Michael Burleigh is Distinguished Research Professor in Modern History at Cardiff University. He is currently William R. Kenan Visiting Professor at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He is the author of six well-received books.
Michael Burleigh's study of the Nazi phenomenon was the most important book I have read this year. It made me change my mind, which is no mean feat. Or at least it helped me change a frame of mind that tended to a lazy stereotyping on the topic of the Third Reich. In one volume no heftier than it has to be, the author has finally brought unity to a period previously fragmented by professional historians of the 20th century beyond any laypersons overview. In measured language, Burleigh begins with he roots of Nazism in national humiliation and defeat; he takes us through the years of Germany's undeniable vigour, and to its end and post-45 rehabilitation. By showing the movement as a messianic political cause, a storm-trooping parody of the Wagnerian romance, Burleigh helped me understand for the first time how the runt, Adolf Hitler, was able to put himself in place as the hero of his nation. To be non-judgmental about the events of that period requires restraint and intellectual probity. Except for a faint subliminal revulsion that I sensed occasionally, particularly when Himmler was in evidence, Burleigh keeps his cool. He distinguished the Holocaust from subsequent examples of the monstrosity we now call 'ethnic cleansing' not only for its precise engineering and organisation, but also because it was undertaken as a comprehensive and existential battle against Jews everywhere. The Third Reich is gripping and comprehensive. At last, the seminal book for those of us who never want to see another film or read another word about World War II and the Nazis. (Kirkus UK)