Who was Responsible?
by Walter Smoter Frank
This book also appears on Scribd at
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.
Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV. Afterward.
IT is offensive both to our reason and to our experience to be asked to believe that the [young] Hitler…was the stuff of which…Caesars and Bonapartes, are made. Yet the record is there to prove us wrong.
— Alan Bullock
To know Hitler, means to know him before he came to power.
— Otto Strasser
To say that Hitler was a mad man is to make a very serious mistake.
— Albert Speer
Hitler was not only the product but also, in his own eyes, the strong supporter of the culture from which he came.
— Bradley F. Smith
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 worth noting:
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. 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 met.
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.
To reiterate, Hitler was a product of the culture from which he came. To understand how he came to power (and what subsequently resulted), one must have a understanding of his early years and the culture that influenced and made him. That is what the footnoted material on this site attempts to do. After all, aren’t all our thoughts and actions (to one degree or another) the result of culture?