Hitler and the Hapsburgs: The Führer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals, by James McMurtry Longo

Nine stars

After having this book recommended to me, I kept it on my shelf for a while, waiting for the ideal time to delve in. When I started it, I wondered why I had not devoured James McMurtry Longo’s tome much sooner, as it captivated me from the opening pages until the final, chilling sentiment. Even the causal reader with some knowledge of modern European history likely knows that Adolf Hitler had a strong dislike for his Austrian homeland. It is only when reading Longo’s book that I became better aware of it, and how the German dictator enacted his revenge. Modestly born, Hitler grew up in an Austria that was still ruled under the Hapsburg Empire, a collection of European countries of Central Europe. While Hitler grew and became more jaded about his country and its rulers, the Hapsburgs maintained a strong control over their peoples and lived what seems to have been quite a lavish lifestyle. It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—the heir to the Hapsburg Throne—that began a series of historical dominoes and lessened the power of this nightly monarchy. As power dissolved and Austria became a geographic and political plaything in the aftermath of the Great War, Hitler embraced his move to Germany, where he could rise through the ranks and eye a future return to an Austria that held his morals. Longo parallels not only the rise of Hitler with the fall of the Hapsburgs, but also pushes to show how Austrian identity—both as a country and of its citizens—soon became enveloped in the Nazi ideal. Discussion of the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party and control over Central Europe is exemplified here, as is the dazzling ineptitude that saw the world watch. Hitler vowed to return to Austria and take what he felt he lost, a new and better Hapsburg if you will. Longo shows how he did so and yet the House of Hapsburg had the final victory, albeit delayed and rooted in the subsequent generations. Brilliant in its delivery and highly educational, this is one book that fans of modern European history will not want to miss, as well as those readers who love European monarchies.

I love learning new and interesting things about moments in history that seem to have been overanalysed. While I cannot say I knew many of the central facts that are up for discussion here, I was aware of many aspects, leaving me wanting a great deal from Longo’s book. He delivered, not only by offering a miniature biography of the young Hitler, but also paralleling the strength and subsequent fall of the Hapsburgs. Detailed analysis of the loss of control over the Empire and the dwindling of final power was brilliantly documented here, as Longo shows how monarchies rarely fade away overnight. Additional documentation on the likes of Edward VIII proved to be an added bonus and one that kept me wanting to learn even more about the ‘boy King of England’ and his apparent loose support of the Nazi leader as a political figure. Longo offers up wonderful documentation and spins it into an easily digested narrative that will have the reader wanting (and able) to forge onwards. With chapters that are quite detailed but not drowning in information so as to make the journey slow-going, Longo serves up a stellar piece here and makes the reader want to know more. I will be picking through some of the bibliographic materials and books suggested by the author, so as to learn a little more about this period. This is one royal family that deserves more of my attention in the coming months.

Kudos, Mr. Longo, for a great piece. I can only hope to find more of your work soon, which is surely on par with this tome.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons