Review: The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination, by Richard J. Evans

The German army would have won the First World War, except that it was “stabbed in the back” by Socialists and Communists. Hitler was convinced by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he believed to be a genuine historical document, that the Jews were taking over the world and needed to be the stopped. The Reichstag fire of 1933 was a Nazi plot (or a Communist one) and not the work of one arsonist. Rudolf Hess made his solo flight to Britain in 1941 at Hitler’s behest and at the invitation of a ‘peace party’ in the U.K. which was plotting a coup against Churchill. Hitler survived the war, having been rescued from Berlin, placed on a U-boat and sent off to a comfortable retirement together with his wife Eva Braun, somewhere in Argentina.

None of those sentences are true. All of them are widely believed, to one degree or another.

I’ve taken an interest in one or more of those ideas over the years, and particularly enjoyed reading the theory that the prisoner who spent decades in Berlin’s Spandau prison wasn’t actually Rudolf Hess but a double. Richard J. Evans has poured ice cold water on some much-loved conspiracies.

His forensic dismantling of each of those “alternative histories” could not come at a more timely moment, as the notion of “alternative facts” is defended by the current occupant of the White House. His book deserves a wide readership.