Review published on October 12, 2017.
Historian David King asks a challenging question over the course of his book, The Trial of Adolf Hitler: could he have been stopped? That is a question that the reader will continue to ask themselves throughout the book, and that it what good historians do, make you question! King may be a full-time writer now, but he has taught European History and is a former Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge.
The Weimar Republic was doomed from its existence, as many Germans thought their leadership had sold them down river at Versailles and beyond. At home, there was much revolutionary activity, of all political shades, and one attempted coup has become more well-known than others.
23rd November 1923, a little known regional politician attempted to bring down the German government and emulate the Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini. Hitler and his brownshirts had surrounded the Bürgerbraükeller as Herman Göring, Rudolf Hess and Hitler attempted to storm the stage and fired a shot into the roof. Fuelled by alcohol and with the attempted coup failing he tried to do a deal, it did not work. He was later arrested in his pyjamas.
Hitler was charged with High Treason, and as an Austrian could and should have been deported back there if found guilty. But then came the failings of the trial judge and the Munich elite, especially as the presiding judge allows Hitler to turn his defence into an attack on the political system. Saying that, the presiding judge was known for being somewhat soft on those from the right of Bavarian politics. So, when the verdicts were delivered on April’s Fools Day 1924, they were unsurprisingly lenient. Hitler and three comrades were sentenced to 5 years but served about nine months and was out of prison by the end of 1924.
This book is concerned with the actual trial and uses the papers and other contemporary records, such as trial transcripts and prison archives. What King delivers is more a less a minute by minute account of the trial, giving the reader an excellent narrative of the events. The book is brilliantly researched, written is a style that is easy for the reader to engage with the narrative. He brings to life the chaos and nature of life at the time.
Paul Diggett 5/5
The Trial of Adolf Hitler by David King
Macmillan 9781447251118 hbk Aug 2017