On April 20, Adolf Hitler turns 131. Ten days later comes the 75th anniversary of his earthly demise in the ruins of Berlin, but he is still our contemporary par excellence. He continues to haunt and fascinate. Hitler’s countenance, his very name, seem to get indelibly etched in the collective consciousness of each new generation. On current form, Lincoln, Lenin, or Lennon may be forgotten in a few decades, but the Führer will be alive and well a century hence.

At the low end of the cultural scale, politicians and their media abettors routinely Hitlerize the monstre du jour, from Saddam to Putin to Trump. Slightly higher up, Hitler consistently tops the biography rankings on Amazon.com. Napoleon is an increasingly distant second, while the great and the good of more recent decades—Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa—do not even come close.

Among professional historians the work started with Alan Bullock in 1952, and it is not abating. There are some three dozen quality biographies thus far, as well as tons of trashy Hitlerana of the Escape to Argentina sort. One noteworthy title has appeared every 18 months on average since Joachim Fest’s 1973 magnum opus.

The good news is that serious authors are close to the “historicization” of Hitler, finally treating him like any other phenomenon from the past. In Germany, which has been the key arena of Hitler-related scholarly endeavors for the past half-century, the process matured in the early 1980s with the debate between “intentionalists” and the “structuralists” (also known as “functionalists”).

While neither side denied the reality of the Holocaust, the former—most notably Andreas Hillgruber, Klaus Hildebrand and Eberhard Jäckel—held that the Nazi Final Solution had been planned well before Operation Barbarossa, perhaps as early as the 1920s. The latter—Karl Schleunes, Hans Mommsen, Martin Broszat, et al.— argued that there never was a master plan.

This debate was followed by the acrimonious Historikerstreit (historians’ quarrel) over the nature of National Socialism, its position vis-à-vis Bolshevism, and its proper place in the context of German history. The controversy exploded when Ernst Nolte contended that Nazi crimes were in essence a defensive reaction against Lenin and Stalin’s “Asiatic” barbarism, and when Andreas Hillgruber asserted there was no fundamental moral difference between the Soviets’ treatment of Germany in the final stage of the war and the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

Most of the principals are dead, but the debate is not over. At least its course conclusively refuted the notion that history is “made” not by free-willed individuals, but by underlying social conditions and economic forces. Hitler provides the conclusive proof that Plekhanov, Marx, et al. were wrong. By now all authors of stature agree that his persona mattered a great deal, that he remains a moral problem (more intractable than the popular usage of the term “moral” implies), and that it is very important to determine, with seriousness and accuracy, what motivated him.

Brendan Simms, a Cambridge historian new both to Hitler and to biography, has written a full-size biography of Hitler (555 pages, plus over a hundred pages of notes and index), which reads well and occasionally entertains, but it fails the test of seriousness and accuracy. Its publishers advertise Hitler: A Global Biography as a “revisionist biography,” which it is, although not in the late Imanuel Geiss’s (let alone David Irving’s!) sense of the word.

Simms’ central thesis is that “Hitler’s principal preoccupation throughout his career was Anglo-America and global capitalism, rather than the Soviet Union and Bolshevism.” Hitler’s grand-strategic objective was to establish racial unity in a greatly expanded Germany by overcoming the Anglo-American capitalist world order.

Hitler’s earlier biographers noted his ambivalence towards Britain, a mix of grudging admiration and loathing common to many Germans of his time (famously including the Kaiser, who both longed for and hated his British mother). Simms goes much further. He sees “the centrality of the British Empire and the United States in the gestation of Mein Kampf” and in practically all of Hitler’s subsequent plans and decisions. His supposed obsession with Anglo-America in Simms’ rendering is the key to Hitler’s entire Weltanschauung, the philosopher’s stone which explains Operation Barbarossa, the Holocaust, the yearning for Eastern Lebensraum, and the obsession with racial purity.

On the basis of the scant new material he presents, Simms could have advanced and credibly supported the claim that Hitler had been acutely aware of the importance of Anglo-America, which he perceived as a monolithic geopolitical entity, and saw it as a global thalassocratic threat to his continental design. Had Simms tried to correct the score on Hitler the Global Strategist by throwing a new light on the Anglo-American factor in his outlook and explaining why it mattered more than previously assumed, his book could have made a worthy contribution to our understanding of the man and his times.

What we get instead is a massive exercise in self-validating reductionism. Simms’ central claim is that Hitler’s “true nemesis was the British Empire and especially the United States.” Literally everything follows from this bold yet unproven assertion. It is in the context of his “overreaching preoccupation with Britain and the United States that Hitler’s anti-Semitism should primarily be understood.” The resulting mass murder of European Jews “was not a distorted copy of Stalin’s Great Terror, but a preemptive strike against Roosevelt’s America.” Far from being the product of Hitler’s twin obsession with Bolshevism and Lebensraum, the attack on the Soviet Union was really meant “to strike at Britain, and to deter the United States.”

The entire war in the East, Simms claims, “was to be a campaign of conquest and annihilation, for reasons more to do with Anglo-America than the Soviet Union itself.” The same motive applied even to individual operations: “the drive on Stalingrad, like the entire war, was primarily driven by the contest against Anglo-America.” The capitulation of Axis forces in Tunisia, according to Simms, “was a much greater disaster than Stalingrad.” By the end of 1943 “the western powers were absorbing the greater part not merely of Hitler’s attention, but also of his resources…. One way or the other, most of the German war effort was now geared to fighting the Anglo-Americans, and the proportion increased with each passing month.” In the end, the war was lost because “the trophy was lifted once more by the Anglo-Americans, with substantial help from their Soviet allies, of course.”

These assertions are impudent and so easily refutable that we are left wondering who Simms was hoping to deceive. At a deeper level, he consistently ignores the distinction between Hitler’s war against the western powers, which for all its ferocity was arguably a traditional European war (ein europäisches Normalkrieg), and the exterminationist struggle he unleashed in the East. Against the Soviets, both ideological and racial enemies, no laws applied. That struggle turned existential in 1944-45 in the way the fight against Anglo-America never did. The distinction was clearly implied in one of Hitler’s final orders, which Simms quotes without comment, for the entire front against the Anglo-Americans to turn and face the Russians.

In his introduction, Simms writes his intention was “to show rather than tell,” but he does the opposite. In his flawed rendering, practically every idea, challenge, and dilemma faced by Hitler is explained as an attempt to preempt, frustrate, or counter the Anglo-American monster. His Hitler is reduced to an uninteresting automaton, which trivializes his grotesque record.

[Wir sind] mit Hitler noch lange nicht fertig,” (We are not yet finished with Hitler)John Lukacs approvingly quoted a younger colleague at the prologue of his 1998 survey The Hitler of History. Over two decades later it is clear that we will never be “done” with him. Brendan Simms has not made the slightest difference to that fact.

[Hitler: A Global Biography by Brendan Simms (Basic Books) 704 pp., $19.99]