Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 14)

Since the mid-1970’s Hitler biographies and various histories of Nazism have proliferated. Bruce F. Pauley adds to the literature on the Nazi phenomenon a book on the history of Austrian National Socialism. It is a volume that is rigorously and thoroughly researched. Indeed, if the dates indicated in the book’s Preface are correct, Pauley spent close to a decade-and-a-half combing the archives and assembling his materials for their publication as this book.

With so much already written and published on Nazism, a telling question is whether a new work can be said to add a new perspective, to unearth new materials, or to provide a relatively original and compelling synthesis of what is already known. Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis is the first volume in English devoted exclusively to National Socialism in Austria proper.

In spite of the fact that Adolf Hitler was born in Austria (and became a citizen of Germany less than a year before he was named Chancellor in January, 1933), the connections between the Nazi Party founded in Germany and its rough equivalent prior to 1914 (the Austrian German Workers’ Party, or DAP) are tenuous. Bruce Pauley himself is extraordinarily cautious on this issue, although clearly he leans toward the notion that has been advanced most vigorously by the historian Max Kele that Hitler could not have been unaware of the Austrian Party and its programs, for its headquarters were in the same district of Vienna where Hitler lived before he fled to Munich in 1913. Here the author marshals some conflicting evidence, which, alas, he fails to resolve conclusively. “In any event,” he writes, “there were certainly striking similarities between the prewar Austrian Nazis and the postwar German Nazis that may be more than simply coincidental.”

Such excessive caution is disappointing, given the focus of Pauley’s study. Right-wing fringe movements abounded after 1918 nearly everywhere in Europe, combining sometimes vague anticapitalism with strong anti-Marxist, antiliberal, and antidemocratic posturing. Anti-Semitism was a probable, but not always an especially prominent, ingredient of these extremist right-wing ideologies. Pauley’s inability to determine the specific influence, if any, of the Austrian DAP on the Hitler movement is a liability in the book.

That flaw is, however, minor. With the military defeat and the political demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the situation in the rumpstate of Germanic Austria paralleled...

(The entire section is 1029 words.)


(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 14)

Choice. XIX, November, 1981, p. 430.

Library Journal. CVI, August, 1981, p. 1538.