With more than 100,000 books and scholarly articles over the last 50 years, you might think we know all we need to know about Adolph Hitler. At least, everything relevant.
For instance, if Hitler had been a homosexual -- and many of his associates knew it and remarked about it in their diaries, and it was commonly, if quietly, assumed by the German public during the Third Reich, and Hitler's fear of being "outed" fueled some of the most brutal purges of the Nazi Party ranks -- you might think that bit of trivia would have come out, so to speak, before now.
Well, you would be right. It has come out, but never in English. Lothar Machtan's book, "The Hidden Hitler" (Basic Books, $26), is the first to focus exclusively on the possibility that Hitler was gay, and the first such suggestion to have been translated into English.
However, Machtan, an associate professor of modern and current history at Bremen University in Germany, wrote in an academic context. The book -- and the resultant publicity tour -- reads more like a ploy for tenure than a real contribution to our understanding of Hitler.
The book draws many of its conclusions from innuendo (the first chapter is titled "The Would-Be Aesthete"). Hitler's various social and political relationships with acknowledged homosexuals; his asexual relationships with women, including his niece; and claims made by others in published accounts and private diaries, make up much of Machtan's evidence.
If Hitler was gay, he went to great lengths to hide it -- and the gay community is not too fond of its newly discovered member, either. But as Cathy Renna of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation writes in her review of the book, "Fair is fair -- if we claim the likes of Michelangelo and Joan of Arc, we have to acknowledge less-desirable members of the ranks. -- Mike Levy, Staff Writer