Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’
“Hitler” covers the black store front in large white letters – a red swastika dotting the “i”. The name of the new men’s clothing store has caused a stir in India‘s Ahmedabad city.
Ignorance over Adolf Hitler’s dark history, or a tasteless shock-advertising scheme? That’s the question being asked after Rajesh Shah named his shop after the Nazi dictator, who took over Germany in the 1930s and then tried to conquer Europe.
The small Jewish community in Ahmedabad in western Gujarat state – numbering less than 500 – is up-in-arms and demanding he change the name. But Shah says to do so would bite into his profits.
“If the Jewish community wants the name to be changed, they should pay for it. I have spent too much on the logo … the brand,” Shah told Al Jazeera, refusing to divulge how much it would cost.
Unlike most countries in the world, in India it is not uncommon for the name Hitler to represent businesses, movies, TV programmes, and even people’s names – a strange reality to outside observers, but one that is accepted without much thought by ordinary Indians. The swastika, meanwhile, was used as a Hindu symbol long before the Nazis adopted it.
One academic, however, warns the growing use of the name Hitler and what it represents is a dangerous development.
“With the rise of right-wing parties in India, Hitler has made a huge comeback in India,” says professor AF Mathew who teaches sociology, cultural and cinema studies at the India Institute of Management Kozhikode. “This is a matter of great concern. Fascism is morally wrong and to see some neo-Nazi parties making waves in Europe and India is extremely worrying.”
Orna Sagiv, Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, told Al Jazeera she was “very surprised and shocked” to hear the clothes shop was named Hitler after it opened in August.
“We believe that in this case, the choice of the name ‘Hitler’ does not derive of anti-Semitism, but from pure ignorance. Nevertheless, it still strongly hurts the sentiments of the local Jewish community, as well as the feeling of Jews around the world and in Israel.”
A ‘catchy’ name
Jewish members from the city have approached Shah urging him to rename the store. So far he has refused.
So why did Shah choose the German despot’s moniker? Because that was the name of the co-owner’s grandfather, he says.
Later Shah learned of the name’s significance, but decided to use it because it looked “catchy and different”.
“Customers … tell us that they came in seeing the shop name,” says Shah. “So far, business is good.”
Esther David is a prominent Jewish-Indian writer, artist and sculptor who lives in Ahmedabad. “It comes as a shock that a name like this can be used for marketing purposes,” she told Al Jazeera. “There is a lack of sensitivity and maybe the social structure had rotted in such a way, that people do not realise the implications of using such a name for a shop.”
The clothing store is one of a handful of Indian businesses named after the Nazi dictator. Owners seem to have picked it more for shock value than as an embrace of or admiration for Nazism.
In 2006, a Mumbai restaurant owner called his café “Hitler’s Cross” and used the swastika as a logo. Eventually, he agreed to change it after protests by the Israeli embassy, Germany, and the US Anti-Defamation League.
“Hitler’s Den”, a pool parlour in Nagpur, also ruffled feathers in 2011. Owner Baljit Singh Osan said he was looking for something “different, something that had recall value”. He told Al Jazeera the name has attracted patrons and popularised his business.
Osan refused to change the name when the Jewish community protested. “I did not sympathise with the German dictator or his beliefs,” he says.
Professor Mathew says a sense of history has disappeared, and there’s a need to teach students what the Nazis and Hitler were responsible for, including the carnage of World War II and the extermination of six million Jews.
“There is a wrong notion among people that Hitler was a great leader,” Mathew told Al Jazeera. “The disappearance of history has resulted in such notions and given birth to right-wing ideologies in India.”
Historic and cultural ties to Hitler
Mohandas Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation and a symbol of peace, wrote a letter to Hitler on July 23, 1939 urging him not to wage war. The two men had a common enemy: the British Empire. Bollywood released the drama Gandhi to Hitler in 2011 that depicted India’s move away from British colonial rule.
A Punjabi romantic-comedy film, Hero Hitler in Love, was also released in 2011.
The small screen has also employed the Führer’s name. A television series on Zee TV about a dictatorial woman was launched in 2011 called “Hitler Didi“, or “Hitler Sister”. It was renamed “General Didi” in the United States after the Anti-Defamation League in New York protested.
Curiously, Mein Kampf – in which Hitler set out his racist theories – continues to be a bestseller in India, where business students view the book as an important guide for management strategies. More than 10,000 copies were sold in six months in New Delhi alone in 2009.
There is even a member of India’s ruling-coalition from northeastern Meghalaya state named “Adolf Hitler”.Share on Facebook
On November 5, 1937, Adolf Hitler held a secret conference in the Reich Chancellery during which he revealed his plans for the acquisition of Lebensraum, or living space, for the German people at the expense of other nations in Europe.
Present at this conference were; German War Minister, Werner von Blomberg, Commander in Chief of the Army, Werner von Fritsch, Commander in Chief of the Navy, Erich Raeder, Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, Foreign Minister, Constantin von Neurath, and Colonel Friedrich Hossbach who took the minutes of the conference. The meeting has thus come to be known as the Hossbach Conference or Hossbach Memorandum.
Hitler began by swearing the men to secrecy, then told them that in the event of his death the following exposition should be regarded as his last will and testament.
He proceeded to explain that Germany had “a tightly packed racial core” and was entitled to acquire “greater living space than in the case of other peoples…”
“The history of all ages – the Roman Empire and the British Empire – had proved that expansion could only be carried out by breaking down resistance and taking risks…there had never been spaces without a master…the attacker always comes up against a possessor,” Hitler said. “The question for Germany ran: where could she achieve the greatest gain at the lowest cost?”
He pointed out two big problems, “…two hate inspired antagonists, Britain and France, to whom a German colossus in the center of Europe was a thorn in the flesh…”
“Germany’s problem could only be solved by means of force,” but “there remain still to be answered the questions ‘when’ and ‘how’…”
Hitler said military action was to be taken by 1943-1945 at the latest, to guard against military obsolescence, the aging of the Nazi movement, and “it was while the rest of the world was still preparing its defenses that we were obliged to take the offensive.”
The primary objective would be to seize Czechoslovakia and Austria to protect Germany’s eastern and southern flanks. Hitler went through three different strategies (shown below as cases 1-3) designed to capitalize on the present and future military and political problems of France and England.
Hitler’s casual acceptance of the immense risks of starting a war in Europe shocked his colleagues, especially Blomberg and Fritsch who “repeatedly emphasized the necessity that Britain and France must not appear in the roles of our enemies.”
Following the conference, an overwhelmed Neurath suffered several heart attacks and asked to be relieved from his post.
Some historians have suggested Hitler’s blunt talk was simply intended to prod Blomberg and Fritsch into accelerating re-armament. However, their continuing opposition to Hitler’s war plans resulted in their removals via trumped up scandals within three months. With the removal of the top echelon of the Army, Hitler himself assumed supreme command, with Wilhelm Keitel as chief of the high command.
Following the war, the Hossbach Memorandum was used in the Nuremberg war crimes trials as evidence of conspiracy to wage war, specifically targeting Göring. The memorandum also served to expose the ruthless cynicism of Hitler who repeatedly proclaimed a desire for peace in public, all the while laying out plans for war in Europe.Share on Facebook
By the summer of 1934, the elderly German President, Paul von Hindenburg, lay close to death at his country estate in East Prussia. He had been in failing health for several months, thus giving Adolf Hitler and the Nazis ample opportunity to make plans to capitalize on his demise.
Reich Chancellor Hitler planned to use President Hindenburg’s death as an opportunity to seize total power in Germany by elevating himself to the position of Führer, or absolute leader, of the German nation and its people.
On August 2, 1934, at 9 a.m., the long awaited death of 87 year old Hindenburg finally occurred. Within hours, Hitler and the Nazis announced the following law, dated as of August 1…
“The Reich Government has enacted the following law which is hereby promulgated.
Section 1. The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He will select his deputy.
Section 2. This law is effective as of the time of the death of Reich President von Hindenburg.”
Following the announcement of this (technically illegal) law, the German Officers’ Corps and every individual in the German Army swore a personal oath of allegiance to Hitler.
A nationwide vote (plebiscite) was then scheduled to give the German people a chance to express their approval of Hitler’s unprecedented new powers.
Meanwhile, Hindenburg’s last will and testament surfaced. Contrary to Hitler’s intentions, Hindenburg’s last wishes included a desire for a return to a constitutional (Hohenzollern) monarchy. These last wishes were contained in the form of a personal letter from Hindenburg to Hitler.
Hitler simply ignored this and likely destroyed the letter, as it was not published and has never been found.
However, the Nazis did publish Hindenburg’s alleged political testament giving an account of his years of service with complimentary references to Hitler. Although it was likely a forgery, it was used as part of the Nazi campaign to get a large “Yes” vote for Hitler in the coming plebiscite.
On August 19, about 95 percent of registered voters in Germany went to the polls and gave Hitler 38 million votes of approval (90 percent of the vote). Thus Adolf Hitler could claim he was Führer of the German nation by direct will of the people. Hitler now wielded absolute power in Germany, beyond that of any previous traditional head of state. He had become, in effect, the law unto himself.
The next day, August 20, mandatory loyalty oaths were introduced throughout the Reich…
“Article 1. The public officials and the soldiers of the armed forces must take an oath of loyalty on entering service.
1. The oath of loyalty of public officials will be:
‘I swear: I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God.’
2. The oath of loyalty of the soldiers of the armed forces will be:
‘I swear by God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.’
Article 3. Officials already in service must swear this oath without delay according to Article 2 number 1.”
These oaths were pledged to Hitler personally, not the German state or constitution. And they were taken very seriously by members of the German Officers’ Corps with their traditional minded codes of honor, which now elevated obedience to Hitler as a sacred duty and effectively placed the German armed forces in the position of being the personal instrument of Hitler.
In September, 1934, at the annual Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies, a euphoric Hitler proclaimed, “The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. The Age of Nerves of the nineteenth century has found its close with us. There will be no revolution in Germany for the next thousand years.”Share on Facebook
All of his life, Adolf Hitler had been obsessed with the musical works of German composer Richard Wagner. As a teenager living in Austria, Hitler was deeply inspired by Wagner’s operas and their pagan, mythical tales of struggles against hated enemies. One time, back in 1905, after seeing Wagner’s opera Rienzi, young Hitler professed he would someday embark on a great mission, leading his people to freedom, similar to the opera’s story.
Now, some 40 years later, after failing in his mission as Führer of the German People and Reich, another of Wagner’s operas hearkened, and it was Hitler’s favorite – Der Ring des Nibelungen. It concerns a magic Ring granting its possessor the power to rule the world. In the last part of this opera, entitled Götterdämmerung, or ‘Twilight of the gods,” the hero Siegfried, betrayed by those around him, loses the Ring and winds up on a funeral pyre while the fortress of Valhalla burns and the kingdom of the gods is destroyed.
This essentially was the ending Hitler inflicted upon himself, his People and his Reich.
Piece by piece, it all came together over the last ten days of his life, beginning on Friday, April 20, 1945. That day Hitler met for the last time with his top Nazis. The occasion was Hitler’s 56th birthday, a dreary celebration inside the Führerbunker in Berlin. Present were Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Ribbentrop, Albert Speer and Martin Bormann, along with military leaders Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Karl Dönitz, and Hans Krebs, the new Chief of the General Staff.
At first, those present tried to convince the Führer to leave doomed Berlin for the relative safety of Berchtesgaden, the mountain area along the German-Austrian border where he had his villa. From there he could continue the fight, supported by troops positioned throughout the impenetrable Alpine mountains of western Austria and southern Bavaria. Such a move might prolong the war indefinitely and improve the odds of a favorable outcome for Germany, one way or another.
But Hitler brushed aside this suggestion, knowing that any journey outside the bunker brought great risk of capture. And above all, the Führer did not want himself, alive or dead, to wind up prominently displayed by his enemies, particularly the Russians. However, he did give his bunker personnel permission to leave. Most of his staff therefore departed for Berchtesgaden via a convoy of trucks and planes, still hoping the Führer would follow. Only a handful of Hitler’s personal staff remained with him, including his top aide Martin Bormann, a few SS and military aides, two private secretaries, and his longtime companion, Eva Braun.
Hitler’s choice to remain in the Führerbunker to the very end amounted to his final decision of the war. It was made known to the German people via a special radio announcement in the hope that his presence in the Nazi capital would inspire all remaining Wehrmacht, SS, Volkssturm and Hitler Youth units in Berlin to hold out to the end as well.
Although the war was lost, Hitler nevertheless took pride in the knowledge that he had not allowed another repeat of November 1918, when the German Army had meekly asked the Allies for armistice terms to conclude the First World War. This was all Hitler had left. Just a few years earlier, the Führer had been regarded by most German’s as their greatest-ever military leader. Now, all that remained of his military legacy was the fact he had refused to give up no matter what.
The Führer’s stubborn pride insured that thousands of German soldiers, Hitler Youths and civilians would needlessly lose their lives in the streets of Berlin, where advance units of the Red Army were already probing. Inside the bunker, Hitler told General Jodl, “I will fight as long as I have a single soldier. When the last soldier deserts me. I will shoot myself.”
However, the Führer’s fatalism was not shared by his two oldest comrades, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, who had both scooted away from Berlin just hours after Hitler’s birthday gathering. Göring made it safely to Berchtesgaden where he had his own villa, bringing along truckloads of artworks looted from museums all over occupied Europe. For his part, Himmler headed in the opposite direction, staying for the moment in a small town northwest of Berlin.
Both men were spurred to act on their own in the aftermath of the Führer’s shocking behavior during the military conference held in the bunker on Sunday, April 22nd. To everyone there that day, it seemed the Führer had suffered a total mental and physical breakdown, completely losing control while letting loose a shrieking denunciation of the Army, then collapsing into a chair. News of the Führer’s appalling condition spread like wildfire among the top Nazis outside Berlin, including Göring and Himmler.
Göring, the Führer’s designated successor, now pondered whether or not to announce he was the new leader of the Reich, since Hitler was presently cut off from the rest of Germany in besieged Berlin, and apparently incapacitated. But the inherent danger of such a move, even at this late stage, gave him pause for concern. And so Göring put off a decision and instead sent Hitler a carefully worded telegram the next day, Monday, April 23rd, trying to feel him out:
“My Führer! In view of your decision to remain in the fortress of Berlin, do you agree that I take over at once the total leadership of the Reich, with full freedom of action at home and abroad as your deputy, in accordance with your decree of June 29, 1941? If no reply is received by 10 o’clock tonight, I shall take it for granted that you have lost your freedom of action, and shall consider the conditions of your decree as fulfilled, and shall act for the best interests of our country and our people…”
Göring didn’t know that Hitler had since rebounded from his meltdown and regained a measure of composure. Therefore, Hitler’s response to Göring’s telegram, prompted by Martin Bormann, was that the Reich Marshal had committed “high treason.” Although this carried the death penalty, Göring would be spared if he immediately resigned all of his titles and offices – which Göring promptly did. Next, Bormann, a longtime behind-the-scenes foe of Göring, transmitted an order to the SS near Berchtesgaden to arrest Göring and his staff. As a result, just before dawn on Tuesday, April 24, Göring was put under house arrest. Thus ended the long career of the man who would be Führer.
In contrast to Göring’s cautiousness, Himmler took a much bolder approach. At the very moment that Hitler was reading Göring’s telegram, Himmler was secretly proposing the surrender all German troops in the West to General Eisenhower.
Himmler had traveled to the city of Lübeck in northern Germany to meet with Count Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross. Himmler’s idea was to have Bernadotte contact Eisenhower regarding the surrender in the West, while at the same time Germany would continue fighting the Russians in the East, soon to be joined by the Americans and British. Playing a key role in this new German-American-British alliance would be the leader of post-Hitler Germany, Heinrich Himmler himself.
His proposal got nowhere. By now, Himmler’s name, and that of the SS organization he headed, was already synonymous with mass murder.
Meanwhile, the military situation continued to deteriorate. On Wednesday, April 25th, Russian and American soldiers greeted each other face-to-face at Torgau on the Elbe River, seventy-five miles south of Berlin, effectively severing Nazi Germany in two. The next day, Russian artillery fire made the first direct hits upon the Reich Chancellery buildings in Berlin and the grounds directly above the Führerbunker.
A German tank officer described the scene in his diary: “We retreat again under heavy Russian air attacks. Inscriptions [I see] on house walls [say]: ‘The hour before sunrise is darkest’ and ‘We retreat but we are winning.’…The night is fiery red. Heavy shelling. Otherwise a terrible silence…Women and children huddling in niches and corners and listening for the sounds of battle…Nervous breakdowns.”
By Friday, April 27, Russian bombardment of the Reich Chancellery buildings had reached its peak with numerous direct hits, causing Hitler to send frantic telegrams to Field Marshal Keitel demanding that Berlin be relieved by now non-existent armies.
For Hitler, the worst blow of all came the next day when BBC news radio reports concerning Himmler’s surrender negotiations were broadcast from London and picked up by Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry. According to eyewitnesses in the bunker, Hitler “raged like a madman” with a ferocity never seen before when informed of the betrayal. Himmler had been at his side since the beginning, earning the fond nickname Der Treue Heinrich (Faithful Heinrich) through years of murderous, fanatical service to his Führer. Now, Hitler wanted to have him shot.
Since Himmler was nowhere to be found, Hitler ordered his personal liaison in the bunker, SS-General Hermann Fegelein, shot instead. Fegelein was already under suspicion, having been nabbed the day before trying to sneak out of Berlin in civilian clothing. After some brief questioning, he was taken up to the Chancellery garden above the bunker and summarily executed.
In the meantime, advance units of the Red Army had smashed through the German defenses in Berlin and were only a few miles away from the bunker. Hitler was informed there was perhaps a day or two left before the Russians arrived at his doorstep.
Now, at long last, Hitler reconciled himself to defeat, and began preparations for his own death.
First, he married Eva Braun, as a reward for her ceaseless devotion, during a relationship in which she had spent nearly all of her time at Berchtesgaden waiting for him to show up. They were married in a brief ceremony about an hour past midnight, early Sunday, April 29, with Goebbels and Bormann in attendance. Everyone was then invited into the Führer’s private quarters for a wedding breakfast featuring champagne and fond reminisces by Hitler of better days gone by, followed by a bitter accounting of the recent betrayal by his two oldest comrades. Those who listened were moved to tears. Shortly thereafter, Hitler excused himself, bringing along his staff secretary, Traudl Junge, to whom he dictated his last will along with a two-part political testament.
In his will he left his possessions to the Nazi Party and also revealed his fate: “I myself and my wife – in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation – choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of twelve years’ of service to my people.”
His political testament recited familiar themes first stated in his book Mein Kampf back in 1925. In addition, he blamed the Jews for everything, including the war. He cited the extermination threat he had made on January 30, 1939, followed by a veiled reference to the gas chambers, labeling them a “humane means” of making the Jews atone for the guilt of causing the war.
In the second part of his political testament, he expelled both Göring and Himmler from the Nazi Party and appointed Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor, not as Führer, but as President of the Reich. Dönitz was to preside over a government with Goebbels as Chancellor and Bormann as Party Minister. After completing his dictations, Hitler went off to bed, having been up all night.
While the Führer slept, the Battle of Berlin raged in the streets above him, with the Germans fighting fanatically to defend every inch, just as Hitler hoped they would. Above all, they tried to knock out the Russian T34 tanks now rolling toward Hitler. A Russian tank driver recalled: “There were a lot of Panzerfausts [anti-tank grenade launchers] in Berlin. They were lying in every basement. Mostly the operators were old men or boys.”
Casualties on both sides were high. But the Russians pressed forward relentlessly, blasting through anything in their way. The Red Army under Marshal Zhukov, after a journey of some 1500 miles that had begun back in Stalingrad, was now close to victory. When the Führer awoke about noontime, he was told that Russian troops were only a mile from the bunker.
Realizing their Führer intended to self-destruct, four of his remaining military adjutants asked for permission to leave the bunker, on the excuse that they wanted to check on the status of a relief column supposedly being led by General Wenck. Hitler granted their requests. He also took this opportunity to give his Luftwaffe adjutant, Colonel Below, one last Führer message to be hand delivered to the Army High Command:
“The people and the armed forces have given their all in this long and hard struggle. The sacrifice has been enormous. But my trust has been misused by many people. Disloyalty and betrayal have undermined resistance throughout the war. It was therefore not granted to me to lead the people to victory. The Army General Staff cannot be compared with the General Staff in the First World War. Its achievements were far behind those of the fighting front. The efforts and sacrifices of the German people in this war have been so great that I cannot believe that they have been in vain. The aim must still be to win territory in the East for the German people.”
Thus the last official words of the Führer contained both a final insult of the Army leadership along with a repetition of the Lebensraum theme for the East.
Shortly thereafter, the final bit of news from the outside world ever to reach Hitler told of the death of his oldest political ally, Benito Mussolini. The one-time dictator of Italy had tried to flee along with his mistress, but had been captured by Italian partisans, executed, hung upside down and then thrown into the gutter. Hitler’s only reaction was an expressed determination not to suffer a similar fate.
Hitler never heard the other news that day from Italy. SS-General Karl Wolff, formerly Himmler’s chief aide, had successfully negotiated the unconditional surrender of all German forces in Italy to the Western Allies.
Hitler’s sole concern right now was to ready himself for the moment of death. He had in his possession several small glass capsules containing liquid cyanide poison. All one had to do was bite down on the glass and painless death would follow in seconds. But since the capsules had been supplied by the now-traitorous Himmler, the Führer worried they might not be the real thing. Hitler therefore ordered one tested on his favorite dog, Blondi, which killed the animal instantly. After this, he handed out the cyanide capsules to his female secretaries, apologizing that he did not have better parting gifts for them. The capsules, he told them, were theirs to use when the Russians stormed the bunker.
As Sunday evening wore on, Hitler asked everyone to stay up. They waited for hours, for what they sensed would be a final goodbye. It came about 2:30 a.m., early in the morning of Monday, April 30th, when Hitler came out of his private quarters into the dining area. The remaining members of his staff lined up to receive him. With glazed eyes, Hitler shook each hand, muttering a few inaudible words quietly, then retired back into his quarters. His secretary, Traudl Junge, recalled the moment: “He looked like a shadow. He looked emotionless, and very gray and pale, like a broken old man…his movements were very slow. He was not the dictator anymore, and the impressive, fascinating man he was earlier.”
Following the Führer’s departure, his staff mulled over the significance of what they had just experienced. Strangely, the tremendous tension of preceding days seemed to suddenly evaporate upon their realization that the end was near. A lighthearted mood surfaced, followed by spontaneous displays of merry-making even including dancing. At one point, they had to be told to keep the noise down.
At noontime on April 30th, Hitler attended his last-ever military conference and was told the Russians were a block away. Two hours later, Hitler sat down for his final meal, a vegetarian lunch. His wife had no appetite. In the meantime, his chauffeur was ordered to deliver 200 liters of gasoline to the Chancellery garden.
Hitler, accompanied by his wife Eva, now bid a last farewell to Bormann, Goebbels, Generals Krebs and Burgdorf. Hitler and his wife went back into their private quarters while Bormann and Goebbels stood quietly nearby. A few moments later, about 3:30 p.m., a gunshot was heard. Bormann and Goebbels hesitated at first, then entered the room. They saw the body of Hitler sprawled on the sofa, dripping with blood from a gunshot to his right temple. He had killed himself with the same small revolver he once used to fire a warning shot into the ceiling back during the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 – a gun he had kept ever since. His wife, Eva, had died from biting into one of the cyanide capsules.
As Russian artillery shells exploded nearby, the bodies were carried up the stairs to the Reich Chancellery garden, placed in a shell crater, doused heavily with gasoline and burned while Bormann and Goebbels stood by silently, with arms extended in a final Nazi salute. Over the next three hours, the bodies were repeatedly doused until there were only charred remains, which were swept into a canvas, laid in a different shell crater and buried anonymously.
Back inside the bunker, with the Führer now gone, people lit cigarettes, a practice Hitler had forbidden in his presence. Next, they began to organize themselves into groups to flee the bunker and hopefully escape the Russians.
For Joseph Goebbels, life without Hitler was not worth living for himself, his wife and their six young children. On Tuesday, May 1st, Goebbels and his wife therefore poisoned their six children, aged 12 and younger, whom they had brought into the bunker. Next they went up into the Chancellery garden and each bit into a cyanide capsule. After collapsing and dying, they were shot in the head by an SS man as Goebbels had requested. Their bodies were then burned, but only partially, and were not buried. The macabre remains were discovered by the Russians the next day and filmed, with the grotesquely charred body of Goebbels becoming an enduring symbol of the legacy of Hitler’s twelve-year Reich.
At 10 p.m. on May 1st, a special radio announcement told the German people their Führer had died “fighting with his last breath for Germany against Bolshevism,” and also announced Dönitz as his designated successor. By now, the Russians were already combing through the wreckage of the Reich Chancellery looking for any sign of Hitler’s body.
With the Führer dead and the German nation in ruins, Dönitz and surviving leaders of the Wehrmacht had just one thing in mind – stall for time to allow as many troops and civilians as possible to flee from the Russians and make it into western zones occupied by the Americans and British.
Thus it wasn’t until Saturday, May 5th, when a military representative, Admiral Hans von Friedeburg, was sent by Dönitz to General Eisenhower’s headquarters at Reims, France. He was then joined by General Jodl. Even now, the Germans tried to stall the proceedings by suggesting a piecemeal surrender limited to the West, thereby allowing even more troops to flee the Russians. But Eisenhower saw through this ploy and demanded the Germans quit stalling and sign an unconditional surrender for all fronts.
And so, in the early morning hours of Monday, May 7th, with authorization from Dönitz, General Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. The signing was, as Winston Churchill put it, “the signal for the greatest outburst of joy in the history of mankind.” Huge crowds gathered to rejoice in London, Paris, New York and Moscow.
The guns across Europe were silent. Nazi Germany was finished.
The German people, who had once cheered mightily for Hitler and enthusiastically embraced Nazism, now faced a stark and uncertain future. A German woman summed up the dilemma: “There won’t be any more dying, any more raids. It’s over. But then the fear set in of what would happen afterwards. We were spiritually and emotionally drained. Hitler’s doctrines were discredited. And then the desperation set in of realizing that it had all been for nothing, and that was a terrible feeling. Surviving, finding something to eat and drink, was less difficult for me than the psychological emptiness. It was incomprehensible that all this was supposed to be over, and that it had all been for nothing.”
For Jews and others, who had been targeted by Nazis, a great sense of relief was felt at outlasting Hitler. One woman who survived the Final Solution reflected: “During the five terrible war years, we could not indulge in simple pleasures that life offers to normal people. All our efforts were directed towards fighting the enemy and surviving. Now, for the first time since September 1, 1939, we could unwind and be normal again – to walk the streets without the fear of hearing the hated “Halt!” without the fear of being rounded up by the Germans and pushed into military trucks. No more “Achtung, Achtung!” coming down from the street loud-speakers. No more ghettos, no more starvation, typhus, gas chambers, Einsatzgruppen [killing squads]. The intense fear and persecution were over.”
The Germans themselves had paid dearly for Hitler’s war, suffering four million civilian and three million military deaths. Hitler’s nemesis, Soviet Russia, had suffered staggering losses including seven million soldiers and an estimated 16 million civilian deaths. Throughout Europe and Russia, six million Jews had been systematically murdered by Nazis.
For the victorious Allies, with images of recently liberated concentration camps still fresh in their minds, the question of justice now arose. Fortunately for the Allies, the rapid demise of Nazi Germany had resulted in the wholesale capture of gigantic document archives from all branches of Hitler’s government along with secret papers, conference reports and private diaries.
The Nazis had kept meticulous written records of their activities, from mass murder of the Jews, to Hitler’s private talks. In addition, captured Nazi officials and high ranking military officers underwent lengthy interrogations. With all of the evidence at hand, the Allies decided to prosecute. The place chosen for the trial was Nuremberg, the now-ruined city that had once hosted annual rallies glorifying Hitler and NazismShare on Facebook
The quest for Lebensraum in the East was a carefully contemplated, step-by-step, process. First, the land was forcibly seized by Hitler’s armies from its rightful inhabitants. Secondly, Heinrich Himmler‘s SS, with the knowledge and cooperation of the Wehrmacht, moved in to conduct special actions in accordance with the racial policies of the Führer. After this, Nazi political authorities moved in to administer and exploit the conquered lands in cooperation with the SS and Wehrmacht.
Poland was the first such conquest. Hitler loathed the neighboring country which had been set up by the victorious Allies at the end of the First World War. He ordered every facet of Polish culture and national identity obliterated and the people reduced to slave laborers.
Upon its conquest in September 1939, Himmler and his second-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich, quickly set up SS execution squads known as Einsatzgruppen to rid the population of all educated and prominent Poles. Trailing behind the Wehrmacht, the SS squads combed through cities and villages, shooting whomever they pleased, including Polish political leaders, land-owners, gentry, ex-army officers, business owners, professors, artists and intellectuals. Simply wearing eyeglasses was enough to get one shot, since it implied a person was educated.
Next, all higher education was abolished so the Poles would degenerate into a population of ignorant, obedient laborers. A memorandum Himmler wrote in May 1940 provided the details: “The non-German population of the eastern territories must not receive any education higher than that of an elementary school with four grades. The objective of this elementary school must simply be to teach simple arithmetic up to 500 at the most, how to write one’s name, and to teach that it is God’s commandment to be obedient to the Germans and to be honest, hard working, and well-behaved. I consider it unnecessary to teach reading.”
The model for Lebensraum, as outlined by Hitler, included large-scale resettlement of conquered territories by pure-blooded Germans at the expense of the people already living there. Over a million Poles were therefore forced out of their homes and farms which were confiscated along with shops, businesses, gold, artwork, raw materials, food and anything else of value – including children.
SS men were instructed by Himmler to keep an eye out for any blond-haired, blue-eyed children. When spotted, such children were kidnapped on the spot by the SS and sent off to Germany to be raised as Nazis. Parts of Poland had been settled by Germans in the past, and so Himmler wanted all 6 to 10-year-old Poles physically examined by Nazi racial specialists “to sort out those with valuable blood and those with worthless blood.” Those considered worthless were condemned to a life of slave labor under their German masters, or worse, if they happened to be Jewish.
Poland was also home to about three million Jews, the largest population of any country in Europe. Following its conquest, Hitler appointed an old comrade, Hans Frank, his longtime Nazi lawyer, to oversee the large southeastern portion of occupied Poland that was not annexed into the Reich. Much to the annoyance of Frank, Himmler used this area, known as the General Government, as the dumping ground for all of the unwanted Jews and Poles. As the number of Jews in the General Government continued to swell, Frank repeatedly expressed his dismay to Hitler and began advocating for some kind of alternative.
At this point, both Hitler and Himmler were still pondering a future “solution of the Jewish problem.” In the meantime, as a temporary measure, Heydrich proposed rounding all up the Polish Jews in the General Government and placing them in SS-run ghettos at places such as Lodz, Cracow and Warsaw. Inside these walled-in ghettos, Heydrich explained, the Jews would be cut off from the outside world and squeezed into overcrowded areas where malnutrition and disease would naturally diminish their numbers.
Millions more Jews came under Nazi control as Hitler’s armies swept across Russia beginning in June 1941. For Hitler and Himmler, the existence of so many of these unwanted people in the vast tracts of newly acquired Lebensraum was a pressing dilemma, requiring some thought.
Meanwhile, in compliance with Hitler’s Commissar Order to liquidate all Russian political officials, Himmler unleashed his SS in Russia, creating four new Einsatz groups, totaling 3,000 men, which followed behind the German Army. At first, they only targeted Russian political officials, shooting them on sight. But SS field commanders soon enlarged the definition of a political official to include all Jewish men, in accordance with Hitler’s belief that the Russian political system was the embodiment of Jewish-Bolshevism and therefore all Jews were implicated. The next step occurred in August 1941, when Himmler further expanded the task of the Einsatz units to include the shooting of Jewish families as well. This marked the beginning of a systematic, coordinated effort by the Nazis to murder all of the Jews in the East.
For the SS in Russia, the task ahead was huge. Throughout the vast countryside, there were hundreds of isolated little villages called shtetlspopulated exclusively by Jews. Into each village, truckloads of SS troops would arrive unannounced. The commanding SS officer would promptly summon the town’s leading citizens and inform them the entire population was to be immediately resettled. With no time to think, the men from the village were rushed into the trucks and taken off to a secluded site, followed a short time later by the women and children.
Otto Ohlendorf, an Einsatz group commander, explained what happened at the execution site: “They were ordered to hand over their valuables to the leader of the unit, and shortly before their execution to surrender their outer clothing. The men, women and children were led to a place of execution which in most cases was located next to a deeply excavated anti-tank ditch. Then they were shot, kneeling or standing, and the corpses thrown into the ditch.”
Einsatz leaders such as Ohlendorf kept a precise tally of executed Jews so the number could be reported back to Himmler. Soon a competition arose among the four Einsatz groups to see who could report the highest tally, and so they dashed from place to place in search of ever-more Jews.
As Hitler’s armies plunged deeper into Russia, the massacres grew in size, culminating in late September 1941, when 33,771 Jews in the Ukraine were rounded up and killed over two days in the Babi Yar ravine outside Kiev.
One of the few survivors, Dina Pronicheva, recalled: “It was dark already…They lined us up on a ledge which was so small that we couldn’t get much of a footing on it. They began shooting us. I shut my eyes, clenched my fists, tensed all my muscles and took a plunge down before the bullets hit me. It seemed I was flying forever. But I landed safely on the bodies. After a while, when the shooting stopped, I heard the Germans climbing into the ravine. They started finishing off all those who were not dead yet, those who were moaning, hiccupping, tossing, writhing in agony…They started covering the corpses over with earth. They must have put quite a lot over me because I felt I was beginning to suffocate…Then I decided it was better to be shot than buried alive. Using my left arm I managed to move a little way up. Then I took a deep breath, summoned up my waning strength and crawled out from under the cover of earth. It was dark…I was lucky enough to crawl up one of the high walls of the ravine, and straining every nerve and muscle, got out of it.”
Curious about the whole process, Himmler ventured into Russia and watched an Einsatz squad execute a hundred Jews at Minsk. As the squad fired upon the first set of lined-up people, Himmler appeared on the verge of fainting. When a second set of Jews went before the same firing squad, the shots failed to kill two women, greatly upsetting Himmler, who cried out for the women to be put out of their misery. After this emotional experience, Himmler settled on the idea of trying gas as an alternative to firing squads, believing it would spare his SS men the ordeal of shooting women and children.
Newly developed gas trucks were then introduced for experimental usage. Each of these mobile vans contained an airtight rear compartment into which the engine’s exhaust fumes were fed to asphyxiate the 15 to 25 people inside while it was driven toward a mass grave. The vans, however, presented their own problems. The amount of time it took for people to perish from the carbon monoxide in the fumes varied widely causing some to arrive at the grave site still alive. Removal of the bodies from the rear of the van also became a gruesome sight for the SS men involved.
Although the vans were troublesome, the idea of gassing took hold. SS officials began experiments using air-tight chambers in concentration camps with exhaust fumes piped in from a diesel engine mounted just outside the chamber. Additional experiments involved the usage of a commercial pesticide called Zyklon-B, which gave off deadly cyanide fumes when exposed to air. While the gassing experiments were underway, mass shootings of Jews continued all over occupied Russia with a tally that soon surpassed 630,000 persons.
By November 1941, Hitler’s armies had conquered most of western Russia and stood on the outskirts of Moscow. By this time, Soviet leader Josef Stalin had issued a decree for all-out guerrilla warfare behind the lines. Hitler reacted to this new development with glee, privately telling his Nazi overseers for the East: “The Russians have now given out the order for a partisan war behind our Front. This partisan war again has its advantage: it gives us the possibility of exterminating anything that opposes us.”
Thus began a spiral of death in occupied Russia in which all semblances of civilized behavior and traditional military protocol vanished and human life itself had no value. For Germans behind the lines, revenge became the order of the day. Wherever anti-Nazi partisans attacked, the Wehrmacht and SS responded with astounding brutality, killing a hundred hostages for every dead German – sometimes picking a village at random and killing all of the inhabitants.
But over time, this only deepened the resolve and hatred of the entire population. In Russia, everywhere the Germans went they made instant enemies. All opportunities to win people over were squandered, despite the fact that some ethnic regions, such as the Ukraine longed for independence from Stalin and his oppressive Soviet regime. Although the German invaders were initially welcomed upon their arrival in the Ukraine and other independence-minded communities, they treated everyone in Russia as Slavic sub-humans. Erich Koch, Nazi administrator for the Ukraine, summed it up: “We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here.”
Koch and fellow overseers in Russia also viewed the population as a limitless pool of slave labor. Regular roundups soon began in which civilians of all ages were packed into railroad box cars and shipped off to Germany to toil in mines, fields and factories.
Those left behind focused their wrath on all things German, requiring whole divisions to be pulled from the Eastern Front to restore order behind the lines at a time when every available soldier was needed elsewhere. Too late, an observant Nazi official in the East would note: “The Russian fights today with exceptional bravery and self-sacrifice for nothing more or less than recognition of his human dignity.”
Nazi contempt for Russian civilians also applied to the millions of now-helpless prisoners of war. Although the Eastern Front had become static by the end of 1941, till then each day saw thousands more Russians added to the tally of prisoners. On the long marches to the rear, they were denied all food and water and were subsequently penned up in giant outdoor stockades, left to starve or perish from the winter weather. Ultimately, half of all Russian POWs, some three million men, would die in German captivity.
On the surface, Hitler remained confident about the war in Russia, anticipating victory sometime in 1942. But his failure to achieve victory by the autumn of 1941, as originally planned, had unforeseen consequences. A quick victory over the Russians would have allowed Hitler to confront the lonely British with a fate-accomplished in Europe, forcing them to humbly negotiate for peace, or so he had believed.
But by now, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had squarely allied himself with Stalin and the Russians. Additionally, both the Russians and British were bolstered by their alliance with Hitler’s newest enemy, the United States of America.Share on Facebook
In calling off Operation Sea Lion, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the world’s most powerful armed forces, had suffered his first major setback. Nazi Germany had stumbled in the skies over Britain but Hitler was not discouraged. In the past, he had repeatedly overcome setbacks of one sort or another through drastic action elsewhere to both triumph over the failure and to move toward his ultimate goal. Now it was time to do it again.
All of Hitler’s actions in Western Europe thus far, including the subjugation of France and the now-failed attack on Britain, were simply a prelude to achieving his principal goal as Führer, the acquisition of Lebensraum (Living Space) in the East. He had moved against the French, British and others in the West only as a necessary measure to secure Germany’s western border, thereby freeing him to attack in the East with full force.
For Hitler, the war itself was first and foremost a racial struggle and he viewed all aspects of the conflict in racial terms. He considered the peoples of Western Europe and the British Isles to be racial comrades, ranked among the higher order of humans. The supreme form of human, according to Hitler, was the Germanic person, characterized by his or her fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. The lowest form, Hitler believed, were the Jews and the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe, including the Russians.
All of this had been outlined in his book, Mein Kampf, first published in 1925. In it, Hitler stated his fundamental belief that Germany’s survival depended on its ability to acquire vast tracts of land in the East to provide room for the expanding German population at the expense of the inferior peoples already living there, justified purely on racial grounds. Hitler explained that Nazi racial philosophy “by no means believes in an equality of races…and feels itself obligated to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker.”
Therefore, in stark contrast to the battles so far in the West, Hitler intended the quest for Lebensraum in the East to be a “war of annihilation” utilizing the might of the German Army and Air Force against soldiers and civilians alike.
In March of 1941, he assembled his top generals and told them how their troops should behave: “This struggle is one of [political] ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. All officers will have to rid themselves of obsolete [moral] ideologies…I insist absolutely that my orders be executed without contradiction.” Hitler then ordered the killing of all Russian political authorities. “The [Russian] commissars are the bearers of ideologies directly opposed to National Socialism. Therefore the commissars will be liquidated. German soldiers guilty of breaking international law…will be excused.” His generals listened in silence to this command, known later as the Commissar Order.
For his most senior generals, the utterances of their Supreme Commander posed a dilemma. They were mostly men of the old-school, born and raised in Imperial Germany, long before Hitler, amid traditional morals of bygone days. Now, they felt duty-bound to follow Hitler’s orders, no matter how drastic, since they had all sworn an oath of obedience to the Führer. But to comply, they would have to abandon time-honored codes of military conduct, considered obsolete by Hitler, which prohibited senseless murder of civilians.
At the same time, they each owed a debt of gratitude to Hitler for restoring the Germany Army to greatness and for the slew of promotions bestowed upon them by the Führer in the wake of its continued success. Rank and privilege, and the immense prestige of holding the title of Colonel-General or Field Marshal in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, had tremendous appeal for these men, Therefore, in the end, despite their misgivings, not one of them dared to speak up or refuse Hitler in regard to his war plans for Russia. Instead, they dutifully planned the invasion of Russia, knowing the attack would unleash an unprecedented wave of murder.
The invasion plan for Russia was named Operation Barbarossa (Red Beard) by Hitler in honor of German ruler Frederick I, nicknamed Red Beard, who had orchestrated a ruthless attack on the Slavic peoples of the East some eight centuries earlier.
Barbarossa would be Blitzkrieg again but on a continental scale this time, as Hitler boasted to his generals, “When Barbarossa commences the world will hold its breath and make no comment!” Set to begin on May 15, 1941, three million soldiers totaling 160 divisions would plunge deep into Russia in three massive army groups, reaching the Volga River, east of Moscow, by the end of summer, thus achieving victory.
Facing them would be Stalin’s Red Army, estimated by the Germans at 200 divisions. Although somewhat outnumbered by the Russians, Hitler believed they did not pose a serious threat and would fall apart just like their fellow Slavs, the Poles, did in 1939. Against an army of battle-hardened, racially superior Germans, the Russians would be finished in a matter of weeks, Hitler claimed.
Most of his generals concurred, supported by recent evidence. They had watched with keen interest as Soviet Russia confidently invaded Finland in November 1939, only to see the Red Army disintegrate into a disorganized jumble amid embarrassing defeats at the hands of a much smaller blond-haired Finnish fighting force.
Buoyed by Hitler and awash in their own arrogance, the generals confidently finalized the details of Operation Barbarossa as the bulk of the German troops and armor slowly moved into position in the weeks leading up to May 15. But as the invasion date neared, complications arose that upset the whole timetable.
Hitler’s old friend and chief ally, Benito Mussolini, leader of Fascist Italy, had foolishly tried to imitate the Führer and achieve battlefield glory for himself by launching a surprise invasion of Greece. British troops stationed in the Mediterranean then moved in to help the Greeks fend off the Italians. For Hitler, the very idea of British troops in Southern Europe was enough to keep him awake at night. Their presence was a threat to Germany’s vulnerable southern flank, the region of Europe known as the Balkans, which also supplied most of Germany’s oil. It would therefore be necessary to secure the Balkans before launching Barbarossa.
To quickly achieve this, Hitler slipped back into a familiar role – the political master manipulator – forging overnight alliances with two Balkan countries, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.
But in Yugoslavia, things unexpectedly spiraled out of control when the government, upon its alliance with Hitler, was immediately overthrown by its own citizens. Hitler was enraged by the news, perceiving it as a blow to his prestige. In a tirade, he ordered his generals to crush the country “as speedily as possible” and also ordered Göring’s Air Force to obliterate the capital city, Belgrade, as “punishment.” For the Luftwaffe, Belgrade was an easy target and they quickly turned it to rubble while killing 17,000 defenseless civilians.
Meanwhile, beginning on Sunday, April 6, 1941, the Wehrmacht poured 29 divisions into the region, taking Yugoslavia by storm, then took Greece for good measure, forcing British troops there to make a hasty exit. Thus the Balkans were secured. However, these actions took nearly five weeks and caused a lot of wear and tear on tanks and other armored equipment needed for the Russian campaign.
The new launch date for Barbarossa was Sunday, June 22, 1941. On that day, beginning at 3:15 am, 3.2 million Germans plunged headlong into Russia across an 1800-mile front, taking their foes by surprise. Russian field commanders made frantic calls to headquarters asking for orders, but were told there were no orders. Sleepy-eyed infantrymen scrambled out of their tents to find themselves already surrounded by Germans, with no option but to surrender. Bridges were captured intact while hundreds of Russian planes were destroyed sitting on the ground.
At 7 am that morning, over the radio, a proclamation from the Führer to the German people announced, “At this moment a march is taking place that, for its extent, compares with the greatest the world has ever seen. I have decided again today to place the fate and future of the Reich and our people in the hands of our soldiers. May God aid us, especially in this fight.”
In attacking Russia, Hitler had indeed stunned the world. But he also made a lot of Germans very nervous. Maria Mauth, a 17-year-old German schoolgirl at the time, recalled her father’s reaction: “I will never forget my father saying: ‘Right, now we have lost the war!’ ” But then reports arrived highlighting the easy successes. “In the weekly newsreels we would see glorious pictures of the German Army with all the soldiers singing and waving and cheering. And that was infectious of course…We simply thought it would be similar to what it was like in France or in Poland – everybody was convinced of that, considering the fabulous army we had.”
Indeed, it was true. Whole armies of hapless Russians were now surrendering as the relentless three-pronged Blitzkrieg blasted its way forward. Soviet Russia had been caught unprepared due to the astounding negligence of the country’s dictator, Josef Stalin, who had stubbornly disregarded a flurry of intelligence reports warning that a Nazi invasion was imminent.
The result was chaos. Georgy Semenyak, a 20-year-old Russian soldier at the time, remembered: “It was a dismal picture. During the day airplanes continuously dropped bombs on the retreating soldiers…When the order was given for the retreat, there were huge numbers of people heading in every direction…The lieutenants, captains, second-lieutenants took rides on passing vehicles…mostly trucks traveling eastwards…And without commanders, our ability to defend ourselves was so severely weakened that there was really nothing we could do.”
Hitler and the Army High Command were now poised to achieve the greatest military victory of all time by trouncing the Russians. At present, three gigantic army groups were proceeding like clockwork toward their objectives. Army Group North, with 20 infantry divisions and six armored divisions, headed for Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) by the Baltic Sea. Army Group Center, the largest, with 33 infantry and 15 armored divisions, continued on its 700-mile-long journey toward Russia’s capital, Moscow. Army Group South, with 33 infantry and eight armored divisions, headed for Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe with its fertile wheat fields. Along the way, German field commanders employed their already-perfected Blitzkrieg techniques time and time again to pierce Russian defensive lines and surround bewildered Red Army soldiers.
By mid-July 1941, all that remained was for the Russians to give up and accept their fate under Hitler, just like Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece.
But the Russians kept fighting.
Despite staggering losses of men and equipment, pockets of fanatical resistance now emerged, unlike anything the Germans had encountered thus far in the war. And there were more surprises for the Germans. They had grossly underestimated the total fighting strength of the Red Army. Instead of 200 divisions, the Russians could field 400 divisions when fully mobilized. This meant there were three million additional Russians available to fight.
Another emerging factor was the vastness of Russia itself. It was one thing to ponder a map, something else to traverse the boundless countryside, as Field Marshal Manstein remembered: “Everyone was captivated at one time or other by the endlessness of the landscape, through which it was possible to drive for hours on end – often guided by the compass – without encountering the least rise in the ground or setting eyes on a single human being or habitation. The distant horizon seemed like some mountain ridge behind which a paradise might beckon, but it only stretched on and on.”
The vastness created logistical problems including worn out foot soldiers and dangerously overstretched supply lines. It also taxed the ability of the Luftwaffe to provide close cover for advancing ground troops, a vital ingredient in the Blitzkrieg formula.
On top of this, Russian resistance began to stiffen all over as the soldiers and people rallied behind Stalin in the defense of their Motherland. Stalin, at first overwhelmed by the magnitude of Barbarossa, had regained his bearings and publicly appealed for a “Great Patriotic War” against the Nazi invaders. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, he enacted ruthless measures, executing his top commander in the west and various field commanders who had been too eager to retreat.
Under Stalin’s tight-fisted grip, the chaos and panic that had initially enveloped the Russian officer corps gradually subsided. Red Army commanders took heed from Stalin, instilling his ‘fight to the death’ mentality in their frontline soldiers. They set up new defensive positions, not to be yielded until every last soldier was killed. They also began their first-ever counter-attacks against the advancing Germans.
As a result, with each passing day the Germans began to lose momentum. They could no longer easily blow through the Russian defenses and had to be wary of counter-strikes. All the while, German foot soldiers were becoming increasingly fatigued. By August of 1941, it had become apparent to the Army High Command there would be no speedy victory. “The whole situation makes it increasingly plain that we have underestimated the Russian colossus,” General Franz Halder, Chief of the General Staff, had to admit.
Therefore the question now arose – what to do – follow the original battle plan for Barbarossa or make changes to adapt?
Army Group Center was presently about 200 miles from Moscow, poised for a massive assault. However, the original plan called for Army Groups North and South to stage the main attacks in Russia, with Army Group Center playing a supporting role until their tasks were completed, after which Moscow would be taken.
A majority of Hitler’s senior generals now implored him to scrap Barbarossa in favor of an all-out attack on Moscow. If the Russian capital fell, they argued, it would devastate Russian morale and knock out the country’s chief transportation hub. Russia’s days would surely be numbered.
The decision rested solely with the Supreme Commander.
In what was perhaps his single biggest decision of World War II, Hitler passed up the chance to attack Moscow during the summer of 1941.Instead, he clung to the original plan to crush Leningrad in the north and simultaneously seize the Ukraine in the south. This, Hitler lectured his generals, would be far more devastating to the Russians than the fall of Moscow. A successful attack in the north would wreck the city named after one of the founders of Soviet Russia, Vladimir Lenin. Attacking the south would destroy the Russian armies protecting the region and place vital agricultural and industrial areas in German hands.
Though they remained unconvinced, the generals dutifully halted the advance on Moscow and repositioned troops and tanks away from Army Group Center to aid Army Groups North and South. By late September, bolstered by the additional Panzer tanks, Army Group South successfully captured the city of Kiev in the Ukraine, taking 650,000 Russian prisoners. As Army Group North approached Leningrad, a beautiful old city with palaces that once belonged to the Czars, Hitler ordered the place flattened via massive aerial and artillery bombardments. Concerning the five million trapped inhabitants, he told his generals, “The problem of the survival of the population and of supplying it with food is one which cannot and should not be solved by us.”
Now, with Leningrad surrounded and the Ukraine almost taken, the generals implored Hitler to let them take Moscow before the onset of winter. This time Hitler consented, but only partly. He would allow an attack on Moscow, provided that Army Group North also completed the capture of Leningrad, while Army Group South advanced deeper into southern Russia toward Stalingrad, the city on the Volga River named after the Soviet dictator.
This meant German forces in Russia would be attacking simultaneously on three major fronts over two thousand miles long, stretching their manpower and resources to the absolute limit. Realizing the danger, the generals pleaded once more for permission to focus on Moscow alone and strike the city with overwhelming force. But Hitler said no.
In the meantime, German troops still holding outside Moscow had remained idle for nearly two months, waiting for orders to advance. When the push finally began on October 2, 1941, a noticeable chill already hung in the morning air, and in a few places, snowflakes wafted from the sky. The notorious Russian winter was just around the corner.
At first it appeared Moscow might be another easy success. Two Russian army groups defending the main approach were quickly encircled and broken up by motorized Germans who took 660,000 prisoners.
Confident the war in Russia was just about won, Hitler took a leap by announcing victory to the German people: “I declare today, and I declare it without any reservation, that the enemy in the East has been struck down and will never rise again…Behind our troops already lies a territory twice the size of the German Reich when I came to power in 1933.”
By mid-October, forward German units had advanced to within 40 miles of Moscow. Only 90,000 Russian soldiers stood between the German armies and the Soviet capital. The entire government, including Stalin himself, prepared to evacuate.
But then the weather turned.
It began with weeks of unending autumn rain, creating battlefields of deep, sticky mud that immobilized anything on wheels and robbed German armored units of their tactical advantage. The non-stop rain drenched foot soldiers, soaking them to the bone in mud up to their knees. And things only got worse. In November, autumn rains abruptly gave way to snow squalls with frigid winds and sub-zero temperatures, causing frostbite and other cold-related sickness.
The German Army had counted on a quick summertime victory in Russia and had therefore neglected to prepare for the brutal winter warfare it now faced. German medical officer Heinrich Haape recalled: “The cold relentlessly crept into our bodies, our blood, our brains. Even the sun seemed to radiate a steely cold and at night the blood red skies above the burning villages merely hinted a mockery of warmth.”
Heavy boots, overcoats, blankets and thick socks were desperately needed but were unavailable. As a result, thousands of frostbitten soldiers dropped out of their frontline units. Some divisions fell to fifty-percent of their fighting strength. Food supplies also ran low and the troops became malnourished. Mechanical failures worsened as tank and truck engines cracked from the cold while iced-up artillery and machine-guns jammed.
The once-mighty German military machine had now ground to a halt in Russia.
Frontline Russians noticed the change. A Soviet commander in the 19th Rifle Brigade recalled: “I remember very well the Germans in July 1941. They were confident, strong tall guys. They marched ahead with their sleeves rolled up and carrying their machine-guns. But later on they became miserable, crooked, snotty guys wrapped in woolen kerchiefs stolen from old women in villages…Of course, they were still firing and defending themselves, but they weren’t the Germans we knew earlier in 1941.”
Ignoring the plight of his frontline soldiers, Hitler insisted that Moscow could still be taken and ordered all available troops in the region to make one final thrust for victory. Beginning on December 1, 1941, German tank formations attacked from the north and south of the city while infantrymen moved in from the east. But the Russians were ready and waiting. The weather delays had given them time to bring in massive reinforcements, including 30 Siberian divisions specially trained for winter warfare. Wherever the Germans struck they encountered fierce resistance and faltered. They were also stricken by temperatures that plunged to 40 degrees below zero at night.
Hitler had pushed his troops beyond human endurance and now they paid a terrible price. On Saturday, December 6th, a hundred Russian divisions under the command of the Red Army’s new leader, General Georgi Zhukov, counter-attacked the Germans all along the 200-mile front around Moscow. For the first time in the war, the Germans experienced Blitzkrieg in reverse, as overwhelming numbers of Russian tanks, planes and artillery tore them apart. The impact was devastating. By mid-December, German forces around Moscow, battered, cold and tremendously fatigued, were in full retreat and facing the possibility of being routed by the Russians.
Just six months earlier, the Germans had been poised to achieve the greatest victory of all time and change world history. Instead, they had succumbed to the greatest-ever comeback by their Russian foes. By now a quarter of all German troops in Russia, some 750,000 men, were either dead, wounded, missing or ill.
Reacting to the catastrophe he had caused, Hitler blamed the Wehrmacht’s leadership, dismissing dozens of field commanders and senior generals, including Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Hitler then took that rank for himself, assuming personal day-to-day operational command of the Army, and promptly ordered all surviving troops in Russia to halt in their tracks and retreat not one step further, which they did. As a result, the Eastern Front gradually stabilized.
In the bloodied fields of snow around Moscow, Adolf Hitler had suffered a breathtaking defeat. The German Army would never be the same. The illusion of invincibility that had caused the world to shudder in the face of Nazi Germany had vanished forever – replaced now by a sliver of hope.
But for the populations of Eastern Europe and occupied Russia, there was much suffering yet to be endured. In cities and villages behind the front lines, Hitler’s war of annihilation was fully underway, comprising the most savage episode in human history.Share on Facebook
After the elections of March 5, 1933, the Nazis began a systematic takeover of the state governments throughout Germany, ending a centuries-old tradition of local political independence. Armed SA and SS thugs barged into local government offices using the state of emergency decree as a pretext to throw out legitimate office holders and replace them with Nazi Reich commissioners.
Political enemies were arrested by the thousands and put in hastily constructed holding pens. Old army barracks and abandoned factories were used as prisons. Once inside, prisoners were subjected to military style drills and harsh discipline. They were often beaten and sometimes even tortured to death. This was the very beginning of the Nazi concentration camp system.
At this time, these early concentration camps were loosely organized under the control of the SA and the rival SS. Many were little more than barbed-wire stockades know as ‘wild’ concentration camps, set up by local Gauleiters and SA leaders.
For Adolf Hitler, the goal of a legally established dictatorship was now within reach. On March 15, 1933, a cabinet meeting was held during which Hitler and Göring discussed how to obstruct what was left of the democratic process to get an Enabling Act passed by the Reichstag. This law would hand over the constitutional functions of the Reichstag to Hitler, including the power to make laws, control the budget and approve treaties with foreign governments.
The emergency decree signed by Hindenburg on February 28th, after the Reichstag fire, made it easy for them to interfere with non-Nazi elected representatives of the people by simply arresting them.
As Hitler plotted to bring democracy to an end in Germany, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels put together a brilliant public relations display at the official opening of the newly elected Reichstag.
On March 21st, in the Garrison Church at Potsdam, the burial place of Frederick the Great, an elaborate ceremony took place designed to ease public concern over Hitler and his gangster-like new regime.
It was attended by President Hindenburg, foreign diplomats, the General Staff and all the old guard going back to the days of the Kaiser. Dressed in their handsome uniforms sprinkled with medals, they watched a most reverent Adolf Hitler give a speech paying respect to Hindenburg and celebrating the union of old Prussian military traditions and the new Nazi Reich. As a symbol of this, the old Imperial flags would soon add swastikas.
Finishing his speech, Hitler walked over to Hindenburg and respectfully bowed before him while taking hold of the old man’s hand. The scene was recorded on film and by press photographers from around the world. This was precisely the impression Hitler and Goebbels wanted to give to the world, all the while plotting to toss aside Hindenburg and the elected Reichstag.
Later that same day, Hindenburg signed two decrees put before him by Hitler. The first offered full pardons to all Nazis currently in prison. The prison doors sprang open and out came an assortment of Nazi thugs and murderers.
The second decree signed by the befuddled old man allowed for the arrest of anyone suspected of maliciously criticizing the government and the Nazi Party.
A third decree signed only by Hitler and Papen allowed for the establishment of special courts to try political offenders. These courts were conducted in the military style of a court-martial without a jury and usually with no counsel for the defense.
On March 23rd, the newly elected Reichstag met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler’s Enabling Act. It was officially called the “Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.” If passed, it would in effect vote democracy out of existence in Germany and establish the legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
Brown-shirted Nazi storm troopers swarmed over the fancy old building in a show of force and as a visible threat. They stood outside, in the hallways and even lined the aisles inside, glaring ominously at anyone who might oppose Hitler’s will.
Before the vote, Hitler made a speech in which he pledged to use restraint.
“The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one,” Hitler told the Reichstag.
He also promised an end to unemployment and pledged to promote peace with France, Great Britain and Soviet Russia. But in order to do all this, Hitler said, he first needed the Enabling Act. A two-thirds majority was needed, since the law would actually alter the constitution. Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. He got those votes from the Catholic Center Party after making a false promise to restore some basic rights already taken away by decree.
Meanwhile, Nazi storm troopers chanted outside: “Full powers – or else! We want the bill – or fire and murder!!”
But one man arose amid the overwhelming might. Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrats stood up and spoke quietly to Hitler.
“We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible.”
Hitler was enraged and jumped up to respond.
“You are no longer needed! The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink! Your death knell has sounded!”
The vote was taken – 441 for, and only 84, the Social Democrats, against. The Nazis leapt to their feet clapping, stamping and shouting, then broke into the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song.
Democracy was ended. They had brought down the German Democratic Republic legally. From this day onward, the Reichstag would be just a sounding board, a cheering section for Hitler’s pronouncements.
Interestingly, the Nazi Party was now flooded with applications for membership. These latecomers were cynically labeled by old time Nazis as ‘March Violets.’ In May, the Nazi Party froze membership. Many of those kept out applied to the SA and the SS which were still accepting. However, in early 1934, Heinrich Himmler would throw out 50,000 of those ‘March Violets’ from the SS.
The Nazi Gleichschaltung now began, a massive coordination of all aspects of life under the swastika and the absolute leadership of Adolf Hitler.
Under Hitler, the State, not the individual, was supreme.
From the moment of birth one existed to serve the State and obey the dictates of the Führer. Those who disagreed were disposed of.
Many agreed. Bureaucrats, industrialists, even intellectual and literary figures, including Gerhart Hauptmann, world renowned dramatist, were coming out in open support of Hitler.
Many disagreed and left the country. A flood of the finest minds, including over two thousand writers, scientists, and people in the arts poured out of Germany and enriched other lands, mostly the United States. Among them – writer Thomas Mann, director Fritz Lang, actress Marlene Dietrich, architect Walter Gropius, musicians Otto Klemperer, Kurt Weill, Richard Tauber, psychologist Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein, who was visiting California when Hitler came to power and never returned to Germany.
In Germany, there were now constant Nazi rallies, parades, marches and meetings amid the relentless propaganda of Goebbels and the omnipresent swastika. For those who remained there was an odd mixture of fear and optimism in the air.
Now, for the first time as dictator, Adolf Hitler turned his attention to the driving force which had propelled him into politics in the first place, his hatred of the Jews. It began with a simple boycott on April 1st, 1933, and would end years later in the greatest tragedy in all of human history.Share on Facebook
Adolf Hitler, the new Chancellor of Germany, had no intention of abiding by the rules of democracy. He intended only to use those rules to legally establish himself as dictator as quickly as possible then begin the Nazi revolution.
Even before he was sworn in, he was at work to accomplish that goal by demanding new elections. While Hindenburg waited impatiently in another room, Hitler argued with conservative leader Hugenberg, who vehemently opposed the idea. Hitler’s plan was to establish a majority of elected Nazis in the Reichstag which would become a rubber stamp, passing whatever laws he desired while making it all perfectly legal.
On his first day as chancellor, Hitler manipulated Hindenburg into dissolving the Reichstag and calling for the new elections he had wanted – to be held on March 5th, 1933.
That evening, Hitler attended a dinner with the German General Staff and told them Germany would re-arm as a first step toward regaining its former position in the world. He also gave them a strong hint of things to come by telling them there would be conquest of the lands to the east and ruthless Germanization of conquered territories.
Hitler also reassured the generals there would be no attempt to replace the regular army with an army of SA storm troopers. For years this had been a big concern of the generals who wanted to preserve their own positions of power and keep the traditional military intact.
Hitler’s storm troopers were about to reach new heights of power of their own and begin a reign of terror that would last as long as the Third Reich.
President Hindenburg had fallen under Hitler’s spell and was signing just about anything put in front of him. He signed an emergency decree that put the German state of Prussia into the hands of Hitler confidant, Vice Chancellor Papen. Göring as Minister of the Interior for Prussia took control of the police. Prussia was Germany’s biggest and most important state and included the capital of Berlin.
Göring immediately replaced hundreds of police officials loyal to the republic with Nazi officials loyal to Hitler. He also ordered the police not to interfere with the SA and SS under any circumstances. This meant that anybody being harassed, beaten, or even murdered by Nazis, had nobody to turn to for help.
Göring then ordered the police to show no mercy to those deemed hostile to the State, meaning those hostile to Hitler, especially Communists.
“Police officers who use weapons in carrying out their duties will be covered by me. Whoever misguidedly fails in this duty can expect disciplinary action,” stated the order of Hermann Göring to the Prussian Police.
On February 22nd, Göring set up an auxiliary police force of 50,000 men, composed mostly of members of the SA and SS. The vulgar, brawling, murderous Nazi storm troopers now had the power of police.
Two days later, they raided Communist headquarters in Berlin. Göring falsely claimed he had uncovered plans for a Communist uprising in the raid. But he actually uncovered the membership list of the Communist Party and intended to arrest every one of the four thousand members.
Göring and Goebbels, with Hitler’s approval, then hatched a plan to cause panic by burning the Reichstag building and blaming the Communists. The Reichstag was the building in Berlin where the elected members of the republic met to conduct the daily business of government.
By a weird coincidence, there was also in Berlin a deranged Communist conducting a one-man uprising. An arsonist named Marinus van der Lubbe, 24, from Holland, had been wandering around Berlin for a week attempting to burn government buildings to protest capitalism and start a revolt. On February 27, he decided to burn the Reichstag building.
Carrying incendiary devices, he spent all day lurking around the building, before breaking in around 9 p.m. He took off his shirt, lit it on fire, then went to work using it as his torch.
The exact sequence of events will never be known, but Nazi storm troopers under the direction of Göring were also involved in torching the place. They had befriended the arsonist and may have known or even encouraged him to burn the Reichstag that night. The storm troopers, led by SA leader Karl Ernst, used the underground tunnel that connected Göring’s residence with the cellar in the Reichstag. They entered the building, scattered gasoline and incendiaries, then hurried back through the tunnel.
The deep red glow of the burning Reichstag caught the eye of President Hindenburg and Vice-Chancellor Papen who were dining at a club facing the building. Papen put the elderly Hindenburg in his own car and took him to the scene.
Hitler was at Goebbels’ apartment having dinner. They rushed to the scene where they met Göring who was already screaming false charges and making threats against the Communists.
At first glance, Hitler described the fire as a beacon from heaven.
“You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in German history…This fire is the beginning,” Hitler told a news reporter at the scene.
After viewing the damage, an emergency meeting of government leaders was held. When told of the arrest of the Communist arsonist, Van der Lubbe, Hitler became deliberately enraged.
“The German people have been soft too long. Every Communist official must be shot. All Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. All friends of the Communists must be locked up. And that goes for the Social Democrats and the Reichsbanner as well!”
Hitler left the fire scene and went straight to the offices of his newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, to oversee its coverage of the fire. He stayed up all night with Goebbels putting together a paper full of tales of a Communist plot to violently seize power in Berlin.
At a cabinet meeting held later in the morning, February 28th, Chancellor Hitler demanded an emergency decree to overcome the crisis. He met little resistance from his largely non-Nazi cabinet. That evening, Hitler and Papen went to Hindenburg and the befuddled old man signed the decree “for the Protection of the people and the State.”
The Emergency Decree stated: “Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.”
Immediately, there followed the first big Nazi roundup as truckloads of SA and SS roared through the streets bursting in on known Communist hangouts and barging into private homes. Thousands of Communists as well as Social Democrats and liberals were taken away into ‘protective custody’ to SA barracks where they were beaten and tortured.
“I don’t have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more!” Hermann Göring declared on March 3rd, 1933.
Fifty-one anti-Nazis were murdered. The Nazis suppressed all political activity, meetings and publications of non-Nazi parties. The very act of campaigning against the Nazis was in effect made illegal.
“Every bullet which leaves the barrel of a police pistol now is my bullet. If one calls this murder, then I have murdered. I ordered this. I back it up. I assume the responsibility, and I am not afraid to do so,” declared Hermann Göring.
Nazi newspapers continued to print false evidence of Communist conspiracies, claiming that only Hitler and the Nazis could prevent a Communist takeover. Joseph Goebbels now had control of the State-run radio and broadcast Nazi propaganda and Hitler’s speeches all across the nation.
The Nazis now turned their attention to election day, March 5th.
All of the resources of the government necessary for a big win were placed at the disposal of Joseph Goebbels. The big industrialists who had helped Hitler into power gladly coughed up three million marks. Representatives from Krupp munitions and I. G. Farben were among those reaching into their pockets at Göring’s insistence.
“The sacrifice we ask is easier to bear if you realize that the elections will certainly be the last for the next ten years, probably for the next hundred years,” Göring told them.
With no money problems and the power of the State behind them, the Nazis campaigned furiously to get Hitler the majority he wanted.
On March 5th, the last free elections were held. But the people denied Hitler his majority, giving the Nazis only 44 percent of the total vote, 17, 277,180. Despite massive propaganda and the brutal crackdown, the other parties held their own. The Center Party got over four million and the Social Democrats over seven million. The Communists lost votes but still got over four million.
The goal of a legally established dictatorship was now within reach. But the lack of the necessary two-thirds majority in the Reichstag was an obstacle. For Hitler and his ruthless inner circle, it was obstacle that was soon to be overcome.
As for Van der Lubbe, the Communist arsonist, he was tried and convicted, then beheaded.Share on Facebook
The entire German 6th army was now trapped in and near Stalingrad. To prevent the Germans from breaking the encirclement, the Russians expanded the corridor which separated the 6th army from the rest of the German military to a width of over 100 miles, and quickly moved 60 divisions and 1000 tanks there. But instead of breaking out of the encirclement, General von Paulus, the 6th army’s commander, was immediately ordered by Hitler to remain in his position and hold it at all cost.
Hermann Goering, Hitler’s deputy and head of the Luftwaffe, promised Hitler that his Luftwaffe will supply the 6th army, promising to fly 500 tons of supplies per day. Goering did not consult Luftwaffe headquarters about this and it was far beyond its ability, but it was what Hitler wanted to hear.
The air supply operation continued until the 6th army’s surrender, but it flew less than 100 tons per day, much less than needed, and the Luftwaffe lost 488 cargo aircraft in it. The 6th army quickly ran out of fuel, ammunition, and food, and the German soldiers starved severely.
Only three weeks later, Field Marshal von Manstein‘s army group finally attacked the Russian barrier on December 12, 1942, but it could not reach the encircled 6th army. The Germans advanced just 60 kilometers in the direction of Stalingrad, before they were pushed back by a Russian counter attack.
Despite their isolation and starvation, the German 6th army kept fighting, and fortified its positions as much as its could. Hitler demanded that they’ll keep on even after it was clear that they will remain isolated after von Manstein’s rescue attempt failed.
When the 6th army rejected an ultimatum to surrender, the Russians started the final attack to crush it. They estimated the number of besieged Germans at 80,000 while there were over 250,000 encircled Germans.
On January 10, 1943, 47 Russian divisions attacked the 6th army from all directions. Knowing that captivity in Russia will be very cruel, the Germans kept fighting a hopeless battle.
A week later, the large German pocket was shrunk by half, pushed towards Stalingrad, and only one runway remained in German hands, and it was under fire. On January 22, 1943, the starved, frozen, and exhausted 6th army began to collapse. A week later Hitler promoted von Paulus to Field Marshal, and reminded him that no German Field Marshal was ever captured alive, but von Paulus was captured the next day in a cellar in Stalingrad.
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(1887-1934) One of Hitler‘s earliest supporters. As an army captain in the early Twenties, Roehm funneled money and arms from the army to the Nazis and in 1923 participated in the Munich putsch, after which he was bruptly dismissed from the army. Served as a military advisor in Bolivia, 1928-1930. Recalled by Hitler in 1931 and made head of the SA. In June 1934, he was arrested on Hitler’s orders during what has become known as “The Night of the Long Knives.” Executed on Hitler’s orders in Munich‘s Stadellheim prison after being accused of planning a coup d’etat against the Hitler government.Share on Facebook
(1883-1946) Head of the so-called German Faith Movement and Reich Bishop. After Hitler came to power, Mueller became plenipotentiary for all problems concerning the Evangelical Church, acting as the leading figure in the Association of German Christians. In late summer 1933, he began actively organizing opposition to Pastor Martin Niemöller‘s (Niemoeller) Confessional Church, but due to Hitler’s lack of support, Mueller’s influence gradually declined after 1935. He committed suicide in Berlin in March 1946.Share on Facebook
(1874-1954) Defrocked Cistercian monk, conman (doctor, baron) and race-fanatic whose writings had a great influence on both Hitler and Eckart. In 1900, Lanz founded an antisemitic lodge known as the “Order of the New Temple” and set himself up as grandmaster. Its symbol, chosen by Lanz himself, was the Swastika. Lanz’s magazine “Ostara” became extremely popular for a time in Vienna and throughout the German speaking world. Lanz and Hitler met in Vienna sometime in 1908-1909 (possibly earlier when Lanz visited Lambach in late 1890’s). Several books by Lanz were found in Hitler’s library when it was seized by the Allies at the end of the war.Share on Facebook
(1869-1946) Bavarian general and geopolitician who became closely associated with Rudolf Hess and, through him, Hitler. Haushofer had a lifelong interest in magic and mysticism. His doctrine of Liebensraum (Germany‘s right to living space in the East) became a cornerstone of Nazi ideology. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, he served as one of Hitler’s most trusted political advisors. Haushofer’s influence declined sharply during the war and he committed suicide in 1946 in the traditional Japanese manner.Share on Facebook
Adolf Hitler Schools were seen as being at the very pinnacle of the Nazi education system. Adolf Hitlergained power in January 1933 and quickly started to redesign the whole educational structure of Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler Schools – Adolf Hitler-Schule – was one of three new types of educational facilities introduced by Hitler to create a Nazi elite. It took a few years for the changes to take firm roots and when it was clear that such changes were fully in place, in January 1937 Hitler allowed his name to be attached to such schools. National Political Training Institutes catered for the same age group as Adolf Hitler Schools while Order Castles catered for university aged students.
Initially there were ten Adolf Hitler Schools but another two were built. Each one served a specific district (gau) and initially children selected to go to such a school could only come from that gau. This practice ended in 1941 when it was decided that children from anywhere in Germany could attend any Adolf Hitler School. Competition for a place at Adolf Hitler Schools was intense and the selection process was such that it was designed to cultivate a sense of pride and loyalty to the state that had introduced such a system.
Children who attended the Adolf Hitler Schools were preselected from the Hitler Youth movement (Hitler Jugend). The selection process started at the junior end of the Hitler Youth Movement – the so-called Young Folk (Jungfolk). Children in their second year of the Jungvolk were deemed old enough to be considered for selection. They were checked for their racial purity and once they passed this they were sent to a camp for two weeks to prove that they were worthy of being part of the Adolf Hitler Schools system.
Physical appearance was important and a good candidate was considered to be a child who had blond hair and blue eyes as such characteristics fitted in with Hitler’s Aryan ideals.
Those who started at an Adolf Hitler School were subjected to an education that was militaristic. Pupils were divided into squads and they trained not only in military and academic studies but in deportment, bed-making and personal hygiene. Squads were put up against one another and no one individual passed or failed – the whole squad either passed or not. In this way instructors/teachers could ensure that each squad member would keep an eye on others in his squad and ensured that everyone did their best for the benefit of the whole squad. Peer group pressure was used to ensure that each squad pushed for the highest standards.
The majority of the time spent in an Adolf Hitler School was based around physical training. It usually outweighed academic classroom work by a proportion of 5 to 1. Each child had to ‘prove himself’ – ‘Bewährung’ – if they wanted to pass their so-called ‘Final Review’. Those who completed their time at these schools, usually five years, left at the age of 18 and were eligible to go to university. Many joined the officer corps of the military and were viewed as the future military leaders of the 1000-year Third Reich. Regardless of which direction they chose, graduates of an Adolf Hitler School were considered to be the future elite of Nazi Germany and their education was considered a passport and guarantee for future progress within the system.
The teachers in Adolf Hitler Schools were also selected. They were known as “school leaders” as opposed to teachers. Each one had a rank in the Hitler Youth movement, which also set them apart from teachers in normal schools, the gymnasiums. The overall control of as Adolf Hitler School was given to a “commander”.
However, while on the surface these schools seemed to typify the Nazi ideal, they probably were not a good as the government wanted the public to believe. Not all of the “school leaders” were trained teachers and the syllabus in each school was very narrow. In fact, a syllabus directed to the “commanders” of the twelve schools was not published until 1944. Up to that time it seems that each of the schools could develop their own syllabus based around an “educational and curricular plan”. One subject that had to be taught was ‘folklore’. But up until 1944 it was up to each school to decide what ‘folklore’ should be taught until the directive specified what constituted ‘folklore’. “Schooling in worldview” and “religion lore” were also taught. Again, these were so varied in terms of what could be taught that the 1944 syllabus directive had to specify what had to be taught.
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Rudolf Hess was born in 1894 and died in Spandau Prison in 19. Rudolf Hess wasHitler’s deputy leader in the Nazi Party. Hess had been involved with the Nazi Party from its earliest days and was on the march to the Beer Hallthat lead to his and Hitler’s imprisonment at Landsberg Prison from 1923 to 1924.It was in prison that Hitler dictated “Mein Kampf” to Hess who acted as Hitler’s personal secretary while in prison. In fact, Hess was seen by many to be Hitler’s most loyal follower.
Hess had fought in World War One with a unit from Bavaria. He fought at the Battle of Ypres before he enrolled for the newly formed German Air Force. After the war, Hess joined Munich University and he met Hitler at a meeting of a society devoted to the study of Nordic myths and legends. In 1920, Hess became Hitler’s political secretary.
To many in the party Hess remained an odd figure – distant and strange. To Hitler, he was simply a devoted follower who had shared with Hitler the ravages of theBattle of Ypres and imprisonment. With Hitler’s support, the position of Hess in the party was unchallenged. In 1934, he was appointed deputy leader of the party and in 1939, he was appointed second in succession after Göering to the position of Head of State.
To all people it appeared as if Hess was the perfect follower of Hitler. In his speeches, Hess proclaimed that:
“The party is Hitler and Hitler is Germany”.
“Hitler is simply pure reason incarnate”
Then in May 1941, Hess did something that took everybody by surprise. On May 10th, he took a Messerschmidt 110 and flew it solo to Scotland where he crash landed the plane. It seems that Hess took it upon himself to secure a negotiated peace between the British government (that, he stipulated, should not include Winston Churchill!) and Germany. Hess was found by a Scots farmer and arrested. Those who arrested Hess were impressed with his manners – he would not sit down until told that he could do so etc. Hess was interned, including a four day say at the Tower of London where he signed autographs for the warders – one of which is still in the warders bar. Hitler immediately stripped Hess of all the ranks he held in the Nazi Party including being a party member.
He was sent to trial at Nuremburg in 1946 where he was sent to prison for life. With other Nazi leaders, he was sent to Spandau Prison and from 1966 on, he was the only prisoner there. His death while in prison is a bit of a mystery. It appears that Hess committed suicide by hanging himself. However, there are those who believe that he was far too old and frail to do this by himself and that Hess may have received some assistance from others. Nothing has ever been proved. After the death of Hess, Spandau Prison was knocked down.
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had been unprepared for war when Hitler attacked Poland, but if the Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, was to reap any positive advantages from partnership with Hitler it seemed that Italy would have to abandon its nonbelligerent stance before the western democracies had been defeated by Germany single handed. The obvious collapse of France convinced Mussolini that the time to implement his Pact of Steel with Hitler had come, and on June 10, 1940, Italy declared war against France and Great Britain. With about 30 divisions available on their Alpine frontier, the Italians delayed their actual attack on southeastern France until June 20, but it achieved little against the local defense. In any case, the issue in France had already been virtually settled by the victory of Italy’s German ally.
Meanwhile, Reynaud had left Paris for Cangé, near Tours; and Weygand, after speaking frankly and despondently to Churchill at the Allied military headquarters at Briare on June 11, told Reynaud and the other ministers at Cangé on June 12 that the battle for France was lost and that a cessation of hostilities was compulsory. There was little doubt that he was correct in this estimate of the military situation: the French armies were now splitting up into fragments. Reynaud’s government was divided between the advocates of capitulation and those who, with Reynaud, wanted to continue the war from French North Africa. The only decision that it could make was to move itself from Tours to Bordeaux.
The Germans entered Paris on June 14, 1940, and were driving still deeper southward along both the western and eastern edges of France. Two days later they were in the Rhône Valley. Meanwhile, Weygand was still pressing for an armistice, backed by all the principal commanders. Reynaud resigned office on June 16, whereupon a new government was formed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, the revered and aged hero of the Battle of Verdun in World War I. In the night of June 16 the French request for an armistice was transmitted to Hitler. While discussion of the terms went on, the German advance went on too. Finally, on June 22, 1940, at Rethondes, the scene of the signing of the Armistice of 1918, the newFranco-German Armistice was signed. The Franco-Italian Armistice was signed on June 24. Both armistices came into effect early on June 25.
The Armistice of June 22 divided France into two zones, one to be under German military occupation, one to be left to the French in full sovereignty. The occupied zone comprised all northern France from the northwestern frontier of Switzerland to the Channel and from the Belgian and German frontiers to the Atlantic, together with a strip extending from the lower Loire southward along the Atlantic coast to the western end of the Pyrenees; the unoccupied zone comprised only two-fifths of France’s territory, the southeast. The French Navy and Air Force were to be neutralized, but it was not required that they be handed over to the Germans. The Italians granted very generous terms to the French: the only French territory that they claimed to occupy was the small frontier tract that their forces had succeeded in overrunning since June 20. Meanwhile, from June 18, General Charles de Gaulle, whom Reynaud had sent on a military mission to London on June 5, was broadcasting appeals for the continuance of France’s war.
The collapse of France in June 1940 posed a severe naval problem to the British, because the powerful French Navy still existed: strategically, it was of immense importance to the British that these French ships not fall into German hands, since they would have tilted the balance of sea power decidedly in favour of the Axis–the Italian Navy being now also at war with Britain. Mistrustful of promises that the French ships would be used only for “supervision and minesweeping,” the British decided to immobilize them. Thus, on July 3, 1940, the British seized all French ships in British-controlled ports, encountering only nominal resistance. But when British ships appeared off Mers el-Kébir, near Oran on the Algerian coast, and demanded that the ships of the important French naval force there either join the Allies or sail out to sea, the French refused to submit, and the British eventually opened fire, damaging the battleship Dunkerque, destroying the Bretagne, and disabling several other vessels. Thereupon, Pétain’s government, which on July 1 had installed itself at Vichy, on July 4 severed diplomatic relations with the British. In the eight following days, the constitution of France’s Third Republic was abolished and a newFrench state created, under the supreme authority of Pétain himself. The few French colonies that rallied to General de Gaulle’s Free French movement were strategically unimportant.
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For the Allies, all communication between their northern and southern forces was severed by the arc of the westward German advance from the Ardennes to the Somme. The Allied armies in the north, having fallen back from the Dyle Line to the Escaut (Schelde), were being encircled, and already on May 19 the British commander, Viscount Gort, was considering the withdrawal of the BEF by sea. On May 21, however, to satisfy orders from London for more positive action, he launched an attack from Arras southward against the right flank of the Germans’ corridor; but, though it momentarily alarmed the German high command, this small counterstroke lacked the armoured strength necessary for success. Meanwhile, Guderian‘s tanks had swept up past Boulogne and Calais and were crossing the canal defense line close to Dunkirk when, on May 24, an inexplicable order from Hitler not only stopped their advance but actually called them back to the canal line just as Guderian was expecting to drive into Dunkirk.
Dunkirk was now the only port left available for the withdrawal of the mass of the BEF from Europe, and the British Cabinet at last decided to save what could be saved. The British Admiralty had been collecting every kind of small craft it could find to help in removing the troops, and the British retreat to the coast now became a race to evacuate the troops before the Germans could occupy Dunkirk. Evacuation began on May 26 and became still more urgent the next day, when the Belgians, their right wing and their centre broken by Reichenau’s advance, sued for an armistice. On May 27, likewise, bombing by the Luftwaffe put the harbour of Dunkirk out of use, so that many of the thousands of men thronging the 10-mile stretch of beaches had to be ferried out to sea by petty craft pressed into service by the Royal Navy and manned largely by amateur seamen, though the harbour’s damaged breakwater still offered a practicable exit for the majority. By June 4, when the operation came to an end, 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops had been saved; but virtually all of their heavy equipment had to be abandoned, and, of the 41 destroyers participating, six were sunk and 19 others damaged. The men who were saved represented a considerable part of the experienced troops possessed by Great Britain and were an inestimable gain to the Allies. The success of the near-miraculous evacuation from Dunkirk was due, on the one hand, to fighter cover by the Royal Air Force from the English coast and on the other to Hitler’s fatal order of May 24 halting Guderian. That order had been made for several reasons, chiefly: Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, had mistakenly assured Hitler that his aircraft alone could destroy the Allied troops trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk; and Hitler himself seems to have believed that Great Britain might accept peace terms more readily if its armies were not constrained into humiliating surrender. Three days passed before Brauchitsch, the German Army commander in chief, was able to persuade Hitler to withdraw his orders and allow the German armoured forces to advance on Dunkirk. But they met stronger opposition from the British, who had had time to solidify their defenses, and almost immediately Hitler stopped the German armoured forces again, ordering them instead to move south and prepare for the attack on the Somme-Aisne line.
The campaign in northern France was wound up by Küchler’s forces, after both Guderian and Reichenau had been ordered southward. Altogether, the Germans had taken more than 1,000,000 prisoners in three weeks, at a cost of 60,000 casualties. Some 220,000 Allied troops, however, were rescued by British ships from France’s northwestern ports (Cherbourg, Saint-Malo, Brest, and Saint-Nazaire), thus bringing the total of Allied troops evacuated to about 558,000.
There remained the French armies south of the Germans’ Somme-Aisne front. The French had lost 30 divisions in the campaign so far. Weygand still managed to muster 49 divisions, apart from the 17 left to hold the Maginot Line, but against him the Germans had 130 infantry divisions as well as their 10 divisions of tanks. The Germans, after redisposing their units, began a new offensive on June 5 from their positions on the Somme. The French resisted stiffly for two days, but on June 7 the German tanks in the westernmost sector, led by Major General Erwin Rommel, broke through toward Rouen, and on June 9 they were over the Seine. On June 9 the Germans attacked on the Aisne: the infantry forced the crossings, and then Guderian’s armour drove through the breach toward Châlons-sur-Marne before turning eastward for the Swiss frontier, thus isolating all the French forces still holding the Maginot Line.
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During their campaign in Poland, the Germans kept only 23 divisions in the west to guard their frontier against the French, who had nearly five times as many divisions mobilized. The French commander in chief, General Maurice-Gustave Gamelin, proposed an advance against Germany through neutral Belgium and The Netherlands, in order to have room to exercise his ponderous military machine. He was overruled, however, and French assaults on the 100-mile stretch of available front along the Franco-German frontier had barely dented the German defenses when the collapse of Poland prompted the recall of Gamelin’s advanced divisions to defensive positions in the Maginot Line (see below). From October 1939 to March 1940, successive plans were developed for counteraction in the event of a German offensive through Belgium–all of them based on the assumption that the Germans would come across the plain north of Namur, not across the hilly and wooded Ardennes. The Germans would indeed have taken the route foreseen by the French if Hitler‘s desire for an offensive in November 1939 had not been frustrated, on the one hand, by bad weather and, on the other, by the hesitations of his generals; but in March 1940 the bold suggestion of General Erich von Manstein that an offensive through the Ardennes should, in fact, be practicable for tank forces was adopted by Hitler, despite orthodox military opinion.
Meanwhile, Hitler’s immediate outlook had been changed by considerations about Scandinavia. Originally he had intended to respect Norway’s neutrality. Then rumours leaked out, prematurely, of British designs on Norway–as, in fact, Winston Churchill, first lord of the Admiralty, was arguing that mines should be laid in Norwegian waters to stop the export of Swedish iron ore from Gällivare to Germany through Norway’s rail terminus and port of Narvik. The British Cabinet, in response to Churchill, authorized at least the preparation of a plan for a landing at Narvik; and in mid-December 1939 a Norwegian politician, Vidkun Quisling, leader of a pro-Nazi party, was introduced to Hitler. On Jan. 27, 1940, Hitler ordered plans for an invasion of Norway, for use if he could no longer respect Norway’s neutrality.
After France’s failure to interrupt the German conquest of Poland, the western powers and the Germans were so inactive with regard to land operations that journalists began to speak derisively, over the next six months, of the “phony war.” At sea, however, the period was somewhat more eventful. German U-boats sank the British aircraft carrier Courageous(September 17) and the battleship Royal Oak (October 14). The U-boats’ main warfare, however, was against merchant shipping: they sank more than 110 vessels in the first four months of the war. Both the Germans and the British, meanwhile, were engaged in extensive mine laying.
In surface warfare at sea, the British were on the whole more fortunate than the Germans. A German pocket battleship in the Atlantic, the Admiral Graf Spee sank nine ships before coming to a tragic end: having sustained and inflicted damage in an engagement with three British cruisers off the Río de la Plata on Dec. 13, 1939, she made off to Montevideo and obtained leave to spend four days there for repairs; the British mustered reinforcements for the two cruisers still capable of action after the engagement, namely theAjax and the Achilles, and brought the Cumberland to the scene in time; but, on December 17, when the Graf Spee put to sea again, her crew scuttled her a little way out of the harbour before the fight could be resumed.
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In an EXCLUSIVEly stolen story from an actual tabloid newspaper, it appears everything you knew about Hitler was wrong. Apart from the hating Jews bit. You’ve invariably got that bit absolutely spot-on.
We’re talking about the other thing. The thing about him getting killed during that whole World War II thing.
It would appear that Hitler ran off to Argentina and lived a merry life right into his old age, which means that he’s probably met Maradona and seen Evita. Can you guess which newspaper may have written this story?
A chap called Jorge Priebke recalls the sunflowers and thought happy thoughts about the Third Reich’s most evil members. Jorge pointed at things and said to The Sun:
“That’s the Hotel Campana where Dr Mengele stayed for a time. Eichmann passed through here too. I worked with him for a year at the Mercedes Benz factory up in Buenos Aires but never met him here in Bariloche. He was very quiet.”
The hotel, in the years after the Second World War, was something of a getaway for Nazi war criminals on the run. Of course, everyone is only interested in the Fuhrer and now, it is claimed that Adolf legged it from a Berlin bunker and lived it up in the wilds of Patagonia with his pining, solitary testicle.
In fact, some people claim that Hitler and wife Eva Braun had two daughters who were still alive around a decade ago and that Hitler and Braun escaped the bunker in a secret tunnel and were replaced by doubles who committed suicide for them.
The theory says that Hitler actually spent the years after WWII plotting the emergence of a Fourth Reich before snuffing the lid aged 73 in 1962.
The Sun even sent a man called Oliver Harvey to stand outside a house and look serious.
And so, we go to Ernesto Martinez who takes photos of passing tourists with his pet St Bernard dog Amancay. He says:
“Of course we knew we had former Nazis here… [but] Hitler in Patagonia? It’s completely ridiculous.”
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“I follow my course with the precision and security of a sleepwalker.”
Even at that time it struck the world as an unusual statement for the undisputed leader of 67,000,000 people to make at the time of an international crisis. Hitler meant it to be a form of’ reassurance for his more wary followers who questioned the wisdom of his course. It seems, however, that it was a true confession and had his wary followers only realized its significance and implications they would have had grounds for far greater concern that aroused by his proposal to reoccupy the Rhineland. For the course of this sleep-walker has carried him over many untravelled roads which finally led him unerringly to a pinnacle of success and power never reached before. And still it lured him on until today he stands on the brink of disaster. He will go down in history as the most worshipped and the most despised man the world has ever known.
Many people have stopped and asked themselves: “Is this man sincere in his undertakings or is he a fraud?” Certainly even a fragmentary knowledge of his past life warrants such a question, particularly since our correspondents have presented us with many conflicting views. At times, it seemed almost inconceivable that a man could be sincere and do what Hitler has done in the course of his career. And yet all of his former associates whom we have been able to contact, as well as many of our most capable foreign correspondents, are firmly convinced that Hitler actually does believe in his own greatness. Fuchs reported that Hitler said to Schuschnigg during the Berchtesgaden [sic] interviews:
“Do you realize that you are in the presence of the greatest German of all time?”
It makes little difference for our purpose whether he actually spoke these words or not at this particular time as alleged. In this sentence he has summed up in a very few words an attitude which he has expressed to some of our informants in person. To Rauschning, for example, he once said:
“Aber ich brauche sie nicht, um mir von ihnen meine geschichtiche Groesse bestaltigen zu lassen.” (717)
And to Strasser, who once took the liberty of saying that we was afraid Hitler was mistaken, he said:
“I cannot be mistaken. What I do and say is historical.” (378)
many other such personal statements could be given. Oechaner has summed up his attitude in this respect very well in the following words:
“He feels that no one in German history is equipped as he is to bring the Germans to the position of supremacy which all German statesman have felt they deserved but were unable to achieve.” (669)
This attitude is not confined to himself as a statesman. he also believes himself to be the greatest war lord as, for example, when he says to Raischning:
“Ich spiele nicht Krieg. Ich lasse mich nicht von `Feldherrn’ kommandieren. Den Krieg fushre ich. Den engentlichen Zeitpunkt zum Angriff bestimme ich. Es gibt nur eine guenstigen. Ich warde auf ihm warten. Mit eisernor Entschlossenheit. Unc ich warde ihn nicht verpassen…” (701)
And it seems to be true that he has made a number of contributions to German offensive and defensive tactics and strategy. He believes himself to be an outstanding judge in legal matters and does not blush when he stands before the Reichstag, while speaking to the whole world, and says,
“For the last twenty-four hours I was the supreme court of the German people.” (255)
Then, too, he believes himself to be the greatest of all German architects and spends a great deal of his time in sketching new buildings and planning the remodeling of entire cities. In spite of the fact that he failed to pass the examinations for admission to the Art School he believes himself to be the only competent judge in all matters of art. A few years ago he appointed a committee of three to act as final judges on all matters of art, but when their verdicts did not please him he dismissed them and assumed their duties himself. It makes little difference whether the field be economics, education, foreign affairs, propaganda, movies, music or women’s dress. In each and every field he believes himself to be an unquestioned authority.
He also prides himself on his hardness and brutality.
“I am one of the hardest men Germany has had for decades, perhaps for centuries, equipped with the greatest authority of any German leader… but above all, I believe in my success. I believe in it unconditionally.” (M.N.O. 871)
That belief in his own power actually borders on a feeling of omnipotence which he is not reluctant to display.
“Since the events of last year, his faith in his own genius, in his instinct, or as one might say, in his star, is boundless. Those who surround him are the first to admit that he now thinks himself infallible and invincible. That explains why he can no longer bear either criticism or contradiction. To contradict him is in his eyes a crime of ‘lese majeste’; opposition to his plans, from whatever side it may come, is a definite sacrilege, to which the only reply is an immediate and striking display of his omnipotence.” (French Yellow Book, 945)
Another diplomat reports a similar impression:
“When I first met him, his logic and sense of reality had impressed me, but as time went on he appeared to me to become more and more unreasonable and more and more convinced of his own infallibility and greatness …” (Henderson, 129)
There seems, therefore, to be little room for doubt concerning Hitler’s firm belief in his own greatness. We must now inquire into the sources of this belief. Almost all writers have attributed Hitler’s confidence to the fact that he is a great believer in astrology and that he is constantly in touch with astrologers who advise him concerning his course of action. This is almost certainly untrue. All of our informants who have known Hitler rather intimately discard the idea as absurd. They all agree that nothing is more foreign to Hitler’s personality than to seek help from outside sources of this type. The informant of the Dutch Legation holds a similar view. He says:
“Not only has the Fuehrer never had his horoscope cast, but he is in principle against horoscopes because he feels he might be unconsciously influenced by them.” (655)
It is also indicative that Hitler, some time before the war, forbade the practice of fortune-telling and star-reading in Germany.
It is true that from the outside it looks as though Hitler might be acting under some guidance of this sort which gives him the feeling of conviction in his infalibility. These stories probably originated in the very early days of the Party. According to Strasser, during the early 1920’s Hitler took regular lessons in speaking and in mass psychology from a man named Hamissen who was also a practicing astrologer and fortune-teller. He was an extremely clever individual who taught Hitler a great deal concerning the importance of staging meetings to obtain the greatest dramatic effect. As far as can be learned, he never had any particular interest in the movement or any say on what course it should follow. It is possible that Hanussen had some contact with a group of astrologers, referred-to by one von Wiegand, who were very active in Munich at this time. Through Hanussen Hitler too may have come in contact with this group, for von Wiegand writes:
“When I first knew Adolph Hitler in Munich, in 1921 and 1922, he was in touch with a circle that believed firmly in the portents of the stars. There was much whispering of the coming of another Charlemagne and a new Reich. How far Hitler believed in these astrological forecasts and prophesies in those days I never could get out of Der Fuhrer. He neither denied nor affirmed belief. He was not averse, however, to making use of the forecasts to advance popular faith in himself and his then young and struggling movement.”
It is quite possible that from these beginnings the myth of his associations with astrologers has grown.
Although Hitler has done considerable reading in a variety of fields of study, he does not in any way attribute his infallibility or omniscience to any intellectual endeavor on his part. On the contrary, he frowns on such sources when it comes to guiding the destiny of nations. His opinion of the intellect is, in fact, extremely low, for in various places he makes such statements as the following:
“Of secondary importance is the training of mental abilities.”
“Over-educated people, stuffed with knowledge and intellect, but bare of any sound instincts.”
“These impudent rascals (intellectuals) who always know everything better than anybody else…”
“The intellect has grown autocratic, and has become a disease of life.”
Hitler’s guide is something different entirely. It seems certain that Hitler believes that he has been sent Germany by Providence and that he has a particular mission to perform. He is probably not clear on the scope of this mission beyond the fact that he has been chosen to redeem the German people and reshape Europe. Just how this is to be accomplished is also rather vague in his mind, but this does not concern him greatly because an “inner voice” communicates to him the steps he is to take. This is the guide which leads him on his course with the precision and security of a sleep-walker.
“I carry out the commands that Providence has laid upon me.” (490)
“No power on earth can shake the German Reich now, Divine Providence has willed it that I carry through the fulfillment of the Germanic task.” (413)
“But if the voice speaks, then I know the time has come to act.” (714)
It is this firm conviction that he has a mission and is under the guidance and protection of Providence which is responsible in large part for the contagious effect he has had on the German people.
Many people believe that this feeling of Destiny and mission have come to Hitler through his successes. This is probably false. Later in our study (Part V) we will try to show that Hitler has had this feeling for a great many years although it may not have become a conscious conviction until much later. In any case it was forcing its way into consciousness during the war and has played a dominant role in his actions ever since. Mend (one of his comrades), for example, reports:
“An eine eigenartige Propheseiung errinere ich mich noch in diesem Zusammenhag: Kurs vor Weihnachten (1915) auesserte er sich, dass wir noch vieles von ihm hoeren werden. Wir sollen nur abwarten, bis seine Zeit gekommen ist.” (208)
Then, too, Hitler has reported several incidents during the war which proved to him that he was under Divine protection. The most startling of these is the following:
“I was eating my dinner in a trench with several comrades. Suddenly a voice seemed to be saying to me, ‘Get up and go over there.’ It was so clear and insistent that I obeyed automatically, as if it had been a military order. I rose at once to my feet and walked twenty yards along the trench carrying my dinner in its tin can with me. Then I sat down to go on eating, my mind being once more at rest. Hardly had I done so when a flash and deafening report came from the part of the trench I had just left. A stray shell had burst over the group in which I had been sitting, and every member of it was killed.” (Price, 241)
Then, also, there was the vision he had while in hospital at Pasewalk suffering from blindness allegedly caused by gas:
“Als ich im Bett lag kam mir der Gedanke, dass ich Deutschland befreien wuerde, dass ich es gross machen wuerde, und ich habe sofort gewusst, dass das verwirklicht werden wuerde.” (429)
These experiences must later have fit in beautifully with the views of the Munich astrologers and it is possible that underneath Hitler felt that if there was any truth in their predictions they probably referred to him. But in those days he did not mention any connection between them or dwell on the Divine guidance he believed he possessed. Perhaps he felt that such claims at the beginning of the movement might hinder rather than help it. However, as von Wiegand has pointed out, he was not averse to making use of the forecasts to advance his own ends. At that time he was content with the role of a “drummer” who was heralding the coming of the real savior. Even then, however, the role of drummer was not as innocent or as insignificant in Hitler’s mind as might be supposed. This was brought out in his testimony during the trial following the unsuccessful Beerhall Putsch of 1923. At that time he said:
“Nehmem Sie die Ueberzeugung hin, dass ich die Erringung eines Ministerpostens nicht als erstrebenswert ansehe. Ich halte es eine grossen Mannes nicht fuer wuerdigeseinen Namen der Geschichte nur dadurch ueberliefern zu wollen, dasser Minister wird. Was mir vor Augen stand, das war vom ersten Tage tausendmal mehr: ich wollte der Zerbrecher der Marxismus werden. Ich werde die Ausfgabe loesen, und wenn ich sie loese, dann waere der Titel eines Ministers fuer mich eine Laecherlichkeit. Als ihh zum ersten Mal vor Richard Wagners Grab stand, da quoll mir des Herz ueber vor Stolz, dass hier ein Mann ruht, der es sich verbeten hat, hinaufzuschreiben: Hier ruht Geheimrat Musikdirektor Excellenz Baron Richard von Wagner. Ich war stolz darauf, dass dieser Mann und so viele Maenner der deutschen Geschichte sich damit begnuegten, ihren Namen der Nachwelt zu ueberliefern, nicht ihren Titel. Nicht aus Bescheidenheit wollte ich ‘Trommler’ sein. Das ist des Hoechste, das andere ist eine Kleinigkett.”
After his stay in Landsberg Hitler no longer referred to himself as the “drummer.” Occasionally, he would describe himself in the words of St. Matthew, “as a voice crying in the wilderness”, or as St. John the Baptist whose duty was to hew a path for him who was to come and lead the nation to power and glory. More frequently, however, he referred to himself as “the Fuehrer”, a name chosen by Hess during their imprisonment. (901)
As time went on, it became clearer that he. was thinking of himself as the Messiah and that it was he who was destined to lead Germany to glory. His references to the Bible became more frequent and the movement began to take on a religious atmosphere. Comparisons between Christ and himself became more numerous and found their way into his conversation and speeches. For example, he would say:
“When I came to Berlin a few weeks ago and looked at the traffic in the Kurfuerstendamm, the luxury, the perversion, the iniquity, the wanton display, and the Jewish materialism disgusted me so thoroughly, that I was almost beside myself. I nearly imagined myself to be Jesus Christ when He came to His Father’s temple and found it taken by the money-changers. I can well imagine how He felt when He seized a whip and scourged them out.” (905)
During his speech, according to Hanfstangl, he swung his whip around violently as though to drive out the Jews and the forces of darkness, the enemies of Germany and German honor. Dietrich Eckart, who discovered Hitler as a possible leader and had witnessed this performance, said later, “When a man gets to the point of identifying himself with Jesus Christ, then he is ripe for an insane asylum.” The identification in all this was not with Jesus Christ, the Crucified, but with Jesus Christ, the furious, lashing the crowds.
As a matter of fact, Hitler has very little admiration for Christ, the Crucified. Although he was brought up a Catholic, and received Communion, during the war, he severed his connection with the Church directly afterwards. This kind of Christ he considers soft and weak and unsuitable as a German Messiah.
The latter must be hard and brutal if he is to save Germany and lead it to its destiny.
“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by only a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned me to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love, as a Christian and as a man, I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord rose at last in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was the fight for the world against the Jewish poison.” (M.N.O. 26)
And to Rauschning he once referred to “the Jewish Christ-creed with its effeminate, pity-ethics”.
It is not clear from the evidence whether the new State religion was part of Hitler’s plan or whether developments were such that it became feasible. It is true that Rosenberg had long advocated such a move, but there is no evidence that Hitler was inclined to take such a drastic step until after he had come to power. It is possible that he felt he needed the power before he could initiate such a change, or it may be that his series of successes were so startling that the people spontaneously adopted a religious attitude towards him which made the move more or less obvious. In any case, he has accepted this God-like role without any hesitation or embarrassment.
White tells us that now when he is addressed with the salutation, “Heil Hitler, our Savior”, he bows slightly at the compliment in the phrase – and believes it. (664) As time goes on, it becomes more and more certain that Hitler believes that he is really the “Chosen One” and that in his thinking he conceives of himself as a second Christ who has been sent to institute in the world a new system of values based on brutality and violence. He has fallen in love with the image of himself in this role and has surrounded himself with his own portraits.
His mission seems to lure him to still greater heights. Not content with the role of transitory savior it pushes him to higher goals – he must set the pattern for generations to come. Von Wiegand says:
“In vital matters Hitler is far from unmindful of the name and record of success and failure he will leave to posterity.” (493)
Nor is he content to allow these patterns to evolve in a natural way. In order to guarantee the future he feels that he alone can bind it to these principles. He believes, therefore, that he must become an immortal to the German people. Everything must be huge and befitting as a monument to the honor of Hitler. His idea of a permanent building is one which will endure at least a thousand years. His highways must be known as “Hitler Highways”, and they must endure for longer periods of time than the Napoleonic roads. He must always be doing the impossible and leaving his mark on the country. This is one of the ways in which he hopes to stay alive in the minds of the German people for generations to come.
It is alleged by many writers, among them Haffner (418), Huss (410) and Wagner (489) that he has already drawn extensive plans for his own mausoleum. Our informants, who left Germany some time ago, are not in a position to verify these reports. They consider them well within the realm of possibility, however. This mausoleum is to be the mecca of Germany after his death. It is to be a tremendous monument about 700 feet high, with all the details worked out so that the greatest psychologicaI effect might be attained. It is also alleged that his first errand in Paris after the conquest in 1940 was a visit to the Dome des Invalides to study the monument to Napoleon. He found this lacking in many respects. For example, they had put him down in a hole which forced people to look down rather than high up.
“I shall never make such a mistake,” Hitler said suddenly. “I know how to keep my hold on people after I have passed on. I shall be the Fuehrer they look up at and go home to talk of and remember. My life shall not end in the mere form of death. It will, on the contrary, begin then.” (410)
It was believed for a time that the Kehlstein had been originally built as an eternal mausoleum by Hitler. It seems, however, that if that was his original intention he has abandoned it in favor of something even more grandiose. Perhaps the Kehlstein was too inaccessible to enable large numbers of people to come and touch his tomb in order to become inspired. In any case, it seems that far more extravagant plans have been developed. His plan, if it is to be successful, needs constant emotional play on hysteric mass minds, and the more he can arrange the ways and means of achieving this, after he dies, the more assured he is of attaining his final goal.
“He is firmly convinced that the furious pace and the epochal age in which he lived and moved (he really is convinced that he is the motivating force and the moulder of that age) will terminate soon after his death, swinging the world by nature and inclination into a long span of digestive process marked by a sort of quiet inactivity. People in his `1000 year Reich’ will build monuments to him and go around to touch and look at the things he has built, he thought. He said as much on that glorified visit of his to Rome in 1938, adding that a thousand years hence the greatness and not the ruins of his own time must intrigue the people of those far-away days. For, believe it or not, that is how the mind of this man Hitler projects itself without a blush over the centuries.” (410)
There was also a time a few years ago when he spoke a good deal about retiring when his work was done. It was assumed that he would then take up his residence in Berchtesgaden and sit as God who guides the destinies of the Reich until he dies. In July, 1933, while visiting the Wagner family, he talked at length about getting old and complained bitterly that ten years of valuable time had been lost between the Beerhall Putsch in 1923 and his accession to power. This was all very regrettable since he predicted that it would take twenty-two years to get things in adequate shape so that he could turn them over to his successor. (936) It is supposed by some writers that during this period of retirement he would also write a book which would stand for eternity as a great bible of National Socialism. (3) This is all rather interesting in view of Roehm’s statement made many years ago:
“Am liebsten taet er Heute schon in den Bergen sitzen und den lieben Gott spielen.” (715)
A survey of all the evidence forces us to conclude that Hitler believes himself destined to become an Immortal Hitler, chosen by God to be the New Deliverer of Germany and the Founder of a new social order for the world. He firmly believes this and is certain that in spite of all the trials and tribulations through which he must pass he will finally attain that goal. The one condition is that he follow the dictates of the inner voice which have guided and protected him in the past. This conviction is not rooted in the truth of the ideas he imparts but is based on the conviction of his own personal greatness. (146) Howard K. Smith makes an interesting observation:
“I was convinced that of all the millions on whom the Hitler Myth had fastened itself, the most carried away was Adolph Hitler, himself.” (290)
We will have occasion in Part V to examine the origins of this conviction and the role it plays in Hitler’ s psychological economy.Share on Facebook
Our Hitler: A Radio Speech to the German People in Honor of the Führer’s Birthday by Joseph GoebbelsTuesday, February 7th, 2012
Fellow citizens! Two years ago on 20 April 1933, only three months after Adolf Hitler came to power, I spoke to the German people on the occasion of the Führer’s birthday. It was not my goal then, nor is it now, to read out loud a passionate newspaper article. That I shall leave to better stylists. Nor will I praise Adolf Hitler’s historic work. I intend today, on the Führer’s birthday, the very opposite. I believe it is time to portray to the entire nation the man Hitler, with all the magic of his personality, all the mysterious genius and irresistible power of his personality. There is probably no one left on the planet who does not know him as a statesman and as a remarkable popular leader. Only a few, however, have the pleasure of seeing him as a man each day from close up, to experience him, and as I might add, to come as a result to a deeper understanding and love for him. These few wonder how it is possible that a man who only three years ago was opposed by half of the nation stands today above any doubt and every criticism. Germany has found a unity which will never be shaken. Adolf Hitler is the man of fate, who has the calling to save the nation from terrible internal conflict and shameful foreign disgrace, to lead it to longed-for freedom.
That one man has captured the hearts of the whole nation, despite the sometimes difficult and unpopular decisions he had to make, is perhaps the deepest, most amazing secret of our age. It cannot be explained only by his accomplishments, for it is just those who have had to make the heaviest sacrifices for him and for national reconstruction, indeed who must still bring them, who have sensed his mission in the deepest and most joyful way. They are the ones who have the most honest and passionate love for him as Führer and as a man. That is the result of the magic of his personality and the deep mystery of his pure and honest humanity,
It is of this humanity, which those who are nearest to him see most clearly, of which I speak today.
All genuine humanity is characterized by simplicity and clarity in being and in action. It displays itself in the smallest as well as the greatest matters. The simple clarity that is evident in his political nature is also the dominating principle of his entire life. One cannot imagine him putting on a front. His people would not recognize him were he to do so. His daily meals are the simplest, most modest, imaginable. He dines no differently, whether it is with a small group of friends or at a state banquet. At a recent reception for officials of the Winter Relief program and old party member asked him if he could have an autographed copy of the menu as a souvenir. He paused for a moment and then laughed: “That’s fine. The menu stays the same here; anyone is welcome to look it over.”
Adolf Hitler is one of the few state leaders who avoids medals and decorations. He wears only a single high medal that he earned as a simple personal solider displaying the greatest personal bravery. That is proof of modesty, but also of pride. There is no one worthy to decorate him, other then he himself. Any form of ostentation is foreign to him, but when he represents the state and his people, he does so with impressive and appropriate grace. Behind all that he is and does are the words of the great soldier Schlieffen, who wrote: “Be more than you seem!” His industry and determination in reaching his goal far exceed normal human strength. Several days ago I returned to Berlin at 1 a.m. after several hard days and was ready for sleep, but he wanted a report from me. At 2 a.m. he was still alert, still at work all alone in his home. For two hours he listened to a report on the construction of the national highways, a theme that would seem distant from the great international problems with which he had been occupied the entire day from early in the morning to late at night. Before the last Nuremberg rally, I was his guest for a week in Obersalzburg. The light shone from his window each night until 6 or 7 a.m. He was dictating the great speeches he would give a few days later at the rally. His cabinet approves no law that he has not studied to the smallest detail. His military knowledge is comprehensive; he knows the details of each weapon, each machine gun as well as any specialist. When he gives a speech he knows each detail. His working method is entirely clear. Nothing is further from him than nervousness or hysterical tension. He knows better than anyone else that there are a hundred problems to be solved. He chooses the two or three he finds most central and works on them, undistracted by the remaining ones, for he know that if he solves the great problems, the problems of second or third magnitude will solve themselves.
His approach to problems shows both the determination necessary to deal with essentials and the flexibility essential in the choice of methods. He has principles and beliefs, but he knows how to reach them by careful selection of methods and approaches. He has never changed his basic goals. He does today what he determined to do in 1919. But he has always been flexible in the methods he used to realize his goals. When he was offered the vice chancellorship in August 1932, he rejected the offer. He had the feeling that the time was not yet ripe and that the ground offered to him was too small to stand on. But when he was offered a wider door to power on 30 January 1933, he walked courageously through it. It was not the full responsibility he wanted, but he knew that the ground he know stood upon was sufficient to begin the fight for full power. The know-it-alls understood neither decision. Today they must reluctantly grant that he was superior not only in his tactics, but also in the strategic use of the principles in ways they short-sightedly failed to see.
Two pictures last summer vividly showed the Führer in all his aloneness. The first showed him greeting the Wehrmacht just after he was forced to bloodily put down the treason and mutiny of 30 June. His face showed the bitterness of the difficult hours he had experienced. The second photograph was of him leaving the house of the dying marshall and Reich president in Neudeck. His expression shows the shadow of pain and sorrow in the face of pitiless death that in a few hours would tear from him his fatherly friend. With almost prophetic foresight to told us in his innermost circle on New Year’s Eve that 1934 would be a dangerous year, one which would likely see the death of Hindenburg. Now the inevitable had happened. One thing was plain in his granite face: the pain of an entire nation, a pain that would not descend to mere complaining.
The entirely nation not only honors him, it loves him deeply and fervently, for it has the feeling that he belongs to them. He is flesh of its flesh and spirit of its spirit. That shows itself in the smallest aspects of everyday life. It is plain in the camaraderie in the Reich Chancellery between the least SS man and the Führer. When he travels, he sleeps in the same hotel and under the same conditions as everyone else. Is it any wonder that the least of those around him are the most loyal?! They have the instinctive feeling that his is no facade, but rather the result of his inner and obvious spiritual nature.
Several weeks ago, 50 young German girls from abroad, who had completed a year of schooling and were now about to return to their suffering home countries, visited the chancellor, hoping to see him for a moment. He invited them all to dinner. For hours they had to tell him of their modest lives. As they were leaving, they suddenly sang the song “If All Become Untrue,” and tears flowed from their eyes. In the midst of them stood the man who has become the incarnation of eternal Germany, giving them friendly and good-hearted consolation to encourage them on their difficult journey.
He came from the people and remains a part of them. He who negotiated for two 15-hour days at a conference with diplomats of mighty England, who mastered arguments and facts on the great questions of Europe, can speak with complete ease to ordinary people, and can with a comradely “Du” restore the confidence of a fellow war veteran who greets him with a nervous heart after perhaps days of wondering how to greet him and what to say. The weakest approach him with confidence, for they sense that he is their friend and protector. The entire nation loves him, because it feels as safe in his arms as a child in the arms of its mother.
This man is a fanatic in his cause. He has sacrificed his personal happiness and private life. He knows nothing other than the work that he does as the truest servant of the Reich.
An artist becomes a statesman, and his historic work reveals his remarkable abilities. He needs no external honors; his greatest honor is the enduring permanence of his labors. But we who have the good fortune to be near him each day receive light from his light and want only to be obedient followers behind his flag. Many times he has told the circle of his oldest fellow fighters and closest friends: “It will be terrible when the first of us dies and there is an empty place here that can no longer be filled.” May a gracious fate ordain that he live the longest, that for many decades the nation will continue under his leadership along the path to new freedom, greatness and power. That is the honest and passionate wish that the entire German nation lays in thankfulness at his feet. Not only we who stand near him, but the last man in the most distant village, join in saying:
“He is now what he always was, and always will be: Our Hitler!”Share on Facebook
MANILA — Not long into an interview, Ferdinand Topacio, a key member of the legal team defending Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the former Philippine president, against corruption charges, interrupts the conversation to make a point.
“I don’t idolize Adolf Hitler,” Mr. Topacio said.
It is understandable that he feels he needs to make this point. Adorning his office wall, behind his desk, is a huge painting of the Nazi dictator.
“He was a ruthless autocrat, but you can’t help but admire some of his personal traits,” Mr. Topacio said. “He rose from an obscure corporal to the leader of his country through sheer willpower.”
Mr. Topacio, who represents the former president’s husband, but who has served as a spokesman for both Arroyos in recent months, is a respected lawyer and constitutional expert known for taking on controversial cases.
But he is attracting controversy for other reasons these days.
The affable, talkative attorney is unabashed about his fascination with Hitler and is eager to explain the Nazi leader’s relevance to politics in the Philippines today.
“But he didn’t know when to stop,” Mr. Topacio said. “That is the problem with the Aquino administration. They are overstepping.”
He also said that President Benigno S. Aquino III was using his popularity to justify his actions.
“Contrary to what President Aquino thinks, what is popular is not always right,” Mr. Topacio said. “Hitler himself would have gotten 90 percent approval ratings, but that didn’t make him right.”
Mr. Topacio sees no contradiction between his advocacy of the rule of law and his admiration of Hitler, who is viewed by historians as a genocidal dictator who operated outside the law and violently crushed political dissent. He also sees no problem in talking freely about those views.
“I do not condone dictatorship. I’m a civil libertarian,” Mr. Topacio said, adding later: “Last time I checked, we had freedom of expression.”Share on Facebook