This is an account of the young Adolf Hitler up to the beginning of his political
career when he claimed the title of Der Fuhrer. This narrative is
coupled with the events, people and forces of his time which led to his making.
Soon after the fall of the Third Reich, intellectuals began poking around the ashes of
post WWII Europe in an attempt to understand why the Germans, and other nationalities,
followed Adolf Hitler. Since that time, a host of professionals and experts have
propounded their theories. Most insinuate that Hitler was some kind of demonic
monster whom "sophisticated," "fine," or "other persons of quality" rejected
from the beginning--A comforting approach from their point of view, but then, considering that no political movement has
ever entirely developed from the bottom up, one is still left with the question of why and
how Adolf Hitler came to power.
From 1955 till 1995 I had talked to scores of Germans and German/Americans
who lived in and out of Germany during the NAZI era. However, when it came to Adolf
Hitler, as one historian noted: "People...have long since learnt to adjust their
answers to suit the political complexion of those who question them."
Consequently, one had to
proceed cautiously in garnering true feelings. With that in mind, three incidents are
1: In 1972 while attending night classes at a Pennsylvania University, a discussion in
one class, dominated by young people, on why the German people followed Hitler produced
the usual post W.W.II propaganda responses. When I offered a few easily verified facts
about Hitler's early appeal, and innovative economic policies, nearly the whole class looked at me in disbelief.
During a class break I was approached by a "thirty-something" German
student. When she was sure no one was able to overhear, she stated: "What you said
was correct. My family had it good once Hitler came to power." She want on to talk
about the good Hitler's policies did for her family and the pride and hope he instilled in
the German people during the early years.
2: A decade later, while living in the state of Washington, I talked to an elderly
ex-German soldier (his father incidentally had worked on one of Rommel's estates). He told
me some very revealing stories of how Germans "believed" in Hitler during the
early ("those days were fun") period, and how Hitler was able to rouse the
people when he spoke. He then stopped momentary and as though reliving some intoxicating
moment of his youth, affirmed: "Hitler always gave a good speech."
3: In 1991 on a visit to Austria, I stopped off at Braunau, on the river Inn, where Hitler was
born. I located the building that appeared to be Hitler's birthplace, but momentarily had
my doubts. At that moment a very old, wrinkled and hunched over woman wearing a shawl on
her head and carrying a battered cloth shopping bag happened along. In my
"best" German, I ask her, pointing, if that was the building where Adolf Hitler
was born. After monetarily deciphering my poor German, she answered (without a note of
revulsion, horror or apology): "Ja. Ja. Das ist das Geburt haus vom Fuhrer"
Yes. That is the birth place of the Fuhrer.").
Because nearly all history, news, editorials and "public opinion" reflect the
viewpoint of the upper classes, and their privileged subordinates (Right or Left), the people quoted
above are normally depicted as "Nazis," "ignorant," or
"dim-witted." In some recent German studies, however, up to 40% of the public expressed "understanding" for right wing
groups who support a kind of Hitler
philosophy. In France also, nearly 40% of the people supported right wing "extremist" groups
who preach a kind of Nazi doctrine. And, in a gubernatorial race in the United
States, not too long ago, one candidate, who was compared to Adolf Hitler, managed to
garner 40% of the total vote--which included 55% of the "white" vote.
Are all these people Nazis, ignorant or dim-witted? Not the scores I had
Today, many books, TV productions and now, countless web sites continue with
unsubstantiated events and characterizations which portray the prewar Hitler as
a madman. The aim of these "biographers of Hitler," as Werner Maser (a probing
Hitler historian) pointed out over thirty years ago, "is not to...discover
historically verifiable facts, but rather to 'reinterpret' earlier assumptions
which have long since become exposed as false." Moreover, their
interpretations still beg the question: "Why did people follow Hitler?"
The scope of the material in this work is not meant to apologize for Hitler or minimize
the horrors which occurred once the war he initiated broadened. On the other hand, the
"mystique" that still draws people to Adolf Hitler (whether out of admiration,
hate or curiosity ) comes from his youth and the forces that shaped him. Adolf Hitler
never said or did anything that at one time or another hadn't already been said or done by
past intellectuals or world leaders.
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