Fuhrer pi­o­neered a pop­ulist ap­proach

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nar­ra­tive and his own im­age long be­fore Dick Mor­ris, James Carville or Karl Rove were born. Be­fore 1939 he also had a strate­gist’s sense of which bat­tles were worth fight­ing (get­ting rid of the trou­ble­some Ernst Rohm in 1934, for ex­am­ple) and which — like that against the churches — should be de­layed. He was helped by his very loud and flex­i­ble voice (pretty im­por­tant in those early un­am­pli­fied beer hall days), an ac­tor’s ca­pac­ity for play­ing the right role for the right peo­ple, and con­sid­er­able charm.

How­ever, it seems all the stuff about Hitler be­ing mes­meris­ing and about his hyp­notic eyes that sur­faced af­ter the war is self-ex­cul­pa­tory guff from those wish­ing to ex­plain their ad­her­ence to the au­thor of World War II and the Holo­caust. Hitler’s power lay in say­ing what peo­ple wanted to hear or al­low­ing them to be­lieve in fan­tasies that made them feel bet­ter.

The dic­ta­tor, for ex­am­ple, did not cre­ate that mad Ger­manic anti-Semitism that took hold af­ter World War I but was nev­er­the­less very strong be­fore it. In 1916, in re­sponse to na­tion­al­ist de­mands, the Ger­man army high com­mand car­ried out an en­tirely su­per­flu­ous au­dit of what the Jews in its army were ac­tu­ally do­ing.

In fact Hitler’s own anti-Semitism, ac­cord­ing to Ull­rich, de­vel­oped con­trary to his own ex­pe­ri­ence of Jews. But like thou­sands of other Ger­mans, Hitler had wel­comed the on­set of the Great War, writ­ing that “over­come by a tem­pes­tu­ous en­thu­si­asm I sank to my knees and thanked heaven … that I was for­tu­nate enough to live in th­ese times”. Yet of the pe­riod four years later, af­ter be­ing told that Ger­many had sur­ren­dered, Hitler wrote: “In the nights that fol­lowed my ha­tred grew, my ha­tred for those re­spon­si­ble for this deed.”

He, of course, was him­self re­spon­si­ble for the deed. He and the war en­thu­si­asts of 1914. But rather than hate him­self, he hated the Jews.

He soon voiced an ex­pul­sive fan­tasy — “Chuck the Jews out and then we can pu­rify our­selves,” as he put it in a speech in 1920. The prob­lem was race-mix­ing, just as the prob­lem with mod­ern art was “spat­ter­ing”, just as the prob­lem with the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire was its poly­glot mix­ture, or with ma­ture women and their com­pli­cated emo­tional de­mands. Hitler liked to keep things sim­ple.

I am obliged to Ull­rich for (de­spite his own ret­i­cence) leav­ing me con­vinced that when it came to am­a­tory mat­ters, Adolf was a chip off his old father’s goat­ish block, and much pre­ferred hav­ing re­la­tion­ships with teenagers than with women his own age.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that the fu­ture chan­cel­lor slept with his 17-year-old niece, Geli Raubal, and that his ma­nip­u­la­tive jeal­ousy was partly re­spon­si­ble for her sui­cide in their shared apart­ment in 1931. Pretty soon af­ter Raubal’s death Hitler took up with the teenage Eva Braun and main­tained her as his un­mar­ried con­sort un­til their joint sui­cide in the bunker in 1945.

Though Ull­rich re­peats the point about this ar­range­ment per­mit­ting Hitler to main­tain the im­age of be­ing mar­ried to Deutsch­land, he doesn’t men­tion that it also ab­solved the Fuhrer of any re­spon­si­bil­ity for bring­ing a com­pli­cat­ing lit­tle Adolf or Adolfa into the world. That, for Hitler, would have been too much like hard work.

Adolf Hitler took up with Eva Braun, left, af­ter the sui­cide of his niece, with whom it’s be­lieved he had a re­la­tion­ship

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