Stalin felt betrayed by Hitler, but the German dictator also fascinated him.

Dissecting Hitler

Stalin felt betrayed by Hitler, but the German dictator also fascinated him.
Why else would Stalin have commissioned a detailed study of the man who was
his greatest enemy?

By David M. Glantz
Published: December 23, 2005

The demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and ensuing formation of the
ostensibly democratic Russian Federation raised hopes that the fledgling
government would ease or totally end the stifling censorship formerly
exercised over access to state archives and the writing of Soviet and
Russian history. Prior to 1991, the Soviet government and Communist Party
had strictly limited the release of information from historical archives and
routinely censored the work and writings of the country's official and
nonofficial historians. Applicable to every realm deemed vital to state
security, these restrictions were most ubiquitous in the sensitive areas of
political and military affairs, past and present. Because of this
censorship, books published on these subjects in the Soviet Union lacked
candor and, hence, credibility.

Since 1991, the new Russian government has eased many of the restrictions
governing access to its archives and begun declassifying and releasing many
hitherto secret and top-secret documents related to subjects previously
hidden from public view. It has also ended its practice of limiting the
subjects historians can investigate and altering the factual content of
their works. However, despite these positive measures, subsequent archival
releases have been highly selective rather than comprehensive. Careful study
of these materials indicates vital documents have been excised. In addition,
the commissions to which the government has assigned the task of screening
documents for release have yet to complete their work.

Despite these problems, the declassification effort has produced some
positive results. In the military realm, for example, the government
authorized the Moscow firm TERRA to publish an extensive series of archival
documents related to World War II. However, while this series represents an
important step forward, the production of new volumes has been lagging
seriously, and later volumes are far less comprehensive and candid than
their predecessors.

"The Hitler Book," another notable and important byproduct of this
declassification effort, evidences that the cloak of secrecy is indeed
cracking. Discovered in the archives by the German researcher Matthias Uhl
and edited by Uhl and the historian Henrik Eberle, this volume purports to
be a special study of Adolf Hitler prepared by security-police researchers
at the behest of Josef Stalin, who sought to better understand the mind of
his defeated foe. Based largely on information obtained from Hitler's
associates -- primarily from two men in his personal entourage -- "The
Hitler Book," officially titled "Affair No. 1-G-23: Concerning Hitler and
his Associates," remained classified top-secret until 1991 because,
according to the editors, its contents "presented a picture of the history
of the Second World War that did not match official Party propaganda: there
were various details concerning diplomacy in National Socialist Germany, the
battles on the German-Soviet front and the downfall of the Third Reich that
had been presented differently up till then."

Although there is no way to confirm this book's authenticity without reading
it in Russian and examining its attached access list -- the sheet of paper
identifying who had access to it and when -- the title page and contents do
indeed appear valid. Furthermore, collectively, the foreword by British
historian Richard Overy, the preface by translator Giles MacDonogh and the
introduction by Eberle and Uhl adequately explain the book's provenance,
including the circumstances surrounding its preparation, classification and

Regarding the book's focus and ultimate value to contemporary and future
historians, readers must judge it within the context of its time and the man
for whom it was written. In short, given the general climate of fear in the
Soviet Union during the immediate postwar years, most of it generated by the
arbitrariness of Stalin himself, it is likely the book's authors were
careful "to tell the boss what he wanted to hear."

First and foremost, the authors of "The Hitler Book" attempt to construct a
profile of Hitler's personality and psychological state over time.
Strangely, however, their narrative and analysis begin abruptly in the
summer of 1933, months after Hitler became German chancellor, and do not
address the Fuhrer's earlier career and the important events of World War I
and the turbulent 1920s that shaped his personality and views. For example,
there is no reference in the book to Hitler's autobiography, "Mein Kampf,"
and the implications of that work for the Fuhrer's attitude toward the
Soviet Union.

Thereafter, "The Hitler Book" leaps chronologically from one snapshot of the
Fuhrer to another, leaving it to the reader to fill in the blanks in this
almost haphazard biographical and psychological mosaic. In the two chapters
describing the critical period from March 1939 through May 1941, for
example, the authors devote many pages to vignettes describing the German
leader's attitude toward the war in the West and his relations with Italy
and Spain but fail to discuss his rationale and preparations for war against
the Soviet Union and omit any mention of Stalin's embarrassing pact with

As for the war itself, the authors provide only a barebones account of
military operations, instead offering Stalin a series of vignettes detailing
German barbarity and Hitler's responses to specific events as his grand
plans for conquering the Soviet Union inexorably soured. For example, in the
nine-page chapter covering the first six months of the German invasion, the
authors devote several pages to Hitler's travels and four pages to the
actions of his personal guard. As for the Wehrmacht's rapid and dramatic
advance deep into the Soviet Union during the summer and fall of 1941 and
the titanic battles of Leningrad and Moscow, the book simply mentions
Hitler's chagrin at failing to capture the two cities.

Following this pattern, the authors describe the general course of military
operations only in brief, referring to developments tangentially as a way of
assessing their impact on Hitler's personality. Quite naturally, they focus
considerable attention on the deterioration of the Fuhrer's health and mind
and on specific evidence of this decay leading up to Hitler's suicide in
April 1945. As a result, the book's most interesting, revealing and
important chapter describes the catastrophic situation in Berlin and in the
Fuhrer's bunker during the final days of the Third Reich.

Unquestionably, other than the very fact of its release, the principal value
of this book is its unvarnished portrait of Hitler the man, as he attempted
but failed to achieve his ultimate ends vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and his
fellow dictator, Stalin. Carefully written by authors who probably well
understood the risk should their candor exceed Stalin's desire for a
truthful portrait, this book ultimately lacks what could have been its most
revealing and important contribution -- Stalin's personal comments on the
authors' efforts. Sadly, the study contains none of the extensive and often
caustic annotations Stalin normally made while reading documents, indicating
that it may not have crossed his desk at all. If this was indeed the case,
readers now have a unique opportunity to study a book written for but never
read by Stalin.

David M. Glantz is a retired U.S. Army officer, the editor of The Journal of
Slavic Military Studies and the author of "Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at
War, 1941-1943."

- he also wrote " the seige of leningrad " , a fairly dry book that i am
reading right now.