which possessed either emotional or intellectual significance for Hitler. They provide a fascinating and often chilling insight into his mind.

To critical eyes, he appeared no more than a poorly-educated rabble-rouser who banned books and whose taste in art was often execrable but, surprisingly, he was also a voracious reader. His library covered a wide range of subjects from cowboy pulp novels to art, architecture and military history.

Liberal or humanitarian reading matter were clearly unwanted and the "philosophical" volumes he enjoyed were mainly anti-Semitic or occult tosh.