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Dave Wood's Book Report, Aug. 20, 2008

Here comes yet another book about Adolph Hitler. Hundreds have been written about the madman, scholars keep digging away to find even more about him.

This one's called "Killing Hitler," by Roger Moorhouse (Bantam, $25). I've read tons of Hitleriana, but I must say Moorhouse has convinced me that I've still missed a great deal.

Everyone's heard about the famous plot to kill Hitler during his trip to the Eastern Front, led by Claus von Stauffenberg. But there were many more, some political assassins, some apolitical assassins, the Polish Underground and even some of Hitler's close associates.

Perhaps the most interesting one Moorhouse dug up was Albert Speer, who talked about giving it a try when he testified at the Nurenberg trials. I thought I had carefully read Speer's memoirs, "Inside the Third Reich," written after he was released from prison. But apparently, I skipped a page or two!

At Nurenberg, Speer claimed that he thought about killing Hitler and his cronies by dropping poison gas into the ventilation system of the Reichschancellory. This comes as something of a surprise because Speer was one of Hitler's favorites, the architect who designed buildings to celebrate Germany's conquering of the world, etc.

So why didn't Speer do it? He told the prosecution he went up on the building's roof and discovered that the ventilation system had been reconfigured and that he would have to drop the gas from 10-foothigh chimneys. So he gave up.

Moorhouse relates that some of the more cynical prosecutors wondered if Germany had run out of ladders.

So to this day, scholars still wonder if Speer actually had planned such a coup, or had he made it all up to curry favor with the court.

At the end of "Walks on the Beach with Angie," by Don Warner (North Star Press, $30) the author asks an important question:

"Most of us have the opportunity to create our own legacy through our children, grandchildren, our vocation, our good works, and gifts of our time, talent and resources during our lives. [My daughter] Angie certainly left an indelible mark on those with whom she shared her life, but how does a 21-year-old person complete a legacy when her life has been cut short?"

Warner's answer to his question is multi-pronged.

After the Eden Prairie's businessman's daughter died of Cystic Fibrosis, he and his wife bore down on several fronts, establishing scholarship funds, a foundation in her honor, aid to cystic fibrosis research and his book, "Walks on the Beach," an inspirational account of his daughter Angie's life, her bravery in the face of adversity.

I've always been fascinated by mnemonic devices. Apparently so has children's author Brian P. Cleary, who has just published a book for kids, entitled "Mrs. Riley Bought Five Itchy Aardvarks and Other Painless Tricks for Memorizing Science Fact," illustrated by J.P. Sandy (Millbrook Press, $16.95 cloth).

So what about that title: It stands for the six major animal groups: Mammals, Reptiles, Birds, Fish, Insects, Amphibians. Cute, eh?

Here's another: "Mel's Very Excited Ma Just Served Us Nachos." Memorize that and it's a short step to remembering the planets in our solar system in order from the sun. Closest is Mercury.

Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. E-mail him at