Cover image for The death of democracy : Hitler's rise to power and the downfall of the Weimar Republic / Benjamin Carter Hett.
The death of democracy : Hitler's rise to power and the downfall of the Weimar Republic / Benjamin Carter Hett.
Publication Information:
Toronto, Ontario : Allen Lane Canada, 2018.

Physical Description:
xix, 280 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
943.086 HET Book Adult General Collection

On Order



A riveting account of how the Nazi Party came to power and how the failures of the Weimar Republic and the shortsightedness of German politicians allowed it to happen

Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? In The Death of Democracy , Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.
To say that Hitler was elected is too simple. He would never have come to power if Germany's leading politicians had not responded to a spate of populist insurgencies by trying to co-opt him, a strategy that backed them into a corner from which the only way out was to bring the Nazis in. Hett lays bare the misguided confidence of conservative politicians who believed that Hitler and his followers would willingly support them, not recognizing that their efforts to use the Nazis actually played into Hitler's hands. They had willingly given him the tools to turn Germany into a vicious dictatorship.
Benjamin Carter Hett is a leading scholar of twentieth-century Germany and a gifted storyteller whose portraits of these feckless politicans show how fragile democracy can be when those in power do not respect it. He offers a powerful lesson for today, when democracy once again finds itself embattled and the siren song of strongmen sounds ever louder.

Author Notes

BENJAMIN CARTER HETT is a Canadian historian and the author of three previous books: Burning the Reichstag , Crossing Hitler , and Death in the Tiergarten . He is a professor of history at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and holds a PhD in history from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Toronto. He grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, and now lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hett, an associate professor of history at Hunter College and CUNY, persuasively challenges familiar arguments that the rise of Nazi Germany was an inevitable consequence of abstract forces like racism, militarism, and capitalism. Hitler's appointment as chancellor in 1933 was, he argues, a political gambit orchestrated by "a small circle of powerful men... who sought to take advantage of his demagogic gifts and mass following to advance their own agenda." This cabal of businessmen, generals, and administrators held Hitler and his message in contempt and were confident they could use and discard him, detaching him from his base and shepherding his followers into a conventional right-wing authoritarian system. Hett's page-turning account lays out the dire consequences of their simultaneously underrating Hitler's ability and grievously overestimating their power. He demonstrates that Hitler played a deeper game, exploiting his opponents' narrow self-interests and using sophisticated sleight of hand to score and build on seemingly inconsequential successes. The increasing bewilderment of this cabal defies conventional explanation, but Hett concludes with a possible clue: the "incongruous innocence" of a society unable to imagine that the worst could happen. Scholars and general readers alike will learn something from Hett's credible analysis of right-wing power brokers' role in Hitler's ascent. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

THE PISCES, by Melissa Brodér. (Hogarth, $25.) In Broder's charmingly kooky debut novel, a depressed Ph.D. student chances upon her dream date - and he's half fish. Brodér approaches the great existential subjects as if they were a collection of bad habits. That's what makes her writing so funny, and so sad. KUDOS, by Rachel Cusk. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) As she did in the first two volumes of this spare, beautiful trilogy, Cusk illuminates her narrator's inner life via encounters with others. The novels describe in haunting detail what it's like to walk through the world, trailing ashes after your life goes up in flames. SHE HAS HER MOTHER'S LAUGH: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, by Carl Zimmer. (Dutton, $30.) Zimmer does a deep dive into the question of heredity, exploring everything from how genetic ancestry works to the thorny question of how race is defined, biologically. The book is Zimmer at his best: obliterating misconceptions about science in gentle prose. FRENEMIES: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else), by Ken Auletta. (Penguin Press, $30.) Advertising has lost its luster in recent decades - in part because of the dependency and competition between ad agencies and Silicon Valley, one of many "frenemy" relationships Auletta details. BAD BLOOD: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. (Knopf, $27.95.) Elizabeth Holmes and her startup, Theranos, perpetrated one of the biggest scams in the history of Silicon Valley, raising millions for a medical device that never really existed. Carreyrou's account reads like a thriller. REPORTER: A Memoir, by Seymour M. Hersh. (Knopf, $27.95.) In Hersh's long, distinguished and controversial career he exposed brutality, deception, torture, illegal surveillance and much else. His memoir about knocking on doors in the middle of the night and reading documents upside down can be considered a master class in the craft of reporting. THE GIRL FROM KATHMANDU: Twelve Dead Men and a Woman's Quest for Justice, by Cam Simpson. (Harper/ HarperCollins, $27.99.) Simpson, an investigative reporter, retraces the journey of 12 laborers from their Nepal homes to their deaths by terrorists in Iraq while en route to an American military base. THE PERFECTIONISTS: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World, by Simon Winchester. (Harper/HarperCollins, $29.99.) This eclectic history celebrates feats of engineering while asking if imperfection might have a place. THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, by Benjamin Carter Hett. (Holt, $30.) Hett's sensitive study of Germany's collapse into tyranny implies that Americans today should be vigilant. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Library Journal Review

Hett (history, Hunter Coll.; Graduate Ctr., City Univ. of New York; Burning the Reichstag) examines the tumultuous and violent politics of Weimar Germany. Using primary and secondary sources along with memoirs and diaries, Hett places German politics within the broader context of postwar globalization. The author shows how the Nazis were one of many left- and right-wing movements that took root during this crisis-filled period across Europe. As part of a growing trend in globalization, the Nazis were not immune to outside influences. In particular, Adolf Hitler admired Turkey's founder, Kemal Atatürk, and praised the Armenian genocide as a necessary step toward consolidating power. However, Hitler's rise and eventual appointment as chancellor would not have been possible if not for conservative politicians, who sought to manipulate the party to secure policies favorable for themselves. Hitler understood this and rarely made pacts that did advance his agenda. VERDICT The international roots of the Nazi movement come into sharp focus in this illuminating and essential book detailing the rise of the Third Reich.-Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.