Albert Speer

Cruelty and Collapse

The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 By Ian Kershaw (Penguin, 564 pp., $35) It can be harder to lose a war than to win one. Nazi Germany won quick victories in 1939 and 1940 against its eastern and western neighbors, Poland and France. Many Germans who had doubted the wisdom of war came around with enthusiasm to the sound of German boots on the Champs Elysées. Warsaw and Paris fell more quickly and with fewer complications than anticipated. Their conquest convinced many Germans, including army officers, that further campaigns could be won by strokes of genius.

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Mein Buch

Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life By Timothy W. Ryback ( Knopf, 304 pp., $24.95) Few buildings on Capitol Hill are grander than the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, with its great stairway, pillared façade, and magnificent domed reading room. And few rooms in that building seem more ordinary, even banal, than the rare book storage area where 1,200 books from the collection of Adolf Hitler stand tightly packed on steel shelves.

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Books: The Whole Horror

  The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 By Saul Friedlander (HarperCollins, 870 pp., $39.95) With the publication of The Years of Extermination, Saul Friedlander adds to his already well-established reputation as one of the world's pre-eminent historians of the Holocaust and of its place in modern European, German, and Jewish history.

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Pass the Fault

Ticket lines for movies are rare in Israel, and rarer still for features that have already been showing for five weeks, and unprecedented for a German production centered on the character of Adolf Hitler.

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Coming to grips with the master architect's politics.

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Big Ticket Item

When Clive Barnes saw the Kennedy Center for the first time, he rejoiced that New York no longer had the nation's ugliest opera house. Ada Louise Huxtable, the New York Times architecture critic, described the whole complex as "Washington superscale, but just a little bit bigger . . . . Albert Speer would have approved." It squats on the east bank of the Potomac glaring malevolently across the river at northern Virginia, as if at its next meal. Since it opened in 1971, the Kennedy Center has become a focal point of Washington life; it's hard to imagine what life here was like before.

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