The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

As He Knows Himself

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

It seems that mystery always follows Hitler. His career in the army is no exception. There are several things that have never been satisfactorily explained. The first is that he spent [Page 123] four years in the same regiment but was never advanced beyond the rank of First Class Private or Lance Corporal. The second is the Iron Cross First Class which he constantly wears. This has been the topic of much discussion but the mystery has never been solved. There is no mention of the award in the history of his regiment. This is rather amazing inasmuch as other awards of this kind are listed. Hitler is mentioned, in a number of other connections but not in this one, although it is alleged that it was awarded to him for capturing twelve Frenchmen, including an officer, singlehanded. This is certainly no ordinary feat in any regiment and one would expect that it would at least merit some mention, particularly in view of the fact that Hitler had considerable fame as a politician when the book went to press.

The Nazi propaganda agencies have not helped to clarify the situation. Not only have a number of different versions of the story appeared in the press, but each gives a different number of Frenchmen he is alleged to have captured. They have also published alleged facsimiles of his war record which do not agree. The Berlin Illustrierte Zeitung of August 10, 1939 printed a facsimile in which the date of award for this decoration was clearly August 4, 1918. Yet the Voelkische Beobachter of August 14, 1934 had published a facsimile in which the date of award was October 4, 1918. Although these alleged facsimiles mentioned other citations they did not include the date of award of the Iron Cross Second Class. From all that can be learned the First Class Cross was never awarded unless the recipient had already been awarded the Second Class decoration.

[Page 124]

Just what the facts are it is impossible to determine. It is alleged that his war record has been badly tampered with and that von Schleicher was eliminated during the Blood Purge because he knew the true facts. Strasser who served in the same division has probably as good an explanation as any. He says that during the last months of the war there were so many First Class Crosses being given out that General Headquarters was no longer able to pass on the merits of each individual case. To facilitate matters a number of these decorations were allotted to each regiment every month to be issued by the Commanding Officers. They,in turn, notified the High Command of the award and the deed which merited it. According to Strasser, when the army began to collapse, the Regimental Headquarters had in their possession a number of decorations which had not been awarded.

Since few members of the Headquarters Staff ever received an award of this type they took advantage of the general melee and gave them to each other and forged the signatures of the commanding officer in sending it to the High Command. The thing that speaks in favor of this explanation is the curious bond which exists between Hitler and his regimental sergeant-major, Max Areann who was later to become the head of the Nazi Eher Verlag. This is one of the most lucrative positions in the entire Nazi hierarchy and Amann was called to the position by Hitler.

The only explanation for the lack of promotion that has been published is the comment of one of his officers to the effect that he would never make a non-commissioned officer "out of that neurotic fellow, Hitler". Rauschning (947) gives a different explanation. He claims that a high Nazi had once confided in him that he [Page 125] had seen Hitler's military record and that it contained an item of a court martial which found him guilty of pederastic practices with an officer, and that it was for this reason that he was never promoted. Rauschning also claims that in Munich Hitler was found guilty of a violation of paragraph 175 which deals with pederasty. No other evidence of either of these two charges has been found.

The mystery becomes even deeper when we learn from a great many informants that Hitler was quite courageous and never tried to evade dangerous assignments, It is said that he was unusually adept at running and then falling or seeking shelter when the fire became intense. It also seems that he was always ready to volunteer for special assignments and was considered exceedingly reliable in the performance of all his duties by his own officers.

It may be well to mention at this point that when Hitler entered the army he again became a member of a recognized and respected social institution. No longer did he have to stand in breadlines or seek shelter in flophouses, For the first time since his mother died did he really belong to a group of people. Not only did this provide him with a sense of pride and security but at last he had achieved his great ambition, namely, to be united with the German nation. It is also interesting to note a considerable change in his appearance. From the dirty, greasy, cast-off clothes of Jews and other charitable people he was now privileged to wear a uniform. Mend (209), one of his comrades, tells us that when Hitler came out of the trenches or back from an assignment he spent hours cleaning his uniform and boots until he became the joke of the regiment. Quite a [Page 126] remarkable change for one who for almost seven years refused to exert himself just a little in order to pull himself out of the pitiful conditions in which he lived among the dregs of Society.


Then came the armistice and all this was over. Adolph Hitler from a psychological point of view, was in exactly the same position as the one in which he found himself eleven years before when his mother died. He faced the future alone. The army, his home for four years, was breaking up. Again he stood alone before a dismal future - a world in which he could not find a niche, a world which did not care for him, a world of aimless existence fraught with hardships. It was more than he could face.

Where to go and what to do. Having no home or family to greet him he returned to Munich not because it had been kind to him in the past but because he had no other place to go. He could take up his life again where he had left off four years earlier. He wandered around Munich for a short time "a stray dog looking for a master". Then it is reported that he went to Vienna to visit his halfsister, Angela, with whom he had had contact for many years. If he actually. made this trip he did not stay long for soon we find him in the reserve army, stationed in Traunstein. He is in a deep depression. He wears the uniform and eats the food of the army. It is his only recourse and he stays on there in this capacity until April, l92O, when the camp is broken up. He then returned to Munich still attached to the army and living in the barracks. During this time he seems to have continued his political discussions with his comrades siding with the Social Democrats against the Communists. According to [Page 127] the Muenchener Post he actually affiliated himself with the Social Democratic Party (483). After the counter-revolution every tenth man in the barracks was shot but Hitler was singled out beforehand and asked to stand one side. At the inquiry he appeared before the board with "charge-lists" against some of his comrades which can only signify denunciations for Communistic activities. He had been spying on his comrades and now assigned them to the executiener. In MEIN KAMPF he refers to this occupation as his "first more or less political activity".

The Army now undertook to educate its soldiers in the proper political philosophy and Hitler was assigned to such a course. He spoke so ably in this group that his talent for speaking impressed an officer who was presents and Hitler was appointed "education officer". His hour had struck - he was discovered and appreciated, singled out for his talent. He threw himself into this work with great enthusiasm always speaking to larger groups. His confidence grew with his success in swaying people. He was on his way to become a politician. From here on his career is a matter of history and need not be reviewed here.

This is the foundation of Hitler's character. Whatever he tried to be afterwards is only super-structure and the super-structure can be no firmer than the foundations on which it rests. The higher it goes the more unstable it becomes - the more it needs to be propped up and patched up in order to make it hold together. This is not an easy job. It requires constant vigilance, strong defenses and heavy losses in time and energy.

There was unanimous agreement among the four psychoanalysts [Page 128] who have studied the material that Hitler is an hysteric bordering on schizophrenia and not a paranoiac as is so frequently supposed. This means that he is not insane in the commonly accepted sense of the term, but neurotic. He has not lost complete contact with the world about him and is still striving to make some kind of psychological adjustment which will give him a feeling of security in his social group. It also means that there is a definite moral component in his character no matter how deeply it may be buried or how seriously it has been distorted.

With this diagnosis established, we are in a position to make a number of surmises concerning the conscious mental processes which ordinarily take place in Hitler's mind. These form the nucleus of the "Hitler"; he consciously knows and must live with. It is in all probability not a happy "Hitler" but one harrassed by fears, anxieties, doubts, misgivings, uncertainties, condemnations, feelings of loneliness and of guilt. From our experience with other hysterics we are probably on firm ground when we suppose that Hitler's mind is like a "battle-royal" most of the time with many conflicting and contradictory forces and impulses pulling him this way and that.

Such a state of confusion is not easy to bear. His energies are absorbed in wrestling with himself instead of striving for gratifications in the external world which he wants and needs. He sees the possibilities all around him but he can rarely muster enough energy to make the effort to go after them. Fears, doubts and implications obstruct his thinking and acting and he becomes indecisive and winds up doing nothing but wishing. Vicarious gratifications through fantasies [Page 129] become substitutes for the satisfaction obtained from real achievements. We must suppose that this is the state that Hitler was in during the seven years that elapsed between the death of his mother and the outbreak of the war when he was wasting his time lying around in flophouses and sitting in cafes in Vienna. Only when his hunger became acute could he muster the energy necessary to apply himself to a few hours of work. As soon as this hunger was appeased he lapsed back into his former state of procrastination and indecision.

We must assume that that the periods of procrastination at the present time have a similar origin. He. withdraws from society, is depressed and dawdles away his time until "the situation becomes dangerous" then he forces himself to action. He works for a time and as soon as the job is underway "he loses interest in it" and slips back into his leisurely life in which he does nothing except what he is forced to do or likes to do. Now, of course, it is no longer hunger that drives him to work but another motive, even more powerful, of which he is not fully conscious. The nature of this motive will be discussed in the next section.

As one surveys Hitler's behavior patterns, as his close associates observe them, one gets the distinct impression that this is not one person but two which inhabit the same body and alternate back and forth. The one is a very soft, sentimental and indecisive individual who has little drive and wants nothing quite so much as to be amused, liked and looked after. The other is just the opposite - hard, cruel and decisive with an abundant reservoir of energy at his command - who knows what he wants and is ready to go after it and get [Page 130] it regardless of costs. It is the first Hitler who weeps profusely at the death of his canary, and the second Hitler who cries in open court: "Heads will roll". It is the first Hitler who cannot bring himself to discharge an assistant and it is the second Hitler who can order the murder of hundreds including his best friends and can say with great conviction: "There will be no peace in the land until a body hangs from every lamp-post". It is the first Hitler who spends his evenings watching movies or going cabarets and it is the second Hitler who works for days on end with little or no sleep, making plans which will affect the destiny of nations.

Until we understand the magnitude and implications of this duality in his nature we can never understand his actions. It is a kind of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality structure in which two wholly different, radical oscillations take place and make the person almost unrecognizable. This characteristic, too, is common to many hysterics. Under these circumstances it is extremely difficult to predict from moment to moment what his reactions to a given situation are going to be. An illustration may be helpful. According to Russell (746) extravagant preparations were made for the commemorative services for the Germans who died when the battleship Deutschland was bombed. Hitler spoke long and passionately to those attending, as well as over the radio. It was then arranged that he should walk down the line of survivors and review the infantry and naval units drawn up at attention. Newsreel cameramen were stationed at all crucial points:

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"The first widow to whom Hitler spoke a few words cried violently. Her child, who was 10 years old and who stood next to his bereaved mother, began to cry heartrendingly. Hitler patted him on the head and turned uncertainly to the next in line. Before he could speak a word, he was suddenly overcome. He spun completely around, left the carefully prepared program flat. Followed by his utterly surprised companions he walked as fast as he could to his car and had himself driven away from the parade grounds."

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