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:
"I have the gift of reducing all problems to their simplest foundations ...A gift
for tracing back all theories to their roots in reality."
And he really has it. Unencumbered 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:
"He knows exactly what kind of armament, the kind of armor plates. the weight, the
speed, and the number of the crew in every ship in the British navy. He knows the number
of rotations of airplane motors in every model and type existant. he knows the number of
shots a machine gun fires in a minute, whether it is a light, medium, or heavy one,
whether it was made in the United States, Czecho-Slovakia or France." (Russell, 747)
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:
"The lack of knowledge of the [unreadable] driving forces of [unreadable] led us
to an insufficient evaluation of the importance of the great masses of the people; from
this resulted the scant interest in the social position, the deficient courting
[unreadable] soul of the nation's lower classes...." (p. 138)
(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):
"Do you know the audience at a circus is just like a woman (Die Masse, das Volk is
wei ein Weib). Someone who does not understand the intrinsicly feminine character of the
masses will never be an effective speaker. Ask yourself: 'What does a woman expect from a
man?' Clearness, decision, power and action. What we want is to get the masses to act.
Like a woman, the masses fluctuate between extremes .... The crowd is not only like a
woman, but women constitute the most important element in an audience. The women usualy
lead, then follow the children and at last, when I have already won over the whole family
- follow the fathers."
And in MEIN KAMPF, he writes:
"The people, in an overwhelming majority, are so feminine in their nature and
attitude that their activities and thoughts are motivated less by sober consideration than
by feeling and sentiment." (p.237)
(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
(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.
"All force which does not spring from a firm spiritual foundation will be
hesitating and uncertain. It lacks the stability which can only rest on a fanatical view
of life. (MK 222)
"Every attempt at fighting a view of life by means of force against it represents
the form of an attack for the sake of a new spiritual direction. Only in the struggle of
two views of life with each other can the weapon of brute force, used continuously and
ruthlessly, bring about the decision in favor of the side it supports." (MK 223)
(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
(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:
"A searchlight plays upon his lone figure as he slowly walks through the hall,
never looking to right or left, his right hard raised in salute, his left hand as the
buckle of his belt. He never smiles - it is a religious rite, this procession of the
moderm Messiah incarnate. Behind him are his adjutants and secret service men. But his
figure alone is flooded with light.
"By the time Hitler has reached the rostrum, the masses have been so worked upon
that they are ready to do his will...."
[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.
(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
(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 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 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 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:
"The Fuehrer does not change. He is the same now as he was when he was a boy"
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:
"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
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.
Hitler as His Associates Know Him,
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