The long shadow of Adolf Hitler

The Nazi leader was not the only monster of the 20th century – so why does he continue to fascinate us more than any other despot? Professor Sir Ian Kershaw investigates...

A scene from the 1963 film 'Naked Among Wolves', depicting a Nazi concentration camp

This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

Adolf Hitler occupies a unique place in history. More than 125 years after his birth in the small Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, on 20 April 1889, the Nazi leader continues to cast a long shadow over the world. Our enduring fascination with his personality far outstrips our interest in any other dictator. But why? In a most obvious sense, the answer seems clear: Hitler was the chief author of the most devastating war, and the most terrible genocide, that the world has yet known. Certainly, that is reason enough to register his unparalleled impact on world history. It is also a good part of the reason why there have probably been more publications about Hitler than any other historical figure – apart, perhaps, from Jesus.

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