SYNOPSIS: How does a person become Hitler’s enemy number one? Not through espionage or violence, it turns out, but by striking fearlessly at the intellectual and spiritual roots of National Socialism.
Dietrich von Hildebrand was a German Catholic thinker and teacher who devoted the full force of his intellect to breaking the deadly spell of Nazism that ensnared so many of his beloved countrymen.
His story might well have been lost to us were it not for this memoir he penned in the last decades of his life at the request of his wife, Alice von Hildebrand. In My Battle Against Hitler, covering the years from 1921 to 1938, von Hildebrand tells of the scorn and ridicule he endured for sounding the alarm when many still viewed Hitler as a positive and inevitable force. He expresses the sorrow of having to leave behind his home, friends, and family in Germany to conduct his fight against the Nazis from Austria. He recounts how he defiantly challenged Nazism in the public square, prompting the German ambassador in Vienna to describe him to Hitler as “the architect of the intellectual resistance in Austria.” And in the midst of all the danger he faced, he conveys his unwavering trust in God, even during his harrowing escape from Vienna and his desperate flight across Europe, with the Nazis always just one step behind.
Dietrich von Hildebrand belongs to the very earliest anti-Nazi resistance. His public statements led the Nazis to blacklist him already in 1921, long before the horrors of the Third Reich and more than twenty-three years before the famous assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944. His battle would culminate in the countless articles he published in Vienna, a selection of which are featured in this volume.
“It is an immense privilege,” writes editor John Henry Crosby, founder of the Hildebrand Project, “to present to the world the shining witness of one man who risked everything to follow his conscience and stand in defiance of tyranny.”
Of all the heroes discussed in regards to WWII, von Hildebrand isn’t one who’s usually mentioned. However, he should be. He certainly has much to offer in terms of his thoughts & writing.
This particular biography did him justice by telling his story & reaffirming his place in history. However, most of the book was flat & one-dimensional. The only time the pace came close to picking up was near the end. As a whole, I felt more like I was reading a high school textbook than a biography.
Understandably, with biographies, one cannot expect bells & whistles per se. There are sure to be moments when life is rather bland. But, a figure that stood out as much as Hildebrand needed a more stirring reflection on his life.
Teachers & students who wish to highlight more unsung heroes of the world wars would benefit from this book. Other than that, I couldn’t say that it was enjoyable to finish as an entertainment.
I have to rate it 3 stars for these reasons. I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.