The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

As His Associates Know Him

[Transcription note: Bracketed [Page] links provide access to the individual images from which these transcriptions were made]

(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:

"There is only so much room in a brain, so much wall space, as it were, and if you furnish it with your slogans, the opposition has no place to put up any pictures later on, because the apartment of the brain is already crowded with your furniture." Hanfstaengl adds that Hitler has always admired the use the Catholic Church made of slogans and has tried to imitate it." (899)

(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.

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(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:

"Sometimes his intelligence is astonishing... miraculous political intuition, devoid of all moral sense, but extraordinarily precise. Even in a very complex situation he discerns what is possible and what is not."

(20) Hitler's strongest point is, perhaps, his firm belief in his mission and, in public, the complete dedication of his [Page 50] 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.

"Only a storm of glowing passion can turn the destinies of nations, but this passion can only be roused by a man who carries it within himself."

(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 [Page 51] 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:

"He has a matchless instinct for taking advantage of every breeze to raise a political whirlwind. No official scandal was so petty that he could not magnify it into high treason; he could ferret out the most deviously [unreadable] corruption in high places and plaster the town with the bad news." (159)

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 asso-[Page 52] ciates 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.

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Perhaps the truest words that Goebbels ever wrote are:

"The Fuehrer does not change. He is the same now as he was when he was a boy" (387)

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:

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"Die inneren Schwierigkeiten einer Regierung Hitlers werden in der Person Hitler selbst liegen. Hitler wird nicht umhin koennen, sich an eine geregelte Geistige faetigkeit zu gowoehnen." (586)

Ludecke (168) also wrote:

"He had a typical Austrian 'Schlamperei'. He suffered from an all-embracing disorderliness. Naturally this grew less in time but in the beginning it was apparent in everything."

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.

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