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spiegel article on ‘How Hitler Won Over the German People’

May 20, 2014

Read this article today: 

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-fuehrer-myth-how-hitler-won-over-the-german-people-a-531909.html

Interesting highlights from the article: 

“But even the slick and sophisticated techniques behind the creation of the Führer Myth would have been ineffective, had not fertile terrain been prepared long before Hitler became Reich Chancellor. Expectations of national salvation were by 1933 widespread, not just among Nazi supporters, and had already become vested in the person of Hitler. By the time that he took power, over 13 million voters had at least partially swallowed the Führer cult, which was more fully embraced by the huge (if fluctuating) mass membership of the Party and its myriad subordinate affiliations.”

‘The exiled Social Democratic organization, the Sopade, based in Prague, acknowledged in April 1938 the widely-held view it had repeatedly echoed, “that Hitler could count on the agreement of the majority of the people on two essential points: 1) he had created jobs and 2) he had made Germany strong.”‘

“There was a widespread feeling that finally a government was doing something to get Germany back on her feet. Of course, Hitler, whose knowledge of economics was primitive, had not personally guided the economic recovery in the early years of the Third Reich. The reasons for the rapid revival were complex and varied.”

“…in 1933. It seemed undeniable: while other European countries (and America) still suffered drastically from mass unemployment, Hitler had removed the scourge from Germany and ushered in a kind of “economic miracle”.”

“the re-introduction of compulsory military service and announcement of a big new Wehrmacht the same year, the re-militarization of the Rhineland in 1936 and the “Anschluss” or annexation of Austria two years later were all seen as huge national triumphs, openly demonstrating the weakness of the western powers which had lorded it over Germany since the war, and a feat — unimaginable only a few years earlier — solely possible through Hitler’s “genius” as a statesman. “

“For the vast majority of Germans, the restoration of national pride and military strength, the overthrowing of the Versailles Treaty and the expansion of the Reich to incorporate ethnic Germans from Austria and the Sudetenland were goals in themselves. Most could not, or would not, comprehend, that for Hitler and the Nazi leadership they were the prelude to a war of unlimited German conquest.”

“Machiavellian power-political coup was portrayed as a necessary move to crush an imminent internal threat to the nation and to root out corruption and immorality. Hitler emphasized the homosexuality, loose living and extravagant life-style of Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders. Playing on existing, commonly-held prejudice, he was able to override any adherence to fundamental legal principles by claiming to have acted in the national interest as the highest judge of the German people.”

“The view that Hitler had brought order to Germany was one that persisted well into the postwar era. That, despite “mistakes” (presumably those which had brought his country’s ruination through war, and death and destruction to millions) he had “cleaned up” Germany, putting an end to disorder, stamping out criminality, making the streets safe to walk again at night, and improving moral standards, belonged — together with the credit for eradicating mass unemployment and building the motorways — to the lasting elements of the Führer Myth”

“…the Party functionaries whom people daily encountered and often found wanting — Hitler himself was widely perceived as standing aloof from sectional interests and material concerns, his selflessness contrasting with the greed and corruption of the Party big-wigs.”

“… books mass produced by Heinrich Hoffmann (each selling in huge numbers) which seemingly revealed the “private” Hitler — “The Hitler Nobody Knows” (1932), “Youth Around Hitler“ (1934), “Hitler in his Mountains” (1935) and “Hitler Off Duty“ (1937) — all aimed to highlight the “human” side of the Führer and show that his “heroic” qualities arose from the very fact that he was a “man of the people.”

“How many fully swallowed the nauseating personality cult can, of course, never be established. Not a few obviously did. Unctuous letters, doggerel poems and other eulogies, photographs and gifts — including in one case the offer of a sack of potatoes which the Führer apparently liked — poured in, to be dealt with by Hitler’s adjutants”

“There was a rise in the early years of the Third Reich in the numbers of parents naming their new-born babies Adolf..”

“Racial discrimination was inevitably, therefore, an inbuilt part of the Nazi interpretation of the concept. Since measures directed at creating “racial purity,” such as the persecution later of homosexuals, Roma and “a-socials,” exploited existing prejudice and were allegedly aimed at strengthening a homogeneous ethnic nation, they buttressed Hitler’s image as the embodiment of the national community.”

“Though Hitler’s anti-Semitic paranoia was not shared by the vast bulk of the population, it plainly did not weigh heavily enough in the scales on the negative side to outweigh the positive attributes that the majority saw in him”

“The “boycott movement” which had begun as soon as Hitler became Reich Chancellor and, in waves, had effectively driven Jews out of commercial life, eventually ushering in the “aryanization” program of 1938 that robbed Jews of their possession, operated to the profit of large numbers of Germans. Here, too, many felt reason to be grateful to Hitler. The human cost, paid by an unpopular minority, was for them an irrelevant consideration.”

“These bonds were not, of course, of uniform strength. Alongside the fanatics were the skeptics and, though they could not express themselves in any meaningful fashion, the dissenters. Nor was it possible to sustain the enthusiasm for Hitler at a constant height. The outpourings of elation at moments of triumph, such as the announcement of the re-militarization of the Rhineland in 1936, were peaks. They subsided again as soon as the gray everyday returned for most people.”

‘”The Führer allows the people to demand that he implement the policies he wanted,” ‘

‘By the mid-1930s, at the latest, the narcissistic trait in his own personality, the extreme flattery and sycophancy that surrounded him, and the immense adulation of the masses that repeatedly stimulated him, combined to magnify the belief that Germany‘s destiny lay in his own hands, and that he alone could guide his country to final victory in the ever closer great conflict. “It depends essentially on me, on my being, on my political skills,” he told his generals on the eve of the war. He stressed, as part of this reasoning, “the fact that no one else will ever have the trust of the whole German people as I do. There will never be a man in the future, who has more authority than me. My being is therefore a huge value factor … No one knows how much longer I will live. Therefore, it is better to have the conflict now.”‘

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