Hitler was shrewd, not so hyp­notic, bi­og­ra­phy says

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BER­LIN: A new bi­og­ra­phy of Hitler by a prom­i­nent Ger­man his­to­rian is likely to stir con­tro­versy with its ar­gu­ment that the Nazi leader’s po­lit­i­cal acu­men has been un­der­es­ti­mated and that the be­lief in his hyp­notic grip over Ger­mans is in­flated. Pe­ter Lon­gerich’s “Hitler”, to be pub­lished on Mon­day, is a 1,295-page tome that in­cludes ma­te­rial from the diaries of Nazi pro­pa­ganda chief Joseph Goebbels and early Hitler speeches. “Over­all, you have a pic­ture of a dic­ta­tor who con­trolled much more, who was more closely in­volved in in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sions than pre­vi­ously thought. I wanted to put Hitler as a per­son back in the cen­tre,” Lon­gerich told Reuters in an in­ter­view.

Re­cent works on the Third Re­ich have placed more em­pha­sis on the so­cial and po­lit­i­cal cli­mate that led to the rise of Nazism af­ter de­feat in World War One and crip­pling repa­ra­tion de­mands. Soon af­ter World War Two, Ger­mans clung to the be­lief that they had been held hostage by a crim­i­nal gang led by the charis­matic Hitler, bent on con­quer­ing Europe and ex­ter­mi­nat­ing Jews. Lon­gerich, a pro­fes­sor at Lon­don Univer­sity, ar­gues that while all Hitler’s poli­cies and the re­sults were cat­a­strophic, he acted smartly in spe­cific sit­u­a­tions.

“The ques­tion why he man­aged to get so far needs to be ad­dressed: Ob­vi­ously he had the abil­ity to ex­ploit in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tions in his own in­ter­est and for his own aims,” he said. Even his racial poli­cies, which cul­mi­nated in the mur­der of at least 6 mil­lion Jews in the Holo­caust, were in large part down to po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism, says Lon­gerich, who does not think Hitler was rad­i­cally anti-Semitic at an early age. “Around 1919-1920 he re­al­ized he could be suc­cess­ful in pol­i­tics by em­brac­ing and in­cit­ing anti-Semitism,” he said, adding it be­came a cen­tral el­e­ment only in the 1930s.

Hitler’s skill in tak­ing power is even more strik­ing given that the Aus­trian-born art stu­dent was a ‘no­body’ with no ide­ol­ogy un­til he was about 30. Only then, re­fus­ing to ac­cept Ger­many’s de­feat, was he drawn to the early Nazi party. Lon­gerich also seeks to de­bunk the the­ory that Hitler had an ir­re­sistible charisma that cap­ti­vated Ger­mans, ar­gu­ing it was largely ar­ti­fi­cially con­structed by the Nazi pro­pa­ganda ma­chine which pumped out pic­tures of en­tranced fans at ral­lies. The author does not ex­on­er­ate Ger­mans, say­ing large parts of the pop­u­la­tion sup­ported Hitler while oth­ers were op­por­tunis­tic in fol­low­ing him, but he ar­gues that there were so­cial ten­sions and dis­con­tent, for ex­am­ple within the church. — Reuters

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