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OU Lecture 2005: Hitler's Place in History - Hitler

Updated Wednesday 27th April 2005

Sir Ian Kershaw delivers the OU's Annual Lecture, exploring the extraordinary influence of, and ongoing fascination with, Adolf Hitler.

Sir Ian Kershaw Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

In the lead-up to the 60th anniversary of Hitler’s death, renowned academic Sir Ian Kershaw will speak about the former dictator’s place in history.

The Open University Annual Lecture on BBC Four is the platform for Sir Ian’s probing insight into Hitler.

With the lecture being broadcast on the anniversary of Hitler’s death the lecture begins with Hitler’s last moments - why did he hold out so long? What is the significance of this death for the world and should we be marking the anniversary of Hitler’s death at all?

He also asks how Hitler saw his own place in history, and how this changed during the course of the war. He goes on to examine the reasons for the continuing – even increasing – fascination with Hitler’s life as the Nazi era receded into history. He concludes by speculating on how our views of Hitler might change in the future.

The programme will be illustrated with captivating archive, featuring both familiar images of Hitler and rare footage from the BBC History department. The backdrop for the lecture is the unusual and remarkable London venue, The Bridge SE1, situated beneath the vaulted arches of London Bridge Station.

At the conclusion of the lecture, Laurence Rees (expert on the Second World War and producer of the BBC’s Auschwitz series) will lead a debate and question session between the audience and Sir Ian, which will feature in the programme.

Among those in the audience will be historians, students of history, journalists and other prominent academics.

'The OU wanted an intellectual event; a lecture by a renowned academic, made accessible and available by the expertise of the BBC. Sir Ian is a noted authority on Hitler, and we thought that this year, the sixtieth anniversary of Hitler’s death, was a good opportunity to re-evaluate his place in history.

“We hope that this will be the first of several OU lectures, which will take their place alongside such events as the Reith lectures and the Dimbleby lectures,” says Derek Matravers, Open University academic advisor to the Open University Annual Lecture.

Sir Ian, Professor of Modern History at Sheffield University, is widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

His magisterial two-volume biography of the dictator, Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis (Penguin, 1988, 2000), has redefined the way society looks at the darkest of eras.

He rejected the “great man” theory of history. Instead, he focused on the social climate which made Hitler possible - but also would help precipitate his eventual destruction. He was among the first scholars to debunk the myth of the highly organised party machine. Underlings and minions were given carte blanche for terror as they competed to win favour with Hitler.

First broadcast: Saturday 30 Apr 2005 on BBC FOUR


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