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Berlin - German Historian: Hitler Was Shrewd, Not So Hypnotic

Published on: November 7, 2015 11:40 PM
By: Reuters 
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Germany - 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.

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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 realised 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.

“It would be illogical to think that a deeply divided country like Germany suddenly united behind one person and shared one political view,” Longerich said.

Seventy years after his death, Germans’ attitudes towards Hitler are still evolving, Longerich said.

“I don’t think there is any enthusiasm for Hitler but we are seeing taboos being broken,” he said, citing recent films about the dictator and a debate about the publication of “Mein Kampf”.

As fears about right-wing radicalism in Germany grow due to the refugee crisis, he warns that with a “rougher” political atmosphere, “the potential of a single political figure is a factor which should not be underestimated”.



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Read Comments (9)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 08, 2015 at 01:14 AM Anonymous Says:

Anyone that reads that book must have a sick mind.

2

 Nov 08, 2015 at 06:24 AM hashomer Says:

There is not one iota of truth that he mesmerized the German population. That is a myth. He took a hard core 10 percent and won a virtual street war inside Germany, then killed off his internal opposition, then went political and manipulated the weak parliament to the top. At no time did his party get more than about 35 percent of the national vote. No hypnotism involved, only bloodshed and thuggery.

3

 Nov 08, 2015 at 08:35 AM PaulinSaudi Says:

I have never encountered a 'hypnotic" person. I am not sure the exist.

4

 Nov 08, 2015 at 09:28 AM Anon 2 Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

Anyone that reads that book must have a sick mind.

"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."

And you find problems with this scholarly tome because ???

5

 Nov 08, 2015 at 10:00 AM common-sense Says:

How can you comment on a book you haven't read?

6

 Nov 08, 2015 at 11:25 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anon 2 Says:

"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."

And you find problems with this scholarly tome because ???

#4 your comment reflects your nazi way of thinking.

7

 Nov 08, 2015 at 12:57 PM Liepa Says:

This author just wants to make money for all the work he's done to bring this book to publication (1295 pages). But really, does anyone feel the necessity to analyze why Hitler YM"S was a smart politician and his political acuteness, I mean even an imbecile wouldn't care. He was evil to the core, period!

8

 Nov 08, 2015 at 06:56 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Liepa Says:

This author just wants to make money for all the work he's done to bring this book to publication (1295 pages). But really, does anyone feel the necessity to analyze why Hitler YM"S was a smart politician and his political acuteness, I mean even an imbecile wouldn't care. He was evil to the core, period!

By understanding the techniques he used to persuade and indoctrinate people, it can help prevent someone else from doing the same thing in the future. Can you understand that?

9

 Nov 10, 2015 at 02:29 PM StevenWright Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

#4 your comment reflects your nazi way of thinking.

#6 Your comment reflects your way of not thinking.

10

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