Tuesday, March 21, 2017

14. Hitler's Horrible to Work With

Today, chapter fifteen of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. My reviews of the earlier chapters were:
1. The men immediately around Hitler "never ceased to laugh at him or to become enraged against him" (368). "He was not on terms of true friendship with any."

To the crowds, he was a phenomenon, "Der Führer." "He made the masses see what they did not see, and not to see what they did see" (367), but it was not so for those around him. Those around him "were forced to hear this know-it-all, equipped with all the semi-education of his age, talking constantly of things he did not understand; they had to swallow the miserable German, the defective logic, the tasteless humor and false pathos which he brought forth at the dinner table as at the mass meeting; they had to suffer the bad manners... this raving dervish" (367-68).

"The most able men of his entourage refused to take him seriously--except as a demagogue" (373).

2. At a moment's notice he might begin to rage against cube-shaped houses or towers with flat roofs. "The fight against the flat sun roof was conducted with almost religious ardor, for this roof was 'Oriental, Semitic,' and absolutely 'un-German'" (365).

"On trips and walks he would suddenly run ahead, dragging his companions to some church or cloister, where he would surprise them with a lecture... Can't you see how that accounts for the magnificent stained-glass windows? It was not to be denied: when he asked if they did not see, nearly everyone saw" (361). :-)

3. Rudolph Hess helped him bridge the gap between his insufferable identity in private to his public phenomenon. "Suddenly, in the midst of a conversation, Hitler's face grows tense as with an inner vision... His eyes peer into the distance... and if the observer follower the direction of his gaze, sometimes, it has been claimed, Rudolf Hess can be seen in the far corner, with his eyes glued to his Führer, apparently speaking to him with closed lips" (359).

When Hitler was preparing for a speech, Hess would coach him. When Hitler was going to see an important visitor, Hess would coach him. It was as if this idiot of a man could only become the phenom with the help of his quieter, saner friend. "Hitler knew that his boundless imagination sometimes prompted him irresistibly to follies, and he expected Hess to protect him against himself at uncontrolled moments" (357). Imagine if Hitler had Twitter back then!

"Hitler only does the things that he happens to feel like doing" (380). So it was incredibly hard to get things done because he often didn't feel like staying on task. "Though he is the real source of energy in his cause and his enterprise, his incalculability is a serious obstacle to regular business." He often stalled a decision.

4. There was a "phenomenal untruthfulness" to Hitler, "which all his collaborators complained of" (368). "He deceived his co-workers even in small personal matters" (369). "He was always conspicuous for his hostility to hard facts, his fear of checkable details" (374). He would tell of the most fantastic conspiracy theories and his people would say, "You can't tell people that stuff." He would respond, "You can tell people anything!" (376).

He had a strange relationship to books. "He does not allow them to instruct him, but only to confirm his opinions" (374). "He virtually never quotes a single word from a classic author" (375). His walls were full of the most beautiful books, all of them unread.

I think I skipped a story in a previous chapter about a manuscript that Alfred Rosenberg gave to Hitler for approval. Hitler let it sit unread for months, although Hitler often stayed up throughout the night. Finally, he gave permission to publish it, sure it was fine. But it was quite anti-Christian and caused some problems for the movement. Hitler needed the church to get him into power and only then could he discard it.

5. Meanwhile, on his own he is a man of contemptible character. Even his artistic bend has a brutal character to it. In the early days of the movement he made promissory notes to be redeemed when the movement would succeed. On them he drew a beheaded woman representing the lie of those who disagreed with his ideas. "The true source of his belief in human vileness is self-observation" (377). He is vile and so assumes that everyone else is as well.

One hidden story from this period concerns his niece, his sister's daughter. In low times, he lived with them. He doted on her and, eventually, crossed a line by writing her a love letter. This letter was intercepted and purchased by someone from the movement for safe keeping, away from the public.

But then he wouldn't let her free. She was found dead at 23 while Hitler was away. It was declared a suicide but hard to say whether perhaps someone like Hess recognized in her Hitler's possible downfall. Once he had power, he purged hundreds of his enemies and former friends on June 30, 1934. The keeper of the letter was one of those murdered in the forest.

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