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Aberdeen historian's Hitler book to be turned into major TV series

Aberdeen historian's Hitler book to be turned into major TV series

Historian Thomas Weber is one of the world's most renowned experts on Adolf Hitler.

He has studied and investigated the febrile climate and circumstances which transformed the humble WW1 soldier into the catalyst for the creation of Nazism.

So perhaps we should listen to the Aberdeen University professor when he warns that Hitler shouldn't simply be dismissed as an inhuman relic from the last century.

On the contrary, Weber's book Hitler's First War, which is currently being turned into a major television series, asks many questions which remain as relevant today as when the architect of the Third Reich was plotting and planning world domination.

And when he talked to STV this week, Weber said that understanding what compelled the dictator to use his WW1 experiences as a means of leading a political revolution still offers a warning from history.

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He said: "It's too easy to demonise Hitler and treat him as an inhuman character, but the reality is that he was very much a human being.

"We have grown up with an image of him which he wanted people to believe. But hopefully, this TV series presents us with an opportunity to de-mask Hitler.

"This is even more valid at a time when we tend to ignore his illiberal, anti-capitalist and anti-American convictions.

"Yet, if we just reduce him to being a one-dimensional minor actor, we will not recognise new Hitlers.

"Obviously, this is a sensitive topic, but modern Europe is a volatile place and, if we forget how he came to power, we might not realise the world in the 21st century is more similar to the period of Hitler's rise than many people would care to admit."

  (Thomas Weber)
via STV via STV

The new series, which will not be completed until 2017 or 2018, is TV on a grand scale, with the focus on four disparate characters.

There's Hitler, of course. And there's Hugo Gutmann, who initially put him forward for an Iron Cross in WW1, but was subsequently ostracised because of his Jewish faith. Then there's the Fuhrer's one-time adjutant, Fritz Wiedemann, and Karl Mayr, one of Hitler's first patrons.

The adaptation is being created by Berlin-based company UFA-Film, which produced the highly-acclaimed series Generation War and the Oscar-winning film Downfall.

There are no easy answers or glib explanations for the transformation in the dictator's fortunes between 1918 and 1930, nor his development into one of the most notorious individuals in the whole of global history.

Instead, as Weber said, it asks stringent questions of the myriad chances which were missed for Germany and other countries to resist him at an early stage.

  (Thomas Weber)
via STV via STV

He told us: "I hope the dramatisation can bring the ‘real’ Hitler to the fore; and by doing that, we can understand much better how Hitler operated and could be so successful.

"The point is that this is not based on speculation, but on meticulous research and, by translating that research, into images and sound, we can destroy the images of him which were based on propaganda and yet are in all our heads.

"That will hopefully trigger new discussion about Hitler historically and what he means for the present.”

  (Thomas Weber)
via STV via STV

Weber's book earned rich praise from many reviewers, but there are sometimes mixed feelings about poring over such personalities as Hitler.

However, when one looks at borders being closed in Hungary and other countries, allied to escalating anti-austerity protests, the rise of far-right groups, xenophobia and fears over Europe's future, one message rings clear: those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

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