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Was Hitler mad

LAURENCE REES: What’s the biggest misconception that you think is out there about the war? There’s still a great deal of discussion, for example, about Hitler’s mental state. Can we call him – as many people do, who don’t know much of the history – ‘mad’?

SIR IAN KERSHAW: I think that, in a way, is the one that probably I’d put my finger on: the sense that this was all down to the lunacy of one man, and that you’ve got this Hitler who’s just mad and he takes the entire world into this war.

Now, Hitler was the single most important author of the Second World War, but there were many other factors that came into play even within Germany itself. So the notion that this is down to one man and one man’s lunacy is actually, I think, a misconception, and in so far as it was a lunacy then it was a political lunacy which was actually shared by many people.

So what we have to get away from, I think, is the notion that a single man determines what happens. But, of course, as we’ve already said and as everything has demonstrated, Hitler was not just any person so he wasn’t just replaceable or exchangeable, but we have to have a more subtle way of looking at it than just saying, well, this one man did this and he was mad. Hitler wasn’t clinically mad or clinically insane, so that notion and the notion that this is all down to one person, I think, is this common misconception which has to be got away from.