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]

Bayles (2) reports two incidents that illustrate this reaction:

"Particularly noticeable is his inability to cope with unexpected situations, this having been amusingly revealed when he laid the cornerstone of the House of German Art in Munich. On this occasion he was handed a dainty, rococo hammer for delivering the three traditional strokes to the cornerstone, but not realizing the fragility of the rococo, he brought the hammer down with such force that at the very first stroke it broke into bits. Then, instead of waiting for another hammer, Hitler completely lost his composure, blushed, looked wildly about him in the manner of a small boy caught stealing jam, and almost ran from the scene leaving the cornerstone unlaid. His enjoyment of the Berlin Olympic Games was completely spoilt when a fanatical Dutch woman who had achieved a personal presentation suddenly clasped him in two hefty arms and tried to kiss him in plain view of 100,000 spectators. Hitler could not regain his composure or stand the irreverent guffaws of foreign visitors, and left the Stadium."

[Page 65]

This type of behavior is illustrated even more clearly in relation to Gregor Strasser because the occasion was one of extreme importance to Hitler. Strasser threatened to split the Party if a definite program could not be agreed upon. Hitler avoided the situation as long as he possibly could in the hope that something might happen, that the situation would somehow solve itself. When it did not he agreed to Strasser's demand for a meeting in Leipzig at which their differences could be thrashed out. Strasser was in the restaurant at the appointed hour. Hitler came late. Hardly had he sat down to the table when he excused himself in order to go to the toilet. Strasser waited for some time and when Hitler did not return he began making inquiries. To his amazement he discovered that instead of going to the toilet Hitler had slipped out of the back door and driven back to Munich without discussing a single point. (378)

Heiden (527) also tells us that in 1923 he was in conference with Ludendorff when he suddenly rushed off without as much as an apology. In the spring of 1932 he ran out on a meeting of the Verband Bayrischer Industrieller before which he was to speak. This group was not kindly disposed to him but it was important for Hitler to win them over. He got up to speak:

" stookt, sieht auf den Tisch, Schweigen alles sieht sich verbluefft an. Peinliche Minuten. Ploetzlich dreht sich Hitler auf dem Absatz um und geht ohne ein Wort an die Tuer."

The same thing happened a year later when, as Chancellor, he was to speak to the Reichsverband der Deutschen Presse, Again he sensed opposition in the group and again he fled from the scene, Olde [Page 66] (611) says:

"Das ist ein Trick, den der Fuehrer noch oft anwerden wird: wenn die Situation peinlich wird, versteckt er sich."

At other times, when he finds himself in difficult situations, the great dictator who prides himself on his decisiveness, hardness and other leadership qualities, breaks down and weeps like a child appealing for sympathy. Raischning (267) writes:

"In 1934 as in 1932 he complained of the ingratitude of the German people in the sobbing tones of a down-at-the-heel music-hall performer! A weakling who accused and sulked, appleaed and implored, and retired in wounded vanity ('If the German people don't want me!') instead of acting."

Otto Strasser reports that on one occasion:

"He seized my hands, as he had done two years before. His voice was choked with sobs, and tears flowed down his cheeks." (381)

Heiden (280) reporting a scene at which the Party leaders were waiting for the arrival of gregor Strasser:

"'Never would I have believed it of Strasser,' he (Hitler) cried, and he laid his head on the table and sobbed. Tears came to the eyes of many of those present, as they saw their Fuehrer weeping. Julius Streicher, who had been snubbed by Strasser for years, called out from his humble place in the background: 'Shameful that Strasser should treat our Fuehrer like that!'"

In extremely difficult situations he had openly threatened to commit suicide. Sometimes it seems that he uses this as a form of blackmail while at other times the situation seems to be more than he can bear. During the Beer Hall Putsch he said to the [Page 67] officials he was holding as prisoners:

"There are still five bullets in my pistol - four for the traitors, and one, if things go wrong, for myself," (253)

He also threatened to commit suicide before Mrs. Hanfstaengl directly after the failure of the Putsch, while he was hiding from the police in the Hanfstaengl home. Again in Landsberg he went on a hunger strike and threatened to martyr himself - an imitation of the Mayor of Cork. In 1930, he threatened to commit suicide after the strange murder of his niece, Geli, (302) of whom we shall speak later. In 1932, he again threatened to carry out this action if Strasser split the (98) Party. In 1933 he threatened to do so if he was not appointed Chancellor (63), and in 1936, he promised to do so if the Occupation of the Rhineland failed. (255)

These, however, are relatively infrequent exhibitions although his associates have learned that they are always a possibility and that it is wise not to push the Fuehrer too far. More frequent are his depressions about which a great deal has been written. It is certain that he does have very deep depressions from time to time. During his years in Vienna (1907-1912), after his mother's death, he undoubtedly suffered from them a great deal. Hanisch reports (64):

"I have never seen such helpless letting down in distress."

It is probably also true that he suffered from depressions during the war as Mend (199) reports.

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After the death of his niece, Geli (193O), he also went into a severe depression which lasted for some time. Gregor Strasser actually feared that he might cnmmit suicide during this period and stayed with him for several days. There is some evidence (Strasser, 302) that he actually tried to do so and was prevented from carrying it out. It is also interesting to note that for several years after her death he went into a depression during the Christmas holidays and wandered around Germamy alone for days on end (957).

Rauschning gives us a vivid description of his condition after the Blood Purge of 1934. He writes (716):

"Aber zunaechst machte auch er nioht den Eindruck des Siegers. Mit gedunsenen, verserrten Zuegen sass er mir gegenueber, als ich ihm Vortrag hielt. Seine Augen waren erloschen, er sah mich nicht an. Er spielte mit seien Fingern. Ich hatte nicht den Eindruck, dass er mir zuhoerte....Waehrend der ganzen Zeit hatte ich den Eindruk, dass Ekel, Ueberdruss und Verachtung in ihm herumstritten, und dass er mit seinen Gedanken ganz wo anders war.... Ich hatte gehoert, er sollte nur noch studenweis schlafen koennen...Nachts irrte er ruhelos umber. Schlafmittel halfen nicht.... Mit Weinkraempfen sollte er aus dem kurzem Schlaf aufwachen. Er haette sich wiederholt erbrochen. Mit Schuettelfrost habe er in Decken gehuellt im Seesel gesessen...Einmal wollte er alles erleuchtet und Menschen, viel Menschen um sich haben; im gleichen Augenblick haette er wieder neimanden sehen wollen...."

These are major crises in his life and we can assume that they probably represent his worst depressions. Undoubtedly he very frequently has minor ones when he withdraws from his associates and broods by himself, or periods when he refuses to see anyone and is irritable and impatient with those around him. On the whole, how-[Page 69]ever, it appears that the reports of Hitler' s depressions have been grossly exaggerated. Not one of our informants who has had close contact with him has any knowledge of his ever retiring to a sanatarium during such times and there is only one source which indicates that he ever sought psychiatric help and that was not accepted. We must assume that the many reports that have flourished in the newspapers have been plants by the Nazi Propaganda agencies to lure us into false expectations.

There are a number of other respects in which Hitler does not appear before his associates as the self-confident Fuehrer he likes to believe himself to be. One of the most marked of these is his behavior in the presence of accepted authority. Under these circumstances he is obviously nervous and very ill at ease. Many times he is downright submissive. As far back as 1923, Ludecke (166) reports that:

"In conference with Poehner, Hitler sat with his felt hat crushed shapeless in his hands. His mien was almost humble..."

Fromm (371) writes that at a dinner:

"Hitler's eagerness to obtain the good graces of the princes present was subject to much comment. He bowed and clicked and all but knelt in his zeal to please oversized, ugly Princess Luise von Sachsen-Meiningen, her brother, hereditary Prince George, and their sister, Grand Duchess of Sachsen-Weimar. Beaming in his servile attitude he dashed personally to bring refreshments from the buffet."

On his visit to Rome, Hues (408) writes:

"When leading Queen Helene in Rome he was like a fish out of water. He didn't know what to do with his hands."

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To Hindenburg, he was extremely submissive. Pictures taken of their meetings illustrate his attitude very clearly. In some of them it looks almost as though he were about to kiss the President's hand. Flannery (698) also reports that when Hitler first met Petain he took him by the arm and escorted him to his car. Hanfstaengl (912) reports that he found Hitler outside the door of the banquet hall in which a dinner and reception were being given to the former Kaiser's wife. He was unable to bring himself to go in and meet her Highness alone. When Hanfstaengl finally persuaded Hitler to go in he was so ill at ease that he could only stammer a few words to Hermine and then excused himself. Many other examples could be cited. From the weight of evidence it seems certain that Hitler does lose his self-confidence badly when he is brought face to face with an accepted authority of high standing, particularly royalty.

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