A Democratic Politicianrnby Srdja Trifkovicrn”An historian is a prophet in retrospect.”rn—A.W. von SchlegelrnThe Hitler of Historyrnby John LukacsrnNew York: Alfred A. Knopf;rn279 pp., $26.00rnWir sind mit Hitler noch lange nichtrnfertig (“We are nowhere nearrndone with Hitler”): the warning byrntwo contemporary German historiansrnprovides an apt opening line to JohnrnLukacs’s delighthil book. His “historyrnof the evolution of our knowledee ofrnHitler” seeks to explain why, as we approachrnthe new century, Adolf Hitlerrncontinues to haunt and fascinate us,rnwhy—more than five decades after hisrndeath — he remains our troubling contemporan,’.rnThe Hitler of History is an eloquentrnand authoritative survey of other historians’rnattempts to deal with Hitier the man,rntlie political leader, and the militaryrnstrategist. While it is a “history ofrnj Hitler’s] history, and a history of his bi-rnSrdja Trifkovic is the executive director ofrnThe Lord Byron Foundation for BalkanrnStudies.rnographies,” it also contains insights intornhistoriography, epistemologv’, intellectualrnhistory, and the philosophy of histor)’.rnhi spite of the author’s intentions, butrnperhaps inevitably so. The Hitler of Historyrnalso ends up being a book aboutrnHider. hi just under 300 pages, Lukacsrnshows us why Hitler remains a moralrnproblem — a problem far deeper and intractablernthan the current academic andrnpopular usage of the term “moral” wouldrnimply. Lukacs knows that the purpose ofrnhistorical knowledge is not mere accuracy,rnbut understanding.rnHow close are we, then, to the “liistoricizahon”rnof Hitier, as opposed to thernfacile demonization of him? Lukacsrnmakes it clear that the task is far fromrnover, and that “historicization” has morernto do with how we deal with the problemrnof our own moribund civilization thanrnwith the record of the Fiihrer and hisrntimes. Hitier cannot become an historicalrnfigure as long as the dilemmas andrnneuroses of his centurv continue.rnLukacs’s surey is necessarily selectivern(Hitieriana has spawned hundreds of tidesrnin all languages, without much signrnof abating) and it focuses mainly on arndo/cn or so German authors who havernmade their mark since the 1960’s. Withrna couple of exceptions, most non-rnGerman historians are given short shriit,rneither because their work is obsolete,rnbecause it contributes little to our understandingrnof the period, or because it is biasedrnand methodologically flawed.rnThe “early” Germans—those writingrnin the 60’s —are boringly conventionalrn(Heiber), fairly superficial (Gisevius), orrndevoted to unearthing ‘oluminous empiricalrndata at the expense of “understanding”rn(Maser). With the cumbersomernHillgruber, who exploits thernantiquated academic apparatus of “professionalrnobjectivity” to conceal a nationalist-rnconservative agenda, we encounterrnthe first hint of the “dual war” theory.rnThis “doubtful thesis, to say the least” (asrnLukacs calls it) asserts that from Septemberrn1939 until June 1941 Germany wasrnwaging an europdisches Normalkriegrnagainst the Western democracies thatrnonly turned nast with Operation Barbaro.rnssa. Lukacs is more sympathetic towardrnPercy Ernst Schramm, an elegantrnNorth German patrician who couldrnhave fit comfortably into the setting ofrnThe Magic Mountain, or the smokingrnroom of an English country estate. Writ-rnMARCH 1998/27rnrnrn