The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

As His Associates Know Him

[Transcription note: Bracketed [Page] links provide access to the individual images from which these transcriptions were made]

He is unable to maintain any kind of a working schedule. His hours are most irregular and he may go to bed any time between midnight and seven o'clock in the morning and get up anywhere from nine o'clock in the morning and two in the afternoon. In later years the hours tended to get later and it was unusual, just before the war, for him to go to bed before daybreak. The night, however, was not spent in working as his propaganda agents allege, but in viewing one or two feature movies, endless newsreels, listening to music, entertaining film stars or just sitting around chatting with his staff.

He seemed to have a violent dislike for going to bed or being alone. Frequently, he would ring for his [Page 55] adjutants in the middle of the night after his guests had gone home and demand that they sit up and talk to him. It was not that he had anything to say and often the adjutants would fall asleep listening to him talk about nothing of importance. As long as one of them remained awake, however, he would not be offended. There was an unwritten law among his immediate staff never to ask a question at these early morning sessions because to do so might get Hitler off on another subject and force them to remain for another hour.

Hitler sleeps very badly and has been in the habit for some years of taking a sleeping powder every night before retiring. It is possible that he demands someone to be with him in the hope that the powder will take effect and he will be overcome with sleep. His behavior, however, is not in keeping with this hypothesis for he carries on a monologue and frequently gets very much stirred up about the topic.

This is hardly conducive to sleep and we must suppose that there is some other reason for his late hours. Even after he has dismissed his adjutant and goes to bed he usually takes an armful of illustrated periodicals with him. These are usually magazines with pictures concerning naval and military matters and American magazines are usually included. Shirer (280) reports that he has been informed that since the war broke out Hitler has been keeping better hours and regularly has his first breakfast at seven A.M. and his second breakfast at nine A.M. This may have been so during the early days of the war but it is very doubtful that Hitler could keep up this schedule for any length of time.

[Page 56]

Rauschning (275) claims that Hitler has a bed compulsion which demands that the bed be made in a particular way with the quilt folded according to a proscribed pattern and that a man must make the bed, before he can go to sleep. We have no other information on this subject but from his general psychological structure such a compulsion would be possible.

His working day before the war was equally disorderly. Rauschning reports, "he does not know how to work steadily. Indeed, he is incapable of working." He dislikes desk work and seldom glances at the piles of reports which are placed on his desk daily. No matter how important these may be or how much his adjutants may urge him to attend to the particular matter, he refuses to take them seriously unless it happens to be a project which interests him. On the whole, few reports interest him unless they deal with military or naval affairs or political matters. He seldom sits in a cabinet meeting because they bore him. On several occasions when sufficient pressure was brought to bear he did attend but got up abruptly during the session and left without apology. Later it was discovered that he had gone to his private theater and had the operator show some film that he particularly liked. On the whole, he prefers to discuss cabinet matters with each member in person and then communicate his decision to the group as a whole.

He has a passion for the latest news and for photographs of himself. If Hoffmann, the official Party photographer, happens to appear or someone happens to enter his office with a newspaper he will interrupt the most inportant meeting in order to scan [Page 57] through them Very frequently he becomes so absorbed in the news or in his own photographs that he completely forgets the topic under discussion. Ludecke (165) writes:

"Even on ordinary days in those times, it was almost impossible to keep Hitler concentrated on one point. His quick mind would run away with the talk, or his attention would be distracted by the sudden discovery of the newspaper and he would stop to read it avidly, or he would interrupt your carefully prepared report with a long speech as though you were an audience...."

And Hanfstaengl reports that "his staff is usually in despair on account of his procrastination.... He never takes their protests in this respect very seriously and usually brushes them aside by saying, 'Problems are not solved by getting fidgety. If the time is ripe, the matter will be settled one way or another.'" (899)

Although Hitler tries to present himself as a very decisive individual who never hesitates when he is confronted by a difficult situation, he is usually far from it. It is at just these times that his procrastionation becomes most marked. At such times it is almost impossible to get him to take action on anything. He stays very much by himself and is frequently almost inaccessible to his immediate staff. He often becomes depressed, is in bad humor, talks little, and prefers to read a book, look at movies or play with architectural models. According to the Dutch report (656) his hesitation to act is not due to divergent views among his advisors. At such times, he seldom pays very much attention to them and prefers not to discuss the matter.

[Page 58]

"What is known as the mastery of material was quite unimportant to him. He quickly became impatient if the details of a problem were brought to him. He was greatly adverse to experts and had little regard for their opinion. He looked upon them as mere hacks, as brush-cleaners and color grinders...." (269)

On some occasions he has been known to leave Berlin without a word and go to Berchtesgaden where he spends his time walking in the country entirely by himself. Rauschning, who has met him on such occasions, says:

"He recognizes nobody then. HE wants to be alone. There are times when he flees from human society." (275)

Roehm (176) frequently said, "Usually he solves suddenly, at the very last minute, a situation that has become intolerable and dangerous only because he vacillates and procrastinates."

It is during these periods of inactivity that Hitler is waiting for his "inner voice" to guide him. He does not think the problem through in a normal way but waits until the solution is presented to him. To Rauschning he said:

"Unless I have the incorruptible conviction: THIS IS THE SOLUTION, I do nothing. Not even if the whole party tried to drive me to action. I will not act; I will wait, no matter what happens. But if the voice speaks, then I know the time has come to act." (268)

These periods of indecision may last from a few days to several weeks. If he is induced to talk about the problem-solving this time he becomes ill-natured and bad-tempered. However, when the solution has been given to him he has a great desire to express himself. He then calls in his adjutants and they must sit and listen to him until he is finished no matter what time it hap-[Page 59]pens to be. On these occasions he does not want them to question him or even to understand him. It seems that he just wants to talk.

After this recital to his adjutants Hitler calls in his advisers and informs them of his decision. When he has finished they are free to express their opinions. If Hitler thinks that one of these opinions is worthwhile he will listen for a long time but usually these opinions have little influence on his decision when this stage has been reached. Only if someone succeeds in introducing new factors is there any possibility of getting him to change his mind. If someone voices the opinion that the proposed plan is too difficult or onerous he becomes extremely angry and frequently says:

"I do not look for people having clever ideas of their own but rather people who are clever in finding ways and means of carrying out my ideas." (654)

As soon as he has the solution to a problem his mood changes very radically. He is again the Fuehrer we have described at the beginning of this section.

"He is very cheerful, jokes all the time and does not give anybody an opportunity to speak, while he himself makes fun of everybody."

This mood lasts throughout the period when necessary work has been done. As soon as the requisite orders have bean given to put the plan into execution, however, Hitler seems to lose interest in it. He becomes perfectly calm, ocoupies himself with other matters and sleeps unusually long hours. (654)

[Page 60]

This is a very fundamental trait in Hitler's character structure. He does not think things out in a logical and consistent fashion, gathering all available information pertinent to the problem, mapping out alternative courses of action and then weighing the evidence pro and con for each of them before reaching a decision. His mental processes operate in reverse. Instead of studying the problem as an intellectual would do he avoids it and occupies himself with other things until unconscious processes furnish him with a solution.

Having the solution he then begins to look for facts which will prove that it is correct. In this procedure he is very clever and by the time he presents it to his associates, it has the appearance of a rational judgment. Nevertheless, his thought processes proceed from the emotional to the factual instead of starting with the facts as an intellectual normally does. It is this characteristic of his thinking process which makes it difficult for ordinary people to understand Hitler or to predict his future actions. His orientation in this respect is that of an artist and not that of a statesman.

Although Hitler has been extremely successful in using this inspirational technique in determining his course of action (and we are reminded of his following his course with the precision of a sleep-walker) it is not without its shortcomings. He becomes dependent on his inner guide which makes for unpredictability on the one hand and rigidity on the other. The result is that he cannoy modify his course in the face of unexpected developments or [Page 61] firm opposition. Strasser (297) tells us that:

"When he was then confronted by contradictory facts he was left floundering."

And Roehm says that there is:

"No system in the execution of his thoughts. He wants things his own way and gets mad when he strikes firm opposition on solid ground." (176)

This rigidity of mental functioning is obvious even in ordinary everyday interviews. When an unexpected question is asked, he is completely at a loss. Lochner (154) supplies us with an excellent description of this reaction:

"I saw this seemingly super-self-confident man actually blush when I broached the subject of German-American relations.... This evidently caught him off-guard. He was not used to having his infallibility challenged. For a moment he blushed like a school-boy, hemmed and hawed, then stammered an embarrassed something about having so many problems to ponder that he had not yet had time to take up America."

Almost everyone who has written about Hitler has commented on his rages. These are well known to all of his associates and they have learned to fear them. The descriptions of his behavior during these rages vary considerably. The more extreme descriptions claim that at the climax he rolls on the floor and chews on the carpets. Shirer (279) reports that in 1938 he did this so often that his associates frequently referred to him as "Teppichfresser". Not one of our informants who has been close to Hitler, people like Hanfstaengl, Strasser, Rauschning, Hohenlohe, Friedelinde Wagner, and Ludecke, have ever seen him behave in this manner. Moreover they all are firmly convinced that this is a gross [Page 62] exaggeration and the informant of the Dutch Legation (655) says that this aspect must be relegated to the domain of "Greuelmaerchen."

Even without this added touch of chewing the carpet, his behavior is still extremely violent and shows an utter lack of emotional control. In the worst rages he undoubtedly acts like a spoiled child who cannot have his own way and bangs his fists on the tables and walls. He scolds and shouts and stammers and on some occasions foaming saliva gathers in the corners of his mouth. Rauschning, in describing one of these uncontrolled exhibitions, says:

"He was an alarming sight, his hair disheveled, his eyes fixed, and his face distorted and purple. I feared that he would collapse or have a stroke." (110)

It must not be supposed, however, that these rages occur only when he is crossed on major issues. On the contrary, very insignificant matters might call out this reaction. In general they are brought on whenever anyone contradicts him, when there is unpleasant news for which he might feel responsible, when there is any skepticism concerning his judgment or when a situation arises in which his infallibility might be challenged or belittled. Von Weigand (492) reports that among his staff there is a tactic [sic] understanding:

"For God's sake don't excite the Fuehrer - which means do not tell him bad news -- do not mention things which are not as he conceives them to be."

Voigt (591) says that:

[Page 63]

"Close collaborators for many years said that Hitler was always like this - that the slightest difficulty or obstacle could make him scream with rage...."

Many writers believe that these rages are just play acting. There is much to be said for this point of view since Hitler's first reaction to the unpleasant situation is not indignation, as one would ordinarily expect under these circumstances. He goes off into a rage or tirade without warning. Similarly, when he has finished, there is no aftermath. He immediately cools down and begins to talk about other matters in a perfectly calm tone of voice as though nothing had happened. Occasionally he will look around sheepishly, as if to see if anyone is laughing, and then proceeds with other matters, without the slightest trace of resentment.

Some of his closest associates have felt that he induces these rages consciously to frighten those about him. Rauschning (261), for example, says it is a:

"...technique by which he wouldthrow his entire entourage into confusion by well-timed fits of rags and thus make them more submissive."

Strasser (377) also believes this to be the case for he says:

"Rage and abuse became the favorite weapons in his armory."

This is not the time to enter into a detailed discussion concerning the nature and purpose of the rages. It is sufficient, for the present time, to realize that his associates are well aware that Hitler can and does behave in this way. It is a part of the Hitler they know and are forced to deal with. We may point [Page 64] out, however, that they are not conscious acting alone since it is quite impossible for an actor to actually become purple in the face unless he really is in an emotional state.

There are many other aspects of Hitler's personality, as it is known to his associates, which do not fit into the picture of the Fuehrer as it is presented to the German people. A few of the more important of these merit mention. Hitler is represented as a man of great courage, with nerves of steel who always is in complete control of every situation. Nevertheless, he often runs away from an unpleasant, unexpected or difficult situation.

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