A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler His Life and Legend
As His Associates Know Him
The picture the Nazi propaganda machine has painted of Hitler certainty seems like an extravagant one. Even if we ignore the deifying elements it seems like the fantasy of a superman - the paramount of all virtues. Extraordinary as it may seem, however, there are times at which he approximates such a personality and wins the respect and admiration of all his associates.
At such times he is a veritable demon for for work and often works for several days on end with little or no sleep. His powers of concentration are extraordinary and he is able to penetrate complex problems and reduce them to a few simple, fundamental factors. He prides himself on this talent and has said to various people:
And he really has it. Unencumbored with abstract theories or traditional points of view and prejudices he is able to look at complex problems in a rather naive way and pick out the most salient and significant elements and apply them to the present situation in a fairly simple and workable manner. To be sure, he never solves the entire problem in this way but only the human elements involved. Since this is the part which interests him most and produces immediate results, it has been rated very highly and has won the admiration of his close associates from the earliest days of his political career.
During these periods of activity Hitler is wholly consumed by the task confronting him. He has an amazing power of concentration. His judgements are quick and decisive. He is impatient to get things done and expects everyone to apply himself with an ardor equal to his own. He, therefore, demands great sacrifices from his associates.
At such times, however, he is also very human. He shows an unusual degree of considerateness towards them and a certain tolerance of their weaknesses. When he calls a halt for meals he will not eat until his entire staff has been served. When an overzealous servant insists on serving him before others he will often get up and take the plate over to one of his lowly assistants. During all of this he is in the best of spirit and jokes with everyone around him.
He has an extraordinary memory and continuously recalls amusing incidents from the past lives of those around him. These he tells to his staff at large. He is an excellent mimic and often plays out the roles of the individual involved to the great amusement of the staff while the individual must sit by and witness the performance much to his own embarassment. Nevertheless he is thoroughly flattered that the Fuehrer should single him out and remember in such detail. During these periods Hitler is also the soul of kindliness and generosity. He acts more like a big brother to his staff than as a Fuehrer and manages to endear himself to each and every one of them.
But, underneath, he is every inch the Fuehrer. He displays extraordinary courage and determination. He shows a great deal of initiative and is willing to assume full responsibility for the wisdom of the course he has mapped out. He is very persuasive and is able to muster and organize his people into an efficient smooth-running unit. Personal frictions disappear, for the time being, and everybody has a single thought in mind: To do what the Fuehrer wishes.
He works with great certainly and security and appears to have the situation entirely in hand. All kinds of facts and figures relevant to the problem flow from him without the slightest hesitation or effort, much to the amazement of those about him. He can cite the tonnages of ships in various navies:
Then, too, his staff has learned from past experience, that when Hitler is in one of these moods he approximates infallibility particularly when the support of the people is needed to carry through the project on which he is engaged. This may seem like an unwarranted statement but, if our study is to be complete, we must appraise his strengths as well as his weaknesses. It can scarcely be denied that he has some extraordinary abilities where the psychology of the average man is concerned. He has been able, in some manner or other, to unearth and apply successfully many factors pertaining to group psychology, the importance of which has not been generally recognized and some of which we might adopt to good advantage. These might be briefly summarized as follows:
(1) Full appreciation of the importance of the masses in the success of any movement. Hitler has phrased this rather well in MEIN KAMPF:
(2) Recognition of the inestimable value of winning the support of youth; realization of the immense momentum given a social movement by the wild fervor and enthusiasm of young people as well as the importance of early training and indoctrination.
(3) Recognition of the role of women in advancing a new movement and of the fact that the reactions of the masses as a whole have many feminine characteristics. As early as 1923, he said to Hanfstaengl (902):
And in MEIN KAMPF, he writes:
(4) The ability to feel, identify with and express in passionate language the deepest needs and sentiments of the average German and present opportunities or possibilities for their gratification.
(5) Capacity to appeal to the most primitive, as well as the most ideal inclinations in man, to arouse the basest instincts and yet cloak them with nobility, justifying all actions as means to the attainment of an ideal goal. Hitler realized that men will not combine and dedicate the,selves to a common purpose unless this purpose be an ideal one capable of survival beyond their generation. He has also perceived that although men will die only for an ideal their continued zest and enterprise can be maintained only by a succession of more immediate and earthly satisfactions.
(6) Appreciation of the fact that the masses are as hungry for a sustaining ideology in political action as they are for daily bread. Any movement which does not satisfy this spiritual hunger in the masses will not mobilize their whole-hearted support and is destined to fail.
(7) The ability to portray conflicting human forces in vivid, concrete imagery that is understandable and moving to the ordinary man. This comes down to the use of metaphors in the form of imagery which, as Aristotle has said, is the most powerful force on earth.
(8) The faculty of drawing on the traditions of the people and by reference to the great classical mythological themes evoke the deepest unconscious emotions of the audience. The fact that the unconscious mind is more intensely affected by the great eternal symbols and themes is not generally understood by most modern speakers and writers.
(9) Realization that enthusiastic political action does not take place if the emotions are not deeply involved.
(10) Appreciation of the willingness, almost desire, of the masses to sacrifice themselves on the altar of social improvement or spiritual values.
(11) Realization of the importance of artistry and dramatic intensity in conducting large meetings, rallies and festivals. This involved not only an appreciation of what the artist - the writer, musician and painter - can accomplish in the way of evoking emotional responses but also the leader's recognition of the necessity of his participation in the total dramatic effect as chief character and hero. Hitler has become master of all the arts of high-lighting his own role in the movement for a Greater Germany. Shirer (157) describes this very well:
(12) A keen appreciation of the value of slogans, catchwords, dramatic phrases and [unreadable] epigrams in penetrating the deeper levels of the psyche. In speaking to Hanfstaengl on this point he once used the following figure of speech:
(13) Realization of a fundamental loneliness and feeling of isolation in people living under modern conditions and a craving to "belong" to an active group which carries a certain status, provides cohesiveness and gives the individual a feeling of personal worth and belongingness.
(14) Appreciation of the value underlying a hierarchical political organization which affords direct contact with each individual.
(15) Ability to surround himself with and maintain the allegiance of a group of devoted aides whose talents complement his own.
(16) Appreciation of winning confidence from the people by a show of efficiency within the organization and government. It is said that foods and supplies are already in the local warehouses when the announcement concerning the date of distribution is made. Although they could be distributed immediately the date is set for several weeks ahead in order to create an impression of super-efficiency and win the confidence of the people. Every effort is made to avoid making a promise which cannot be fulfilled at precisely the appointed time.
(17) Appreciation of the important role played by little things which affect the everyday life of the ordinary man in building up and maintaining the morale of the people.
(18) Full recognition of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people want to be led and are ready and willing to submit if the leader can win their respect and confidence. Hitler has been very successful in this respect because he has been able to convince his followers of his own self-confidence and because he has guessed right on so many occasions that he has created the impression of infallibility.
(19) This was largely possible because he is so naturally a tactical genius. His timing of decisions and actions has almost been uncanny. As Thyssen puts it:
(20) Hitler's strongest point is, perhaps, his firm belief in his mission and, in public, the complete dedication of his life to its fulfillment. It is the spectacle of a man whose convictions are so strong that he sacrifices himself for the cause which appeals to and is able to arouse similar convictions in others that induces them to follow his example. This demands a fanatical stubbornness which Hitler possesses to a high degree.
(21) He also has the ability to appeal to and arouse the sympathetic concern and protectiveness of his people, to represent himself as the bearer of their burdens and their future, with the result that he becomes a personal concern to individuals and many, particularly the women, feel tenderly and compassionately about him. They must always be careful not to inflict undue annoyance or suffering on the Fuehrer.
(22) Hitler's ability to repudiate his own conscience in arriving at political decisions has eliminated the force which usually checks and complicates the forward-going thoughts and resolutions of most socially responsible statesmen. He has, therefore, been able to take that course of action which appeals to him as most effective without pulling his punches. The result has been that he has frequently outwitted his adversaries and attained ends which would not have been as easily attained by a normal course. Nevertheless, it has helped to build up thte myth of his infallibility and invincibility.
(23) Equally important has been his ability to persuade others to repudiate their individual consciences and assume that role himself. He can then decree for the individual what is right and wrong, permissible or impermissible and can use them freely in the attainment of his own ends. As Goering has said: "I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolph Hitler."
(24) This has enabled Hitler to make full use of terror and mobilize the fears of the people which he evaluated with an almost uncanny precision.
(25) He has the capacity for learning from others even though he may be violently opposed to everything they believe and stand for. The use of terror, for example, he says he learned from the Communists, the use of slogans from the Catholic Church, the use of propaganda from the democracies, etc.
(26) He is a master of the art of propaganda. Ludecke writes:
His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
(27) He has the "never say die" spirit. After some of his severest set-backs he has been able to get his immediate associates together and begin making plans for a "come-back". Events which would crush most individuals, at least temporarily, seem to act as stimulants to greater efforts in Hitler.
These are some of Hitler's outstanding talents and capacities. They have enabled him to attain a position of unprecedented power in an incredibly short perios of time, over a rarely used route. No other Nazi in a high position possesses these abilities in any comparable degree and consequently they could not displace him in the minds of the masses.
His associates recognize these capacities in Hitler and they admire and respect his extraordinary leadership qualities, particularly the influence he has over people. In addition they love him for his very human qualities when he is at his best and is engaged in some important undertaking. These are aspects of Hitler's personality we should never lose sight of when evaluating his hold on his associates or on the German people. He has a magnetic quality about him which, together with his past accomplishments, wins the allegiance of people and seems to rob them of their critical functions. It is a bond which does not easily dissolve even in the face of evidence that he is not always what he pretends to be - in fact is more often than not, the exact opposite.
We have reviewed Hitler's strength and briefly portrayed his character when he is at his best. It is now time to look at the other side of his personality - the side which is known only to those who are on fairly intimate terms with him.
Perhaps the truest words that Goebbels ever wrote are:
If we glance at his boyhood we find that Hitler was far from a model student. He studied what he wanted to study and did fairly well in these subjects. Things which did not interest him he simply ignored even though his marks were "unsatisfactory" or "failing". For over a year before his mother died, he did nothing, as far as can be determined, expect lie around the house or occasionally painting a few water-colors. Although they were in difficult financial circumstances he did not seek work or try to improve himself in school. He was self-willed, shy and inactive.
In Vienna, after his mother died, he continued this pattern even though he was frequently on the verge of starvation and reduced to begging on the streets. Hanisch, who was his flop-house buddy, reports that "he was never an ardent worker, was unable to get up in the morning, had difficulty in getting started and seemed to be suffering from a paralysis of the will." As soon as he had sold a picture and had a little money in his pocket he stopped work and spent time listening to parliament, reading newspapers in the cafes, or delivering lengthy political dissertations to his fellows in the hostel. This behavior he justified on the grounds that "he must have leisure, he was not a coolie." When Hanisch asked him one day what he was waiting for, Hitler replied: "I don't know myself."
As an adult he is still this little boy when he is not in one of his active moods. In 1931 Billing wrote:
Ludecke (168) also wrote:
It was indeed so apparent that early in the history of the movement the party engaged a secretary whose duty it was to keep track of Hitler and see to it that he fulfilled his duties and obligations. The move was only partially successful, however; "Hitler was always on the go but rarely on time" (Ludecke, 168). He is still rarely on time and frequently keeps important foreign diplomats, as well as his own staff, waiting for considerable periods of time.
He is unable to maintain any kind of a working schedule. His hours are most irregular and he may go to bed any time between midnight and seven o'clock in the morning and get up anywhere from nine o'clock in the morning and two in the afternoon. In later years the hours tended to get later and it was unusual, just before the war, for him to go to bed before daybreak. The night, however, was not spent in working as his propaganda agents allege, but in viewing one or two feature movies, endless newsreels, listening to music, entertaining film stars or just sitting around chatting with his staff.
He seemed to have a violent dislike for going to bed or being alone. Frequently, he would ring for his adjutants in the middle of the night after his guests had gone home and demand that they sit up and talk to him. It was not that he had anything to say and often the adjutants would fall asleep listening to him talk about nothing of importance. As long as one of them remained awake, however, he would not be offended. There was an unwritten law among his immediate staff never to ask a question at these early morning sessions because to do so might get Hitler off on another subject and force them to remain for another hour.
Hitler sleeps very badly and has been in the habit for some years of taking a sleeping powder every night before retiring. It is possible that he demands someone to be with him in the hope that the powder will take effect and he will be overcome with sleep. His behavior, however, is not in keeping with this hypothesis for he carries on a monologue and frequently gets very much stirred up about the topic.
This is hardly conducive to sleep and we must suppose that there is some other reason for his late hours. Even after he has dismissed his adjutant and goes to bed he usually takes an armful of illustrated periodicals with him. These are usually magazines with pictures concerning naval and military matters and American magazines are usually included. Shirer (280) reports that he has been informed that since the war broke out Hitler has been keeping better hours and regularly has his first breakfast at seven A.M. and his second breakfast at nine A.M. This may have been so during the early days of the war but it is very doubtful that Hitler could keep up this schedule for any length of time.
Rauschning (275) claims that Hitler has a bed compulsion which demands that the bed be made in a particular way with the quilt folded according to a proscribed pattern and that a man must make the bed, before he can go to sleep. We have no other information on this subject but from his general psychological structure such a compulsion would be possible.
His working day before the war was equally disorderly. Rauschning reports, "he does not know how to work steadily. Indeed, he is incapable of working." He dislikes desk work and seldom glances at the piles of reports which are placed on his desk daily. No matter how important these may be or how much his adjutants may urge him to attend to the particular matter, he refuses to take them seriously unless it happens to be a project which interests him. On the whole, few reports interest him unless they deal with military or naval affairs or political matters. He seldom sits in a cabinet meeting because they bore him. On several occasions when sufficient pressure was brought to bear he did attend but got up abruptly during the session and left without apology. Later it was discovered that he had gone to his private theater and had the operator show some film that he particularly liked. On the whole, he prefers to discuss cabinet matters with each member in person and then communicate his decision to the group as a whole.
He has a passion for the latest news and for photographs of himself. If Hoffmann, the official Party photographer, happens to appear or someone happens to enter his office with a newspaper he will interrupt the most inportant meeting in order to scan through them Very frequently he becomes so absorbed in the news or in his own photographs that he completely forgets the topic under discussion. Ludecke (165) writes:
And Hanfstaengl reports that "his staff is usually in despair on account of his procrastination.... He never takes their protests in this respect very seriously and usually brushes them aside by saying, 'Problems are not solved by getting fidgety. If the time is ripe, the matter will be settled one way or another.'" (899)
Although Hitler tries to present himself as a very decisive individual who never hesitates when he is confronted by a difficult situation, he is usually far from it. It is at just these times that his procrastionation becomes most marked. At such times it is almost impossible to get him to take action on anything. He stays very much by himself and is frequently almost inaccessible to his immediate staff. He often becomes depressed, is in bad humor, talks little, and prefers to read a book, look at movies or play with architectural models. According to the Dutch report (656) his hesitation to act is not due to divergent views among his advisors. At such times, he seldom pays very much attention to them and prefers not to discuss the matter.
On some occasions he has been known to leave Berlin without a word and go to Berchtesgaden where he spends his time walking in the country entirely by himself. Rauschning, who has met him on such occasions, says:
Roehm (176) frequently said, "Usually he solves suddenly, at the very last minute, a situation that has become intolerable and dangerous only because he vacillates and procrastinates."
It is during these periods of inactivity that Hitler is waiting for his "inner voice" to guide him. He does not think the problem through in a normal way but waits until the solution is presented to him. To Rauschning he said:
These periods of indecision may last from a few days to several weeks. If he is induced to talk about the problem-solving this time he becomes ill-natured and bad-tempered. However, when the solution has been given to him he has a great desire to express himself. He then calls in his adjutants and they must sit and listen to him until he is finished no matter what time it happens to be. On these occasions he does not want them to question him or even to understand him. It seems that he just wants to talk.
After this recital to his adjutants Hitler calls in his advisers and informs them of his decision. When he has finished they are free to express their opinions. If Hitler thinks that one of these opinions is worthwhile he will listen for a long time but usually these opinions have little influence on his decision when this stage has been reached. Only if someone succeeds in introducing new factors is there any possibility of getting him to change his mind. If someone voices the opinion that the proposed plan is too difficult or onerous he becomes extremely angry and frequently says:
As soon as he has the solution to a problem his mood changes very radically. He is again the Fuehrer we have described at the beginning of this section.
This mood lasts throughout the period when necessary work has been done. As soon as the requisite orders have bean given to put the plan into execution, however, Hitler seems to lose interest in it. He becomes perfectly calm, ocoupies himself with other matters and sleeps unusually long hours. (654)
This is a very fundamental trait in Hitler's character structure. He does not think things out in a logical and consistent fashion, gathering all available information pertinent to the problem, mapping out alternative courses of action and then weighing the evidence pro and con for each of them before reaching a decision. His mental processes operate in reverse. Instead of studying the problem as an intellectual would do he avoids it and occupies himself with other things until unconscious processes furnish him with a solution.
Having the solution he then begins to look for facts which will prove that it is correct. In this procedure he is very clever and by the time he presents it to his associates, it has the appearance of a rational judgment. Nevertheless, his thought processes proceed from the emotional to the factual instead of starting with the facts as an intellectual normally does. It is this characteristic of his thinking process which makes it difficult for ordinary people to understand Hitler or to predict his future actions. His orientation in this respect is that of an artist and not that of a statesman.
Although Hitler has been extremely successful in using this inspirational technique in determining his course of action (and we are reminded of his following his course with the precision of a sleep-walker) it is not without its shortcomings. He becomes dependent on his inner guide which makes for unpredictability on the one hand and rigidity on the other. The result is that he cannoy modify his course in the face of unexpected developments or firm opposition. Strasser (297) tells us that:
And Roehm says that there is:
This rigidity of mental functioning is obvious even in ordinary everyday interviews. When an unexpected question is asked, he is completely at a loss. Lochner (154) supplies us with an excellent description of this reaction:
Almost everyone who has written about Hitler has commented on his rages. These are well known to all of his associates and they have learned to fear them. The descriptions of his behavior during these rages vary considerably. The more extreme descriptions claim that at the climax he rolls on the floor and chews on the carpets. Shirer (279) reports that in 1938 he did this so often that his associates frequently referred to him as "Teppichfresser". Not one of our informants who has been close to Hitler, people like Hanfstaengl, Strasser, Rauschning, Hohenlohe, Friedelinde Wagner, and Ludecke, have ever seen him behave in this manner. Moreover they all are firmly convinced that this is a gross exaggeration and the informant of the Dutch Legation (655) says that this aspect must be relegated to the domain of "Greuelmaerchen."
Even without this added touch of chewing the carpet, his behavior is still extremely violent and shows an utter lack of emotional control. In the worst rages he undoubtedly acts like a spoiled child who cannot have his own way and bangs his fists on the tables and walls. He scolds and shouts and stammers and on some occasions foaming saliva gathers in the corners of his mouth. Rauschning, in describing one of these uncontrolled exhibitions, says:
It must not be supposed, however, that these rages occur only when he is crossed on major issues. On the contrary, very insignificant matters might call out this reaction. In general they are brought on whenever anyone contradicts him, when there is unpleasant news for which he might feel responsible, when there is any skepticism concerning his judgment or when a situation arises in which his infallibility might be challenged or belittled. Von Weigand (492) reports that among his staff there is a tactic [sic] understanding:
Voigt (591) says that:
Many writers believe that these rages are just play acting. There is much to be said for this point of view since Hitler's first reaction to the unpleasant situation is not indignation, as one would ordinarily expect under these circumstances. He goes off into a rage or tirade without warning. Similarly, when he has finished, there is no aftermath. He immediately cools down and begins to talk about other matters in a perfectly calm tone of voice as though nothing had happened. Occasionally he will look around sheepishly, as if to see if anyone is laughing, and then proceeds with other matters, without the slightest trace of resentment.
Some of his closest associates have felt that he induces these rages consciously to frighten those about him. Rauschning (261), for example, says it is a:
Strasser (377) also believes this to be the case for he says:
This is not the time to enter into a detailed discussion concerning the nature and purpose of the rages. It is sufficient, for the present time, to realize that his associates are well aware that Hitler can and does behave in this way. It is a part of the Hitler they know and are forced to deal with. We may point out, however, that they are not conscious acting alone since it is quite impossible for an actor to actually become purple in the face unless he really is in an emotional state.
There are many other aspects of Hitler's personality, as it is known to his associates, which do not fit into the picture of the Fuehrer as it is presented to the German people. A few of the more important of these merit mention. Hitler is represented as a man of great courage, with nerves of steel who always is in complete control of every situation. Nevertheless, he often runs away from an unpleasant, unexpected or difficult situation.
Bayles (2) reports two incidents that illustrate this reaction:
This type of behavior is illustrated even more clearly in relation to Gregor Strasser because the occasion was one of extreme importance to Hitler. Strasser threatened to split the Party if a definite program could not be agreed upon. Hitler avoided the situation as long as he possibly could in the hope that something might happen, that the situation would somehow solve itself. When it did not he agreed to Strasser's demand for a meeting in Leipzig at which their differences could be thrashed out. Strasser was in the restaurant at the appointed hour. Hitler came late. Hardly had he sat down to the table when he excused himself in order to go to the toilet. Strasser waited for some time and when Hitler did not return he began making inquiries. To his amazement he discovered that instead of going to the toilet Hitler had slipped out of the back door and driven back to Munich without discussing a single point. (378)
Heiden (527) also tells us that in 1923 he was in conference with Ludendorff when he suddenly rushed off without as much as an apology. In the spring of 1932 he ran out on a meeting of the Verband Bayrischer Industrieller before which he was to speak. This group was not kindly disposed to him but it was important for Hitler to win them over. He got up to speak:
The same thing happened a year later when, as Chancellor, he was to speak to the Reichsverband der Deutschen Presse, Again he sensed opposition in the group and again he fled from the scene, Olde(611) says:
At other times, when he finds himself in difficult situations, the great dictator who prides himself on his decisiveness, hardness and other leadership qualities, breaks down and weeps like a child appealing for sympathy. Raischning (267) writes:
Otto Strasser reports that on one occasion:
Heiden (280) reporting a scene at which the Party leaders were waiting for the arrival of gregor Strasser:
In extremely difficult situations he had openly threatened to commit suicide. Sometimes it seems that he uses this as a form of blackmail while at other times the situation seems to be more than he can bear. During the Beer Hall Putsch he said to the officials he was holding as prisoners:
He also threatened to commit suicide before Mrs. Hanfstaengl directly after the failure of the Putsch, while he was hiding from the police in the Hanfstaengl home. Again in Landsberg he went on a hunger strike and threatened to martyr himself - an imitation of the Mayor of Cork. In 1930, he threatened to commit suicide after the strange murder of his niece, Geli, (302) of whom we shall speak later. In 1932, he again threatened to carry out this action if Strasser split the (98) Party. In 1933 he threatened to do so if he was not appointed Chancellor (63), and in 1936, he promised to do so if the Occupation of the Rhineland failed. (255)
These, however, are relatively infrequent exhibitions although his associates have learned that they are always a possibility and that it is wise not to push the Fuehrer too far. More frequent are his depressions about which a great deal has been written. It is certain that he does have very deep depressions from time to time. During his years in Vienna (1907-1912), after his mother's death, he undoubtedly suffered from them a great deal. Hanisch reports (64):
It is probably also true that he suffered from depressions during the war as Mend (199) reports.
After the death of his niece, Geli (193O), he also went into a severe depression which lasted for some time. Gregor Strasser actually feared that he might cnmmit suicide during this period and stayed with him for several days. There is some evidence (Strasser, 302) that he actually tried to do so and was prevented from carrying it out. It is also interesting to note that for several years after her death he went into a depression during the Christmas holidays and wandered around Germamy alone for days on end (957).
Rauschning gives us a vivid description of his condition after the Blood Purge of 1934. He writes (716):
These are major crises in his life and we can assume that they probably represent his worst depressions. Undoubtedly he very frequently has minor ones when he withdraws from his associates and broods by himself, or periods when he refuses to see anyone and is irritable and impatient with those around him. On the whole, however, it appears that the reports of Hitler' s depressions have been grossly exaggerated. Not one of our informants who has had close contact with him has any knowledge of his ever retiring to a sanatarium during such times and there is only one source which indicates that he ever sought psychiatric help and that was not accepted. We must assume that the many reports that have flourished in the newspapers have been plants by the Nazi Propaganda agencies to lure us into false expectations.
There are a number of other respects in which Hitler does not appear before his associates as the self-confident Fuehrer he likes to believe himself to be. One of the most marked of these is his behavior in the presence of accepted authority. Under these circumstances he is obviously nervous and very ill at ease. Many times he is downright submissive. As far back as 1923, Ludecke (166) reports that:
Fromm (371) writes that at a dinner:
On his visit to Rome, Hues (408) writes:
To Hindenburg, he was extremely submissive. Pictures taken of their meetings illustrate his attitude very clearly. In some of them it looks almost as though he were about to kiss the President's hand. Flannery (698) also reports that when Hitler first met Petain he took him by the arm and escorted him to his car. Hanfstaengl (912) reports that he found Hitler outside the door of the banquet hall in which a dinner and reception were being given to the former Kaiser's wife. He was unable to bring himself to go in and meet her Highness alone. When Hanfstaengl finally persuaded Hitler to go in he was so ill at ease that he could only stammer a few words to Hermine and then excused himself. Many other examples could be cited. From the weight of evidence it seems certain that Hitler does lose his self-confidence badly when he is brought face to face with an accepted authority of high standing, particularly royalty.
This subservient attitude is also obvious in his use of titles. This is well described by Lania (148) reporting on Hitler' s trial:
Many others have also commented on this tendency to use the full title. It also fits in with his very submissive behavior to his officers during the last war which has been commented upon by several of his comrades. It seems safe to assume that this is a fundamental trait in his character which becomes less obvious as he climbs the ladder but is present nevertheless.
The Fuehrer is also ill at ease in the company of diplomats and avoids contact with them as much as possible. Fromm (369) describes his behavior at a diplomatic dinner in the following words:
Henderson (124) writes:
Hitler also becomes nervous and tends to lose his composure when he has to meet newspapermen. Being a genius of propaganda he realizes the power of the press in influencing public opinion and he always provides the press with choice seats at all ceremonies. When it comes to interviews, however, he feels himself on the defensive and insists that the questions be submitted in advance. When the interview takes place he is able to maintain considerable poise because he has his answers prepared. Even then he gives no opportunity to ask for further clarification because he immediately launches into a lengthy dissertation, which sometimes develops into a tirade. When this is finished, the interview is over (0echsner, 665).
He is also terrified when he is called upon to speak to intellectuals (Wagner, 487) or any group in which he feels opposition or the possibility of criticism.
Hitler's adjustment to people in general is very poor. He is not really on intimate terms with any of his associates. Hess is the only associate, with the possible exception of Streicher, who has ever had the privilege of addressing him with the familiar "Du". Even Goering, Goebbels and Himmler must address him with the more formal "Sie" although each of them would undoubtedly be willing to sacrifice his right hand for the privilege of addressing him in the informal manner. It is true that outside of his official family there are a few people in Germany, notably Mrs. Bechstein and the Winifred Wagner family who address him as "Du" and call him by his nickname, "Wolf", but even these are few and far between. On the whole, he always maintains a considerable distance from other people. Ludecke, who was very close to him for a while, writes:
And Fry (577) says:
It is well-known that he cannot carry on a normal conversation or discussion with people. Even if only one person is present he must do all the talking. His manner of speech soon loses any conversational qualities it might have had and takes on all the characteristics of a lecture and may easily develop into a tirade. He simply forgets his companions and behaves as though he were addressing a multitude. Strasser (297) has given a good, brief description of his manner:
This is not only true in connection with political matters. Even when he is alone with his adjutants or immediate staff and tries to be friendly he is unable to enter into give-and-take conversation. At times he scans to want to get closer to people and relates personal experiences, such as, "When I was in Vienna," or "When I was in the Army,". But under these circumstances, too, he insists on doing all the talking and always repeats the same stories over and over again in exactly the same form, almost as though he had memorized them. The gist of most of these stories is contained in MEIN KAMPF. His friends have all heard them dozens of times but this does not deter him from repeating them again with great enthusiasm. Nothing but the most superficial aspects of these experiences are ever touched upon. It seems as though he is unable to give more of himself than that (Hanfstaengl, 898).
Price (230) says: "When more than two people are present, even though they are his intimate circle, there is no general discourse. Either Hitler talks and they listen, or else they talk among themselves and Hitler sits silent." And this is the way it seems to be. He is not at all annoyed when members of the group talk to each other unless of course he feels like doing the talking himself. But ordinarily he seem to enjoy listening to others while he makes believe that he is attending to something else. Nevertheless, he overhears everything which is being said and often uses it later on. (Hanfstaengl, 914) However, he does not give credit to the individual from whom he has learned it and simply gives it out as his own.
Rauschning (266) says:
Roehm also complained of this:
Another one of his tricks which drives people and particularly his associates to distraction is his capacity for forgetting. This trait has been commented upon so much that it scarcely needs mentioning here. We all know how he can say something one day and a few days later say the opposite, completely oblivious to his earlier statement. He does not only do this in connection with international affairs but also with his closest associates. When they show their dismay and call his attention to the inconsistency he flies off into a rage and demands to know if the other person thinks he is a liar. Evidently the other leading Nazis have also learned the trick, for Rauschning (266) says:
Although Hitler almost invariably introduces a few humorous elements into his speeches and gives the impression of considerable wit, he seems to lack any real sense of humor. He can never take a joke on himself. Heyst (600) says, "He is unable to purify his gloomy self with self-irony and humor." Von Wiegand (492) says he is extremely sensitive to ridicule and Huss says (408) "He takes himself seriously and will flare up in a tempermental rage at the least impingement by act or attitude on the dignity and holiness of state and Fuehrer." When everything is going well he sometimes gets into a gay and whimsical mood in a circle of close friends. His humor then is confined almost wholly to a kind of teasing or ribbing. The ribbing is usually in connection with alleged love affairs of his associates but are never vulgar and only hint at sexual factors (Hanfstaengl 910). Friedelinde Wagner provides us with an example of his teasing. Goering and Goebbels were both present at the time that he said to the Wagner family:
His other form of humor is mimicking. Almost everyone concedes that he has great talent along these lines and he frequently mimics his associates in their presence much to the amusement of everyone except the victim. He also loved to mimic Sir Eric Phipps and later Chamberlain.
Hitler's poor adaptation to people is perhaps most obvious in his relations to women. Since he has become a political figure, his name has been linked with a great many women, particularly in the foreign press. Although the German public seem to know very little about this phase of his life, his associates have seen a great deal of it and the topic is always one for all kinds of conjectures. Roughly speaking, his relations to women fall into three categories; (a) much older women; (b) actresses and passing fancies, and (c) more or less enduring relationships.
A. As early as 1920 Frau Carola Hofman, a 61 year old widow, took him under her wing and for years played the part of foster mother. Then came Frau Helena Bechstein, the wife of the famous Berlin piano manufacturer, who took over the role. She spent large quantities of money on Hitler in the early days of the party, introduced him to her social circle and lavished maternal affection on hm, She often said that she wished that Hitler were her son and while he was imprisoned in Landsberg she claimed that she was his adopted mother in order that she fight visit him. Strasser (300) says that Hitler would often sit at her feet and lay his head against her bosom while she stroked his hair tenderly and murmured, "Mein Woelfchen".
Since he came to power things have not gone so smoothly. She seemed to find fault with everything he did and would scold him unmercifully, even in public. According to Friedelinde Wagner (939) she is the one person in Germany who can carry on a monologue in Hitler' s presence and who would actually tell him what she thought. During these violent'scoldings Hitler would stand there like an abashed schoolboy who had committed a misdemeanor. According to Hanfstaengl, Mrs. Bechstein had groomed Hitler in the expectation that he would marry her daughter, Lottie, who was far from attractive. Out of sense of obligation, Hitler did ask Lottie, but was refused, (904). Mrs. Bechstein was disconsolate over the failure of her plans and began to criticize Hitler's social reforms as well as his actions. Nevertheless, Hitler mde duty calls fairly regularly even though he postponed them as long as possible (939).
Then there was also Frau Victoria von Dirksen, who is alleged to have spent a fortune on him and his career (554), and a number of others. In more recent years, Mrs. Goebbels has taken over the role of foster-mother and looks after his comforts, supervises his household and bakes delicacies of which he is particularly fond. She, too, has been acting as a matchmaker in the hope that he might marry one of her friends and thereby draw the bond between them even tighter. To Ludecke, (177) she complained, "I am no good as a matchmaker. I would leave him alone with my most charming friesnds but he wouldn't respond." There was also his older half-sister, Angela, who kept house for him at Munich and Berchtesgaden and, for a time, seemed to play a mother's role.
Winifred Wagner, the daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner, has also caused a great deal of comment. She is English by birth, and, from all accounts, is very attractive and about Hitler's own age. She met Hitler in the early 1920's and since that time has been one of his staunch supporters. He became a frequent visitor at the Wagner home in Bayreuth and after his accession to power, built a house on the Wagner estate for himself and his staff. After the death. of Siegfried Wagner, reports all over the world had it that she would become Hitler's wife. But nothing happened in spite of the fact that it seemed like an ideal union from the point of view of both parties.
Nevertheless, Hitler continued to be a frequent guest at the Wagner's. It probably was the nearest thing to a home he has known since his own homebroke up in 1907. Mrs. Wagner undoubtedly did everything in her power to make him comfortable and Hitler felt very much at home. There were three small children, a boy and two girls (one of them is our informant, Friedelinde) which added considerably to the home atmosphere. The entire family called him by his nickname "Wolf" and addressed him as "Du". He felt so secure in this house that he often came and stayed without his bodyguard. He sometimes spent his Christmas holidays with the family and became very much a part of it. But further than that he was unwilling to go, even though the marriage would have been exceedingly popular with the German people.
B. Then there were a long line of 'passing fancies'. For the most part these were screen and stage stars. Hitler likes to be surrounded with pretty women and usually requests the moving picture companies to send over a number of actresses whenever there is a party in the Chancellory. He seems to get an extraordinary delight in fascinating these girls with stories about what he is going to do in the future or the same old stories about his past life. He also likes to impress them with his power by ordering the studios to provide them with better roles, or promising that he will see to it that they are starred in some forthcoming picture. Most of his associations with women of this type, and their number, is legion, does not go beyond this point as far as we have been able to discover. On the whole he seems, to feel more comfortable in the company of stage people than with any other group and often came down to the studio restaurants for lunch.
C. There have been several other women who have played a more or less important role in Hitler's life. The first of which we have any knowledge was Henny Hoffmann, the daughter of the official party photographer. Henny, according to reports, was little more than a prostitute and spent most of her time among the students in Munich, who alleged that she could be had for a few marks. Heinrich Hoffmann, her father, was a member of the Party and a closet friend of Hitler. By a queer twist of Fate, Hoffmann had taken a picture of the crowds in Munich at the outbreak of the last war. Later, when Hitler became prominent in Munich politics, Hoffmann discovered Hitler in the picture and called it to his attention. Hitler was delighted and a close relationship sprung up between them. Hoffmann' s wife was also very fond of Hitler and played a mother role towards him for a time.
With the death of Mrs. Hoffmann, the home went to pieces from a moral point of view and became a kind of meeting place for homosexuals of both sexes. There was a good deal of drinking and great freedom in sexual activities of all kinds. Hitler was frequently present at parties given in the Hoffmann home and became very friendly with Hermy. The relationship continued for some time until Henny, who was a very garrulous person by nature, got drunk one night and began to talk about her relationship to Hitler. Her father became enraged and for a time had little to do with Hitler.
Up to this time Hitler had steadfastly refused to have his photograph taken for publication on the grounds that it was better publicity to remain a mystery man and also because if his picture appeared it would be too easy to identify him when he crossed Communist territories. Shortly after the above described episode, Hitler named Hoffmann as the official Party photographer and gave him the exclusive right to his photographs. These privileges, so it is alleged, have, in the course of years netted Hoffmann millions of dollars. Among Hitler's associates, it was supposed that Hitler had committed some kind of sexual indiscretion with Henny and had bought Hoffmann's silence by granting him these exclusive rights.
In any event, Henny was soon married to Baldur von Schirach, the Leader of the Nazi Youth Movement who is reputed to be a homosexual. His family were violently opposed to the marriage but Hitler insisted. All differences between Hitler and Hoffmann seem to have disappeared and today he is one of Hitler's closest associates and exerts a great personal influence on the Fuehrer. We shall consider the nature of Hitler's indiscretion later in our study since it is not a matter of common knowledge and would lead us too far afield at the present time.
After the Henny Hoffmann episode, Hitler began to appear in public with his niece, Geli, the daughter of his half-sister, Angela, who had come to keep house for Hitler in 1924. At the time this relationship matured her mother had gone to Berchtesgaden and Hitler and Geli were living alone in his Munich flat. They became inseparable companions and became the subject of much comment in Party circles. Many of the members, particularly Gregor Strasser, felt that this was poor publicity and was creating a good deal of unfavorable talk. Other members had Hitler brought on the carpet to explain where he was getting the money to clothe Geli and sport her around if he was not using Party funds for this purpose.
Hitler became very jealous of Geli's attention and refused to let her go out with any other men. Some claim that he kept her locked in during the day when he could not take her with him. For several years the relationship continued over the opposition of the Party. Then one day Geli was found dead in Hitler's apartment - she had died from a bullet fired from Hitler's revolver. There was considerable commotion. The coroner's verdict was suicide but Geli was buried in hallowed ground by a Catholic clergy. There was much speculation whether she killed herself or was killed by Hitler. Whatever the facts my be, Hitler went into a profound depression which lasted for months. During the first days after the funeral, Gregor Strasser remained with him in order to prevent him from committing suicide. Ludecke (178) says: "The special quality of Hitler's affection (for Geli) is still a mystery to those closest to him."
For a few years after Geli's death, Hitler had little to do with women except in a very superficial way. Along about 1932, however, he became interested in Eva Braun, Hoffmann's photographic. assistant. This relationship did not develop very rapidly but it has contimed. In the course of time, Hitler has bought her many things including high-powered automobiles and a house between Munich and Berchtesgaden where, it is alleged, he frequently spends the night on the way to or from his country estate. Eva Braun is also frequently a guest at Berchtesgaden and in Berlin.
Oechsner was told that after one of her visits in Berchtesgaden some of her underwear was found in Hitler's bedroom. Wiedemann, according to Hohenlohe, says that she has sometimes spent the entire night in Hitler's bedroom in Berlin. It is reported by Norburt (605) that Eva moved into the Chancellory on December 16, 1939 and it is said that Hitler intends to marry her when the war is over. Beyond that, we know nothing about this affair except that Eva Braun has twice tried to commit suicide and that one of Hitler's bodyguards hurled himself from the Kehlstein because he was in love with her but could not respass [sic] the Fuehrer's domain.
The affair with Eva Braun was not exclusive, however. During this period he has also seen a good deal of at least two moving picture actresses. These have been more enduring than most of his associations with actresses and much more intimate. Both of these girls were frequently invited alone to the Chancellory late at night and departed in the early hours of the morning. During their stay they were alone with Hitler behind closed doors so that not even his immediate staff knows what transpired between them. The first of these relationships was with Renarte Mueller who connitted suicide by throwing herself from the window of a Berlin hotel. The other was with Leni Riefenstahl who continued to be a guest at the Chancellor up to the outbreak of the war.
Hitler's associates know that in respect to women Hitler is far from the ascetic he and the Propaganda Bureau would like to have the German public believe. None of them with the possible exception of Hoffmann and Schaub (his personal adjutant), know the nature of his sexual activities. This has led to a great deal of conjecture in Party circles. There are some who believe that his sex life is perfectly normal but restricted. Others, that he is immune from such temptations and that nothing happens when he is alone with girls. Still others believe that he is homosexual.
The latter belief is based largely on the fact that during the early days of the Party many of the inner circle were well-known homosexuals. Roehm made no attempt to hide his homosexual activities and Hess was generally known as "Fraulein Anna". There were also many others, particularly in the early days of the movement, and it was supposed, for this reason, that Hitler, too, belonged to this category.
In view of Hitler's pretense at purity and the importance of his mission for building a Greater Germany, it is extraordinary that he should be so careless about his associates. He has never restricted them in any way except at the time of the Blood Purge in 1934 when his excuse was that he had to purge the party of these undesirable elements. At all other times, he has been liberal to a fault. Lochner reports:
Rauschning says (264) that the general attitude in the Party was: "Do anything you like but don't get caught at it."
This attitude towards his associates certainly did not make for high standards in the Party. Capt. von Mueke resigned from the Party on the grounds that:
Rauschning (276) expresses a similar sentiment:
0ne of Hitler's reactions which is carefully hidden from the public is his love for pornography. He can scarcely wait for the next edition of DER STUERMER to appear and when it reaches him he goes through it avidly. He seems to get great pleasure out the dirty stories and the cartoons that feature this sheet. (658: 261). To Rauschning Hitler said that the STUERMER "was a form of pornography permitted in the Third Reich". In addition, Hit-ler has a large collection of nudes and, according to Hanfstaengl and others, he also enjoys viewing lewd movies in his private theatre, some of which are prepared by Hoffmann for his benefit.
He also likes to present himself as a great authority and lover of good music. One of his favorite pastimes is to lecture on Wagner and the beauty of his operatic music. There can be no doubt concerning his enjoyment of Wagnerian music and that he gets considerable inspiration from it. Oechsner (675) reports that he has been able to observe Hitler closely while he was listening to music and saw, "grimaces of pain and pleasure contort his face, his brows knit, his eyes close, his mouth contact tightly." Hitler has said, "For me, Wagner is something godly, and his music is my religion. I go to his concerts as others go to church."
According to Hanfstaengl, however, he is not a lover of good music in general (895). He says that about 85% of Hitler's preferences in music are the normal program music in Vienna cafes. This is probably why Hitler rarely attends concerts and in later years, seldom goes to the opera. His preferences now seem to run to musical comedies and cabarets in addition to the movies he sees at the Chancellory. Pope (229) says that Hitler frequently visited the MERRY WIDOW in which an American actress played the lead. He says, "I have seen Hitler nudge his gauleiter, Wagner, and smirk when Dorothy does her famous backbending number in the spotlight." In this number, Dorothy's costume consists of a pair of transparent butterfly wings, or some- times nothing at all. Hitler watches the performance through opera glasses and sometimes has command performances for his private benefit.
Much has been written by the Nazi propaganda bureau about his modest way of living. This, through the eyes of his associates, has also been vastly overrated. Although he is a vegetarian, most of them feel that his meals are scarcely to be considered as a form of deprivation. He eats large quantities of eggs prepared in lO1 different ways by the best chef in Germany and there are always quantities and a large variety of fresh vegetables prepared in unusual ways. In addition. Hitler consumes incredible quantities of pastries and often as much as two pounds of chocolates in the course of a single day. Nor are his personal tastes particularly inexpensive. Although his clothes are simple, he has an incredible number of each article of clothing. All are made of the finest materials that can be procured and made up by the best workmen.
He also has a passion for collecting paintings and when he has his heart set on one, the sky is the limit is far as price is concerned. The only thing that is really modest about his living arrangements is his bedroom which is extremely simple and contains only a metal bed (decorated with ribbons at the head), a painted chest of drawers and a few straight chairs. Friedelinde Wagner and Hanfstaengl, both of whom have seen the room with their own eyes, have described it in identical terms: namely that it is a room that one would expect a maid to have and not a Chancellor.
Although he is presented to the German public as a man of extraordinary courage, his immediate associates frequently have occasion to question this. Several occasions have been reported on which he has not carried through his own program because he feared opposition. This is particularly true in connection with his Gauleiters. He seems to have a particular fear of these people and rather than meet opposition from them, he usually tries to find out on which side of an issue the majority have aligned themselves before he meets with them. When the meeting takes place, he proposes a plan or course of action which will fit in with the sentiments of the majority. (718)
According to Hohenlohe he also backed down before three Army generals when they protested against the rapid developments in the Danzig question, and that before Munich, he decided to postpone the war because he discovered that the crowds watching the troops marching under the Chancellory windows were unenthusiactic (661).
Furthermore, they must wonder about the necessity of the extreme precautions that are taken for his safety. Most of these are carefully concealed from the German public. When Hitler appears he looks for all the world like an extremely brave man as he stands up in the front seat of his open car and salutes. The people do not inow of the tremendous number of secret service men who constantly mingle with the crowds in addition to the guards who line the streets through which he is to pass. Neither do they know of all the precautions taken at the Chancellory or at Berchtesgaden.
Before the war his house at Berchtesgaden was surrounded with eight miles of electrified wire. Pillboxes and anti-aircraft batteries were set up in the surrounding hills (Morrell, 462). When he visited at Bayreuth, troops were sent in weeks in advance to set up machine-gun nests and anti-aircraft batteries in the hills immediately adjoining (Wagner, 934). Lochner (158) reports that when he travels in a special train he is accompanied by 200 SS guards who are more heavily armed than the retinue of any German emperor. After the war started, his train was heavily armored and equipped with anti-aircraft fore and aft. And, yet, when the newsreels show him at the front, he is the only one who does not wear a steel helmet.
There is, consequently, a considerable discrepancy between Hitler as he is known to the German. people and Hitler as he is known to his associates. Nevertheless, it appears that most of his associates have a deep allegience to Hitler personally and are quite ready to forgive or ignore his shortcomings. In many cases, it seems as though his asociates are quite oblivious to the contradictory traits in his character - to them he is still the Fuehrer and they live for the moments when he actually plays this role.
Source: The Nizkor Project