Throughout the 1920s, German politician and activist Ernst Thälmann (1886--1944) was the leader of the largest Communist Party organization outside the Soviet Union. Thälmann was the most prominent left-wing politician in the country's 1932 election and ran third in the presidential race after Hitler and von Hindenberg. After the Nazi Party's victory in that contest, he was imprisoned and held in solitary confinement for eleven years before being executed at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944 under the Führer's direct orders.
Hitler's Rival examines how the Communist Party gradually transformed Thälmann into a fallen mythic hero, building a cult that became one of their most important propaganda tools in central Europe. Author Russel Lemmons analyzes the party intelligentsia's methods, demonstrating how they used various media to manipulate public memory and exploring the surprising ways in which they incorporated Christian themes into their messages. Examining the facts as well as the propaganda, this unique volume separates the intriguing true biography of the cult figure from the fantastic myth that was created around him.
"Lemmons has exhaustively researched the many and varied manifestations of the Thälmann myth, and he has found some fascinating material that breathes new life into the story. This book will likely be the last word and the standard work on the Thälmann myth and its role in East German history." -- Catherine Epstein, Amherst College
"Lemmons (Jacksonville State Univ.) analyzes in great detail the myth and legend that formed around Ernst Thalmann, who became the leader of the German COmmunist Party (KPD) in 1925 and was a dominant politician in Weimar Germany until imprisoned by the Nazis in 1933. This comprehensive study, which treats the years before the war ended for the first time, is thoroughly researched and well written; it will be a standard work on the subject." -- G. P. Blum, Professor Emeritus, University of the Pacific
"[...] Lemmons is to be congratulated for covering the entire period of German communism in a vast tranche of twentieth century history [....]
[...] Lemmons' use of the concept of 'political religions' is interesting and offers a post-structuralist angle to our understanding of German communism [....]
Thanks to Russel Lemmons' scholarly study, we now know just how central the myth was tolegitimizing the SED's rule. We can only hope that we know as much about the 'real' historical actor soon." -- International Newsletter of Communist Studies