posts 1 - 15 of 30
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 205

Reading:

Janet Flanner, “Profiles: Führer,” The New Yorker, 1936 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1C3U2GgC0iI_3XFihGsyuFJAwBOVa8Ngn/view?usp=sharing

Ignatius Phayre, “Hitler’s Mountain Home,” Homes and Gardens, November 1938

A transcript and facsimile of the article is on this site: http://new.wymaninstitute.org/2004/01/special-feature-hitler-in-homes-gardens/

Gene Santoro, “Interview with Ian Kershaw,” Historynet.com, February 4, 2009

http://www.historynet.com/ian-kershaw.htm


So why ARE we so intrigued by Hitler? For good or for bad, what is it that we want to know about him? Is it akin to our fascination with Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump? Is it our fascination with the image of pure evil? Is it that we see him as the ultimate “bogeyman,” the Darth Vader/Voldemort of the twentieth century? Is he responsible for every evil thing that happened in World War II? When one reads Mein Kampf, you are left to wonder: how could someone who writes such convoluted sentences and phrases be so fascinating for so many people?


Janet Flanner was intrigued early on. An American expatriate for much of her life, Flanner traveled to Germany to interview Hitler for a three-part profile in The New Yorker. Ignatius Phayre (a pseudonym) visited Hitler’s lair in the Bavarian Alps and profiled it in the Architectural Digest of the day, the magazine Homes and Gardens.


In fact, are all these articles the 1930s equivalents of Oprah/Ellen/The View/”Lifestyles of the Rich and Faamous” celebrity-infused talk/gossip shows?


Ian Kershaw is the preeminent biographer of Hitler. His 2-volume biography of Hitler seems to be (at least for the time being) the most authoritative biography of the Führer to date and delves into every nook and cranny of Hitler’s life.


By reading through these articles/site, what is the big “takeaway” for you re Hitler? Do you understand him any better? Do you think trying to understanding him is a worthwhile pursuit? At the end of the day, in your view, what’s the most important thing(s) to know about Adolf Hitler? And why?


As usual, be sure to respond fully to this post, supporting your observations with specifics from the readings and from class. And be sure to interact with your fellow students—that is, read some of their posts and be sure to respond to what they have to say within your own (and for you early posters, that means returning to this thread!).

Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

For Hitler, everything was about power and grandiosity. In order for him to feed into his narcissistic tendencies, he used his own person charisma to rally the German public around a message of hate to deploy as blame for the desperate state during the Wiemar Republic. In order to avoid being in the spotlight on issues that were contentious, Hitler would stay aloof and then side with the clear winner to be seen as a successful leader. Even though the administration and government of the German state was relatively unorganized or 'quasi-chaotic', state-sanctioned propaganda depicted a people acting in unison to create an image of universality and immense government control. Descriptions of Hitler's estate in the Bavarian Estate also show a tendency of grandiose imagery and romanticizing the actions of his own regime. The 18th century German pieces that Hitler loved to furnish and decorate his home with indicates a need to set himself a part from the rest of society as having a strong connection to tradition to justify his regime on a national level. All the refined international dishes that his personal chef would cook for him as described by the author of "Homes and Gardens" hint at a need to assert his place on a global scale and glorify his rule over an oppressive state to foreigners. His tendency to give tours of his home points at his extreme hubris and his ability to push his dominance onto the people who surround him.

The most important thing to understand about Hitler is that he wasn't crazy or insane in any way. Labeling him as such could be deployed as an excuse for his brutal actions that should be seen as reprehensible. It also gives a pass to all the people who followed along with him and condoned his actions; it leaves room for them to pity him and use that as a shield when people confront them on their past or confront others on one's past. Instead we need to evaluate the all the terrible decisions made during the Holocaust through the lens of normal people acting on their own hatred towards ethnic and religious minorities. If we evaluate the psychology of historical events in this way, it will help us learn more about the present and address our own issues in accordance with our conclusions. History has repeated itself so many times since the Germans lost the war because we as a global community haven't done the work to evaluate our mistakes and wrongdoings. We have allowed authoritarian figures such as Trump come to power in even western, developed nations like the US that deploy some of the same tactics that Hitler did to assemble mass popularity. The former president is still relying on propaganda and imagery to advocate for an America that would further persecute the coming majority of people in this country who would identify as racial minorities. In order to change the course of this, we must evaluate the psychology of authoritarian figures like Hitler so that we can combat similar situations in the present or in the future more effectively.

cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Understanding Hitler

I believe that we are so fascinated by Adolf Hitler because of his image of pure evil. We want to know the environment, events, and people that influenced him to commit such monstrous and ruthless acts upon over 6 million people.


One big takeaway for me from all the readings is that your environment and what you are taught in your early years play a major role in shaping your personality and beliefs. In The New Yorker article, Flanner writes that Hitler excelled in geography and history, and he particularly took interest in the Franco-Prussian War within German history. It is also important to note that his teacher was a Pan-Germanist. They had such a great impact on Hitler that the future dictator decided to be a Pan-Germanist at the age of 12. This circumstance demonstrates that the people around you, their opinions, and what you are told in your formative years define your thoughts and opinions because at such a young age, like 12, children are not yet able to form their own opinions and beliefs and can only absorb what they are told and taught. Furthermore, at the age of 13, Hitler studied in Vienna the French Count de Gobineau and other works written by Nietzsche, Müller, and others. These texts reinforced his opinion of Nordic and Aryan superiority. He also read anti-Jewish literature in Vienna. His passion for German history coupled with his study of anti-Semitic texts influenced him to rise to power as a dictator and facilitate the purification of the Aryan race and the extermination of the Jewish population.


In addition to Hitler’s environment, it is crucial to emphasize how economic and social circumstances gave rise to his dictatorship and the Nazi Party. In Gene Santoro’s interview with Ian Kershaw, Kershaw points out that Weimar Germany faced political and economic instability a few years before Hitler took power. At that time of crisis, people wanted to look to someone, who they thought possessed savior-like qualities that would give them hope and lift them out of their struggle, and that person was Adolf Hitler. This notion can be exemplified today as we devote much of our expectations and hopes to our leaders, political figures, and intellectuals in the midst of the pandemic, the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, and the increased violence against the Black community.


I think it is important to know about his hobbies and passions outside of the political sphere. According to the Homes & Gardens issue, Hitler was interested in art, architecture, and music. He designed and furnished his own home in the Bavarian Alps. His passion for art was displayed on the walls of his guest rooms as he hung his own paintings there. Hitler attended operas, symphonies, and plays alone. He also enjoyed watching films, particularly historical and foreign ones, and he would invite others who he thought would like to watch them too. In addition, Hitler liked taking trolls every morning to see the flowers and other greenery that grew in his gardens. I believe his hobbies are especially noteworthy because they emphasize that he enjoyed life too and that he appreciated the sweet and pleasant aspects of life. These interests go to show that you do not have to have a criminal or villainous past to be an orchestrator of genocide. Many people take interest in the arts, music, nature, and/or architecture so his pastimes made him seem so normal as if he could not have been a perpetrator of the atrocities during the Holocaust.


Additionally, The New Yorker article said that Hitler stopped reading at the age of 20 and that his mind was set on his anti-Semitic and Pan-Germanist views. Instead of reading, he put his energy toward oration to a point of damaging his vocal cords. These points are worth highlighting because his ability to fully stand by his beliefs and to speak in a way that compelled others to think the same way allowed him to carry out his dehumanizing and heinous crimes. His strong personality pushed him to attain positions, where he could implement his beliefs. Then, his talent for speech allowed him to spread his beliefs and sway others to follow him.


After looking at the articles and sites, I definitely have a better understanding of Hitler. However, I still wonder if there was anything in particular that motivated him to take power and put his ideas into motion because I am sure that there were many people like him who had a strong sense of nationalism and an unbending hate for Jewish people and other non-Aryan populations but they did not go to such extremes as he did. Regardless, trying to understand Hitler is a valuable pursuit because it allows us to understand the importance of teaching our children at a young age to respect others and recognize discrimination and injustices so that they can intervene. It is also beneficial to digest the events of Hitler’s life, including his upbringing, the events leading up to his dictatorship, and his actions as a dictator. By doing this, we can better recognize patterns of dictatorship and individuals in our society who wish to undermine our democracy and cause harm and suffering toward certain populations.


yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

Viewing Bigotry Inside and Outside of Adolf Hitler

I think that, as a child — at least, one in the United States — the general consensus is that the worst, most despicable person to have ever lived is Adolf Hitler. I suppose then, I would agree this might’ve made him the “bogeyman” in our minds, an idea of “pure evil” we’ve always known.


Really, though, I think that the reason we are so intrigued by Hitler is because we believe him to be so different from us. Perhaps it is a bit like the incessant questions we had about Donald Trump when he first ran for President in 2016 — why would a filthy rich television star run for President? did he really think he would win? why did he win? how cunning is he really? and how bad could it possibly be?


Maybe, in a similar way, Hitler’s thoughts, his motivations, seem untouchable to us. We wonder what caused him to be so evil, how human was he really, or if, even, we could have the capabilities to commit the crimes he did, had we grown up under different circumstances.


Before these readings, I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Hitler’s life specifically, just the economic and political situations at the time that facilitated the rise of the Third Reich. But I think that these articles and sites have been rather interesting reads, and I have several questions and observations in response to them.


Janet Flanner’s “Profiles: Führer,” was quite detailed and rather analytical. It opens describing his everyday habits and general background, and while I was initially wary that this series would be too empathetic or humanizing (I’ve heard before of some directors who would refuse to make a biographical movie on him for precisely this reason), I think that Flanner writes in a way where she presents his character as it is, keeping away from inserting her opinions in the first person, and not apologizing for him. I think Flanner’s piece was intriguing in several ways, one being her description of his relationship with women. My impression of women in Nazi Germany was that they were mostly meant to act as passive wives for men in the Party. Reading Flanner’s article was surprising as I learned that “upperclass women were among his first sympathizers” (I, p 21), and that several of his female friends like Frau Victoria von Dirksen and Frau Wagner raised funds for him (I, p 22). I wonder how or why Hitler was able to establish such friendships with these women, or with anyone in general, as Flanner repeatedly described Hitler as unsociable, also writing that, “being a man with no talent for friendship, Hitler’s gift for disloyalty has been developed by the dramas of his career” (I, p 24). I also wonder if these depictions of his relationships, or of aspects of his character in general, would have been any different if it had not been a woman writing these.


Besides his socializing habits, another part of Flanner’s writings which I found interesting was his almost immediate fanaticism for his country. Him becoming a “Pan-Germanist” at the mere age of twelve, as well as his subscription to a nationalist party which was, frankly, quite pitiful at the time by Flanner’s description (“composed of six poor members”), compounded how set he was on this idea of Germany’s glory, how it seemed to override all other essential aspects of life (II, p 28). I wonder if he weren’t so isolated or unsuccessful in other professional pursuits during “post-bellum German demoralization,” as Flanner described it, whether he would’ve fixated so hard on Germany’s “honor.” Though, maybe he would’ve been just as zealous and dangerous, considering he was followed by 60 million Germans, each and every one of them living and thinking individuals. That idea of glorifying a race as a method of “purifying” a nation, though it seemed so incomprehensible to me at first, now makes me realize how often we see bigotry now, especially in our own country, where the cry to “Make America Great Again” was really meant as an assertion of white supremacy. What is interesting about Hitler, is how could he have been a young reader and aspiring artist (II, p 27), yet, remain so personally uninfluenced by the perspectives of those different from him? I suppose it could’ve been the fact that he believed that there “‘is no such thing as Chinese or Egyptian art… that there exists no art except Nordic-Grecian’” (III, p 22), or that he fitted Nietzsche’s powerful words to his cause (II, p 27), which might have prevented him from becoming more well-rounded and open-minded, as art and literature sometimes can help with in a person. I truly wonder what Hitler meant by his words that only Nordic-Grecian art exists — if he believed only individuals from Nordic-Grecian cultures were capable of producing art, or if art produced by people from Asia or Africa was just intrinsically unappealing for him. It has been said, too, how Nietzsche has been misappropriated by the alt-right, and that he was much against antisemitism, so I wonder how Hitler could have drawn such inspiration from him, according to Flanner’s words. I would hesitate to say that anyone could pursue art and literature and do it “wrong,” but if it is possible, then I believe it’d apply here, in Hitler’s case.


I suppose the last part I will bring up about Flanner’s writing is that, since reading this, I have wondered how Hitler views himself. Today, it is widely accepted that Hitler was a narcissist, something I think, too, can be gathered from Flanner’s article when she writes in detail how much he enjoyed making speeches to people, as he said: “‘What I do and say are matters of history’” (III, p 26). Though, I suppose that part turned out true. However, I am a bit confused about Hitler’s way of thinking as, if he sees himself so important, why is it that Flanner has reported he “swallows gruel for breakfast,” “chooses a second-rate tailor,” and “still stops at the second-rate Deutscher Hof” (I, p 20-21). Yet, Ignatius Phayre’s 1938 article, “Hitler’s Mountain Home,” seems to suggest some kind of lavish lifestyle or standards, with “elaborate dishes like Caneton à la presse and truite saumoné à la Monseigneur” and “fine wines and liqueurs of von Ribbentrop’s expert choosing” served, and his “pedigree pets” of “magnificent Alsatians” he bred. I wonder what distinctions this narcissist made in his standards, how those compared or related to the standards he had for Germany.


I think that, all in all, I’ve learned quite a bit about Hitler’s background. I think I’ve been able to see how his narcissism, rejection for socializing, excessive nationalism, and stubborn close-mindedness have maybe been fundamental parts of his character and shaped his later actions. If the question of understanding him means that I empathize or would excuse him and his actions in any way, however, I would firmly say that I don’t, and these readings haven’t changed that. I think that if trying to understand him meant finding ways to claim that Hitler’s behaviors were normal or excusable under his circumstances, that he bears less responsibility, then no, it is not a worthwhile pursuit. I would agree with Ian Kershaw, in his interview by Gene Santoro, that there should be no reason to make apologies for him, or for the Nazis committing these atrocious crimes too. I do think that these writings and studies on Hitler, by Janet Flanner and many other historians I’m sure, are productive though in that they are informative works detailing significant events and figures in history. I think it helps answer questions about how Hitler and the Nazi Party rose, without sympathizing with their abhorrent crimes against humanity. However, I do acknowledge that while an article like Flanner’s doesn’t make him more excusable or relatable for me personally, that it might be different for another reader, and it is understandable if they find this type of writing disturbing and uncomfortable.


The final point I will touch upon is this issue of liability, which I have somewhat mentioned already. I think Hitler’s relationship with his followers is interesting, especially with Kershaw’s words: “‘... the Nazi system could function without Hitler having to shout out streams of diktats. People second-guessed or anticipated what he wanted.’” Kershaw also seems to say that Hitler adopted more of a hands off approach, as he would be the person to stand for an objective, while others organized ways to implement it. They all seemed to want to please him, in a weird way where he is like a celebrity, as Flanner even wrote how he couldn’t “go into a shop without its being mobbed by his Nazi admirers” (I, p 20). It is clear that he was idolized, but perhaps through the emotional appeal he made to the Germans, rather than a structure or plan he had. He validated their beliefs that they deserved a better life and country, then resolutely claimed it was their Jewish population who was robbing them of that. In that way, as Kershaw described, the Nazis pushed along radicalisation by committing everyday exploitations, taking advantage of the excuses made to marginalize many different population groups. This also reminds me of a point brought up in our virtual field trip, that Nazis were given just parts of the work which would all add up towards the extermination of the Jews, allowing them to feel that their role was so small, they weren’t actually liable for the genocide. I think this all relates to a “takeaway” I had from these readings, that both Hitler and the Nazis were very much responsible for the Holocaust. I don’t think there is any excuse to be made that the Nazis were just following the people around them and brainwashed by Hitler, because it is clear that they understood the Jews were suffering and that they continued their actions because they profited from it, actively bringing about this genocide. Likewise, I don't think that there is an excuse to be made that Hitler was being normal, or in any way not responsible for the genocide, because he had dehumanized everyone around him who was different from him, favoring his own pride and bigotry which actively brought incomprehensible suffering to so many people, and he left them with no dignity or sympathy in his preachings (just because Trump didn't storm the U.S. Capitol, does not mean he was not responsible for its invasion, would be my analogy here).


It is important, while reading all this about Hitler, to realize what has not changed. Hitler is not a past phenomenon — reading Flanner’s article and other texts, we can see how the bigotry, human rights violations, excessive nationalism, eugenics, and other forms of hatred which existed in Nazi Germany, fit into our society today. We need to understand, as Rena Finder emphasized, how to reject “othering,” to show kindness and be open minded. Reading these texts, it becomes clear to me how dangerous it is to isolate yourself from different viewpoints, how that leads to the dehumanization of others. We need to be able to see these structures of bigotry in our society, especially ones we don’t think affect us, and to care to stop them instead of falling into the pattern of bystanderism.

cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by Cookie Monster on April 11, 2021 15:58

For Hitler, everything was about power and grandiosity. In order for him to feed into his narcissistic tendencies, he used his own person charisma to rally the German public around a message of hate to deploy as blame for the desperate state during the Wiemar Republic. In order to avoid being in the spotlight on issues that were contentious, Hitler would stay aloof and then side with the clear winner to be seen as a successful leader. Even though the administration and government of the German state was relatively unorganized or 'quasi-chaotic', state-sanctioned propaganda depicted a people acting in unison to create an image of universality and immense government control. Descriptions of Hitler's estate in the Bavarian Estate also show a tendency of grandiose imagery and romanticizing the actions of his own regime. The 18th century German pieces that Hitler loved to furnish and decorate his home with indicates a need to set himself a part from the rest of society as having a strong connection to tradition to justify his regime on a national level. All the refined international dishes that his personal chef would cook for him as described by the author of "Homes and Gardens" hint at a need to assert his place on a global scale and glorify his rule over an oppressive state to foreigners. His tendency to give tours of his home points at his extreme hubris and his ability to push his dominance onto the people who surround him.

The most important thing to understand about Hitler is that he wasn't crazy or insane in any way. Labeling him as such could be deployed as an excuse for his brutal actions that should be seen as reprehensible. It also gives a pass to all the people who followed along with him and condoned his actions; it leaves room for them to pity him and use that as a shield when people confront them on their past or confront others on one's past. Instead we need to evaluate the all the terrible decisions made during the Holocaust through the lens of normal people acting on their own hatred towards ethnic and religious minorities. If we evaluate the psychology of historical events in this way, it will help us learn more about the present and address our own issues in accordance with our conclusions. History has repeated itself so many times since the Germans lost the war because we as a global community haven't done the work to evaluate our mistakes and wrongdoings. We have allowed authoritarian figures such as Trump come to power in even western, developed nations like the US that deploy some of the same tactics that Hitler did to assemble mass popularity. The former president is still relying on propaganda and imagery to advocate for an America that would further persecute the coming majority of people in this country who would identify as racial minorities. In order to change the course of this, we must evaluate the psychology of authoritarian figures like Hitler so that we can combat similar situations in the present or in the future more effectively.

Like @Cookie Monster, I also believe that Hitler used opportunities of instability to gain power and that he asserted his dominance over others on a large scale. This desire to hold power over others was fueled by the books that he studied in Vienna. These materials planted ideas of Aryan superiority and “the strong over the weak.” In addition, I think his self-consciousness about issues with his lungs in his youth and other deficiencies made him feel that he needed to be seen as a winner and powerful leader.

ernest.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Flanner Profile's Ethical Dilemma

I think it makes total sense that people are intrigued by Hitler. In pop culture he is generally used as a reference point for the ultimate evil (e.g. expressions like “worse than Hitler”); plus, the atrocities he is responsible for, on top of his ruthless but highly successful leadership are certainly enough to make people wonder about what made him tick and what he was truly like. Janet Flanner’s comprehensive profile of him only increased the intrigue for me, because it shows that he was highly unusual personality-wise: “emotionally, Hitler belongs to the dangerous, small class of sublimates from which fanatics are frequently drawn”; he is also celibate, vegetarian, friendless, an obsessive reader, and abstinent from smoke and drink—essentially an ascetic. Not to mention, “he becomes sick if he sees blood”…. oh the irony…. Altogether, his disciplined and restrained lifestyle, yet simultaneous talent for passionate rhetoric and propaganda, seem contradictory. Hitler wasn’t just evil, he was, well, bizarre.

So that’s one reason people are intrigued by him. People who deviate a lot from the norm often pique others’ interest, and once you add lots of power + most evil man alive + great skill at wielding influence and gaining the support of the masses, you get one of the most inexplicable and awful men in history who a lot of people are eager to learn about. As the prompt mentions in reference to the Kardashians and Trump, people are generally interested in figures who a) wield a lot of power and b) do sensational things, so this isn’t exactly a surprise.

I think Flanner’s profile definitely helped me understand Hitler better, but not necessarily in the way most might want—specifically, why he was so bent on doing violence, how he justified his crimes, and what his mental state was like as he carried out the largest genocide in history. Her profile as a whole was very well done, but also very provocative. Was it right in the first place to profile such a man? The Holocaust wasn’t underway at the time of its writing, but Hitler still had an extensive record of autocracy, political repression, great violence, censorship, and hateful propaganda—going into that reading, I felt there was no justification for profiling such a man as if he were some quirky celebrity or rising sports star. Yet, going into her piece complicated things: the tone is very objective, and Flanner does a decent job revealing him as a human being, and not backing away from the evil he has done, or just downright stating the literal ugly about him: she calls his eyes “his only good feature,” refers to “his receding hairline” and the fifteen pounds he gained in one year (“less visible in the waist than in the face, where weight shows in ounces of pouches beneath eyes and mouth”), while stating bluntly that “Adolf Hitler’s inbreeding is as specific as an Austrian Hapsburg.” So coming out of that reading, I’m struggling a bit. Her profile seemed accurate and not to glorify or romanticize Hitler, but perhaps the best way to go about the profile in a justifiable way would have been spending a bit more time on his atrocities. She doesn’t shy away from stating them, but she also doesn’t really go beyond stating them. For example, she says “there seems no reason to believe that Herr Hitler is homosexual, outside of the fact that, until he finally had most of them shot, there were pederasts among his Party friends and file.” She kind of drops that in there without any further explanation-he had them shot? How many? When? More importantly, she could have spent a lot more time acknowledging the terrible damage his rule had already done to German society-the anti-semitism, the censorship, the political executions and imprisonment. It’s true profiles try to focus on more on who the person is than their legacy or an in-depth look at their work,but if she could waste a page discussing the irrelevant social backgrounds of Hitler’s female friends, Flanner probably could have spared a paragraph or two to recognizing the evil of her subject. So ultimately, Flanner’s profile poses a lot of ethical questions. I’m interested to know: what are other people’s takes? What was the right approach- she should just not have done it at all? Even if she was impartial, her profile was always going to increase the fascination, and for some, the romanticization, of the Fuehrer.

Zooming out for a moment, I admit I think all this stuff about Hitler isn’t important to know. You’d be forgiven for wanting to know some of it, as I described above, but diving deep into his psyche is doomed to be a fruitless venture for the average Joe. Individuals are always going to promote and attempt wicked deeds, in my mind, so there unless you are an academic comparing his own drive to those of other historical and present monsters in a study, it’s much more productive to focus on other aspects of the Holocaust, like the bystanders, the victims, and the perpetrators collectively. If people are to know anything about Hitler (which they should), they should learn about what he did and how he did it—i.e., the Holocaust, his political rise, and how he gained the support of the people. Whether or not he ate meat is just a factoid, as is most everything else in the profile about him.

Finally, I want to address @CookieMonster’s point: “The most important thing to understand about Hitler is that he wasn't crazy or insane in any way.” This is probably the only personal aspect of HItler people should know—as one article stated, it’s easy for us to separate ourselves and the public from Hitler by dismissing him as one insane guy who was just off his rocker. But the truth is plenty of people have no problem inciting and engaging in extreme political violence, as recent events at the Capitol have shown us. We can’t dismiss the Holocaust as an anomaly—history shows it’s not, anyway.

thesnackthatsmilesback
brighton, ma, US
Posts: 21

Hitler's charm, charisma and childhood

I think we are interested in Hitler merely by the question, how can one man be able to be such a force? It is evident that the ideas he had were not special to him as he was able to create his own forces either through peruations or other matter, however to be able to start this movement and to have such a great impact on a variety of people is something that is terribly astonishing. I think that a part of being persuaded is that a person must already half believe in the topic or the person in order to trust their word, therefore I think it is impossible that his ideas were only his own. There is no objection in saying that Adolf HItler is an interesting character. He strays away from what is considered normal in many ways including vegetarianism, his teetotaler and celibacy nature. I think that beginning the process of understanding his upbringing and habit may give insight on the person he becomes. As a child we have seen him to be an incredibly independent narcissistic character which very well may lead to his ideas around his own supremacy and confidence in speech. I am in no way trying to suggest that Hitler was crazy or insane but instead to preface that the way his mind worked was different than many people and therefore is interesting to interpret.

I personally was intrigued by his love of the arts. I believe that many artists live in their heads and critically think, many of the best artists also suffer from types of mental discrepancies that hone into their skills. Skilled as he was in drawing, it allowed me to understand the critical nature of his campaigns. As mentioned in “Profiles: Führer,” Hitler relied heavily on the arts to “calm his nerves’ and it seems to be a great weakness of his as he was able to give up his walks around town, yet could not stay away from the theater and even disregarded his own judgement of leaving early because he was so captivated by the play. The music that he was interested in was mostly geared to manly marches and traditional classical music which was a clear indication of his stern character. I think it is important to note the significance of the arts to Hitler’s character as artists have very individualistic mindsets which allow them to create new ideas. Also his remarks on arts as a whole are strictly geared towards what he himself has experienced, therefore is another example of his close mindedness.

Also known for his charisma and charm, it made it easy to share his ideas and motives to the public. I think the biggest takeaway is that he was never a “normal person,” having these themes of being different yet skilled since childhood is a crucial part of understanding his self determination and drove his motives to be one of the most famous historical figures. However charisma and charm can merely be taught so it does raise the question, how? I do agree with @cherryblossom that a part of the reason Hilter was able to convincingly sway his audience was due to the fact that he stopped reading at the age of 20, embedding these anti-Semitic and Pan-Germanistic views which leads his limited knowledge to fuel his thinking throughout his life. The more confident a person feels about their topic, the more eloquently and passionately they are able to convey their message which is evident in Hitler’s oral presentations. With the foundation that he chose to limit his knowledge seen in his early depiction of art and his abrupt stop to reading, oral speeches became the main source for him. I think that these two reasons may have had a great impact on his charisma and charm leading him to become a face of this movement.

I also found it extremely interesting to hear about his routines in “Hitler’s Mountain Home,” Homes and Gardens. It reminded me of Steve Job’s reason to always wear a black turtleneck, the strain of making these miniscule choices daily have an effect on how we make more vital decisions. In no way am I comparing Steve Job’s success to Hitler’s, however I find it crucial to understand that many successful people use a routine throughout their careers in order to deplete unnecessary actions. @cookiemonster Also brings a fascinating point of view as the descriptions of Hitler’s estate, although following this strictly timed routine is romanticized. Going back to the Steve Job metaphor, Job’s used the black turtle-neck as a sign of simplicity in order to carry out more crucial decisions, however Hitler created this lavish over-the-top lifestyle with embedded routines in order to keep his focus while still holding himself on this pedestal that fueled his work.

After reading through the text and learning more about his life, I think it is important to understand that his past as well as his lifestyle are all signs that indicate his character. He was a catalyst for people who had notions of nationalism and hate for specific groups. I think it is impossible to fully understand his character and how it leads to fuel his actions, however after reading through different responses on this topic, it brings up so many valuable ideas.


Noodles
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 21

not pure evil, just an evil man

The readings from Janet Flanner and Ignatius Phayre are some of the oddest articles I have read, because it portrays Hitler as a man with a personality, interests, and, moreso in the second article, conveys him as a good person. @Cookie Monster analyzed the Homes Garden article as Hitler being hubristic or overly grandiose in order to feel superior over others, but I viewed it as him sharing his interests with others. Giving tours of his house because he felt proud of all the work he put into it and for his possible hobby in collecting furniture. The article even described Hitler as friendly, as it states that his workers, “like the chauffeur and air-pilot, are not so much servants as loyal friends.” I was also surprised and shocked when I saw the photograph of him sitting in his chair accompanied by his German shepherd, because in that picture it shows him as just a normal person, and yet he committed so many atrocities. In no means was my takeaway from this article that Hitler was a good person, or even a mediocre person as there is no question that he is evil, but it just shows that people aren’t only one thing. It’s so much easier to visualize him as this evil villain, like Voldemort, whom you can only view as pure evil and who corrupts those around him into doing evil for him, but in reality he was just a man and that means that all of those around him were people who decided on their own to believe in his ideology.


I feel that a big reason behind the interest in Hitler is to understand how he could have risen to power and committed so many atrocities without someone stopping him or realizing what he was planning. Articles like the Homes and Gardens article may have influenced some into believing that he was not such an evil person because they fail to look at the whole picture, painting him as this modest man while blatantly ignoring his book “Mein Kampf,” which is only briefly referenced to at the beginning of the article, before delving into the aspects of his house and how ‘friendly’ and ‘kind’ he was. The hate and ideologies that that book preaches is utterly opposite to how the article portrays Hitler, especially when it says he held fun fairs for the local children. Even though this article was not a political piece, no article should portray a criminal as an ordinary man.


The interview with Ian Kershaw states that in a chaotic time and situation, many looked towards Hitler because of his charismatic authority, something which comes across in the first two articles as it portrays him as someone well put together and who is not afraid of hard work, especially in the Homes and Gardens article when it says “time was when a hungry Hitler was glad to raise a few marks by selling these little works.” This hubristic attitude of Hitler and his tendency not to weigh in until there is a clear winner in an argument is what led to his rise in power. People saw that image and believed in it, hoping he would better the economy and quell the chaos and disorder of post WWI Germany (using fear to gain power). But this does not alleviate any blame or responsibility from those within the Nazi party, as there is no excuse for why they did not view their own actions as morally outrageous and refuse to be a participant or even a bystander in committing genocide. At the same time, the full blame and responsibility of the genocide must also be placed upon Hitler as leaders are responsibility for the actions of those they command.

cherryblossom
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by ernest. on April 11, 2021 17:23

I think it makes total sense that people are intrigued by Hitler. In pop culture he is generally used as a reference point for the ultimate evil (e.g. expressions like “worse than Hitler”); plus, the atrocities he is responsible for, on top of his ruthless but highly successful leadership are certainly enough to make people wonder about what made him tick and what he was truly like. Janet Flanner’s comprehensive profile of him only increased the intrigue for me, because it shows that he was highly unusual personality-wise: “emotionally, Hitler belongs to the dangerous, small class of sublimates from which fanatics are frequently drawn”; he is also celibate, vegetarian, friendless, an obsessive reader, and abstinent from smoke and drink—essentially an ascetic. Not to mention, “he becomes sick if he sees blood”…. oh the irony…. Altogether, his disciplined and restrained lifestyle, yet simultaneous talent for passionate rhetoric and propaganda, seem contradictory. Hitler wasn’t just evil, he was, well, bizarre.

So that’s one reason people are intrigued by him. People who deviate a lot from the norm often pique others’ interest, and once you add lots of power + most evil man alive + great skill at wielding influence and gaining the support of the masses, you get one of the most inexplicable and awful men in history who a lot of people are eager to learn about. As the prompt mentions in reference to the Kardashians and Trump, people are generally interested in figures who a) wield a lot of power and b) do sensational things, so this isn’t exactly a surprise.

I think Flanner’s profile definitely helped me understand Hitler better, but not necessarily in the way most might want—specifically, why he was so bent on doing violence, how he justified his crimes, and what his mental state was like as he carried out the largest genocide in history. Her profile as a whole was very well done, but also very provocative. Was it right in the first place to profile such a man? The Holocaust wasn’t underway at the time of its writing, but Hitler still had an extensive record of autocracy, political repression, great violence, censorship, and hateful propaganda—going into that reading, I felt there was no justification for profiling such a man as if he were some quirky celebrity or rising sports star. Yet, going into her piece complicated things: the tone is very objective, and Flanner does a decent job revealing him as a human being, and not backing away from the evil he has done, or just downright stating the literal ugly about him: she calls his eyes “his only good feature,” refers to “his receding hairline” and the fifteen pounds he gained in one year (“less visible in the waist than in the face, where weight shows in ounces of pouches beneath eyes and mouth”), while stating bluntly that “Adolf Hitler’s inbreeding is as specific as an Austrian Hapsburg.” So coming out of that reading, I’m struggling a bit. Her profile seemed accurate and not to glorify or romanticize Hitler, but perhaps the best way to go about the profile in a justifiable way would have been spending a bit more time on his atrocities. She doesn’t shy away from stating them, but she also doesn’t really go beyond stating them. For example, she says “there seems no reason to believe that Herr Hitler is homosexual, outside of the fact that, until he finally had most of them shot, there were pederasts among his Party friends and file.” She kind of drops that in there without any further explanation-he had them shot? How many? When? More importantly, she could have spent a lot more time acknowledging the terrible damage his rule had already done to German society-the anti-semitism, the censorship, the political executions and imprisonment. It’s true profiles try to focus on more on who the person is than their legacy or an in-depth look at their work,but if she could waste a page discussing the irrelevant social backgrounds of Hitler’s female friends, Flanner probably could have spared a paragraph or two to recognizing the evil of her subject. So ultimately, Flanner’s profile poses a lot of ethical questions. I’m interested to know: what are other people’s takes? What was the right approach- she should just not have done it at all? Even if she was impartial, her profile was always going to increase the fascination, and for some, the romanticization, of the Fuehrer.

Zooming out for a moment, I admit I think all this stuff about Hitler isn’t important to know. You’d be forgiven for wanting to know some of it, as I described above, but diving deep into his psyche is doomed to be a fruitless venture for the average Joe. Individuals are always going to promote and attempt wicked deeds, in my mind, so there unless you are an academic comparing his own drive to those of other historical and present monsters in a study, it’s much more productive to focus on other aspects of the Holocaust, like the bystanders, the victims, and the perpetrators collectively. If people are to know anything about Hitler (which they should), they should learn about what he did and how he did it—i.e., the Holocaust, his political rise, and how he gained the support of the people. Whether or not he ate meat is just a factoid, as is most everything else in the profile about him.

Finally, I want to address @CookieMonster’s point: “The most important thing to understand about Hitler is that he wasn't crazy or insane in any way.” This is probably the only personal aspect of HItler people should know—as one article stated, it’s easy for us to separate ourselves and the public from Hitler by dismissing him as one insane guy who was just off his rocker. But the truth is plenty of people have no problem inciting and engaging in extreme political violence, as recent events at the Capitol have shown us. We can’t dismiss the Holocaust as an anomaly—history shows it’s not, anyway.

I think @ernest makes a good point about how Flanner’s profile of Hitler only shows him as a human rather than highlighting the violent and terrible crimes that he afflicted upon Jews and other targeted populations during the Holocaust. After reading The New Yorker article, I was definitely more intrigued by Hitler but I wanted to know more specifically why he decided to orchestrate genocide, how was his hate for Jews different from other anti-Semitic individuals, and how did he rationalize the atrocities that he committed. It would be helpful to see other individuals’ perspectives about Hitler that focus on his evil and dehumanizing actions rather than romanticizing other aspects about him and his life.

babypluto9
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Intrigued by Hitler

My biggest takeaway is that Hitler was person driven by power and superiority. The readings do help you understand the type of person Hitler was. We can place him into certain personality types based off his likes and actions. Of course for a person who lead the deaths of millions of people, their phycology and reasoning would have to be complex. Lines such as "He is constantly enlarging the place, building on new guest annexes, and arranging in these his favorite antiques- chiefly German furniture of the eighteenth century, for which agents in Munich are on the lookout." show that there is an air of superiority, especially when it comes to nationality and what he has. Trying to understand Hitler is something worth pursuing. Many have done it in the past, but knowing the basics of what made him work would help an everyday person with characterization of people in their own lives. Knowing the inner workings of what many consider the most evil person to ever live is an important part of recognizing certain signs in people today and political leaders. It also respects the people that Hitler killed as we know how he thinks and we don't just believe that he orchestrated the death of millions because "he hated jews" or "he hated people who weren't aryan".

The most important thing to learn about Hitler is the Holocaust. Regardless of how he thought or why he did things, we should learn about the victims and how the Holocaust effected the people. Although it's good for people to know why Hitler did what he did, I believe that knowing how the Holocaust effected each population is more important.

BLStudent
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

It should comes as no surprise that Hitler is a subject of fascination on top of being seen as a sort of figure head or face of evil, the atrocities he is responsible for make him one of the most notable people in modern human history, on top of that he has an interesting and bizarre psychology and backstory.

I think a-lot of times we dismiss him as evil or insane and this is dangerous because it dismisses the fact that someone else could come along and be just as bad if not worse and calling them evil does nothing to address the symptoms which allowed them to become the way they are. We need to understand the psychology of people we consider evil in order to see warning signs in others and prevent further atrocities from occurring. Also hes often called insane or a madman and while there certainly may be some truth to this especially considering his abuse of various drugs but these labels also ignore how he had certain objectives and for a time he was very effective in achieving them through meticulous strategising, his own charisma and using fear as a weapon.

From the Janet Flanner article I learned a variety of interesting facts about Hitler that honestly give me more questions than answers. For instance its astonishing that someone who is an avid vegetarian and hates animal cruelty and got sick at the sight of blood went on to lead and organize one of the largest scale acts of mass-violence in history. This is a man who nearly went blind fighting in WWI returned home, was jailed by his own country for his radical views then took control of Germany through force along with other tactics and became one of the most powerful leaders of his time and one of the most notorious ever. The article has several other interesting facts that help us understand him like how he had only one friend and came from a several generations of inbreeding which might in part explain the variety of health ailments he was stricken with.

One thing I think is important to remember is how powerful he was and how he was able to get that power and especially how he was able to get and maintain that power through widespread support of the people. Yes he was a horrible person but he was not a singularity he would not have been able to complete as much as he did without the help of the german people some likely out of fear and some because they shared his beliefs but all of whom were complicit in the violence he caused.

I think the articles are able to humanize him as more than just a bogeyman like some people say and i think this is an important thing to do. I think thats the most important thing to know about him is that he was human just like the rest of us and as much as we dont like to admit humans seem to have a limitless potential for evil. As a society we need to keep our eyes open for people with bad intentions while at the same time trying to cure alot of the negative aspects of life that make this type of radicalization possible.

user1234
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Originally posted by BLStudent on April 11, 2021 18:32

It should comes as no surprise that Hitler is a subject of fascination on top of being seen as a sort of figure head or face of evil, the atrocities he is responsible for make him one of the most notable people in modern human history, on top of that he has an interesting and bizarre psychology and backstory.

I think a-lot of times we dismiss him as evil or insane and this is dangerous because it dismisses the fact that someone else could come along and be just as bad if not worse and calling them evil does nothing to address the symptoms which allowed them to become the way they are. We need to understand the psychology of people we consider evil in order to see warning signs in others and prevent further atrocities from occurring. Also hes often called insane or a madman and while there certainly may be some truth to this especially considering his abuse of various drugs but these labels also ignore how he had certain objectives and for a time he was very effective in achieving them through meticulous strategising, his own charisma and using fear as a weapon.

From the Janet Flanner article I learned a variety of interesting facts about Hitler that honestly give me more questions than answers. For instance its astonishing that someone who is an avid vegetarian and hates animal cruelty and got sick at the sight of blood went on to lead and organize one of the largest scale acts of mass-violence in history. This is a man who nearly went blind fighting in WWI returned home, was jailed by his own country for his radical views then took control of Germany through force along with other tactics and became one of the most powerful leaders of his time and one of the most notorious ever. The article has several other interesting facts that help us understand him like how he had only one friend and came from a several generations of inbreeding which might in part explain the variety of health ailments he was stricken with.

One thing I think is important to remember is how powerful he was and how he was able to get that power and especially how he was able to get and maintain that power through widespread support of the people. Yes he was a horrible person but he was not a singularity he would not have been able to complete as much as he did without the help of the german people some likely out of fear and some because they shared his beliefs but all of whom were complicit in the violence he caused.

I think the articles are able to humanize him as more than just a bogeyman like some people say and i think this is an important thing to do. I think thats the most important thing to know about him is that he was human just like the rest of us and as much as we dont like to admit humans seem to have a limitless potential for evil. As a society we need to keep our eyes open for people with bad intentions while at the same time trying to cure alot of the negative aspects of life that make this type of radicalization possible.

I really liked @BLStudent's about not just dismissing Hitler as this evil guy that did terrible things. Giving him that title puts him on a sort of pedestal and gives him a sort of infamous glory that he doesn't deserve. It is important to study the things that made him so horrible, instead of just saying that he was really crazy.

user1234
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

I agree with @cherryblossom because for me the big take away was that the environment you're in molds you into the person you’ll become. In the New Yorker article it talks about Hitlers early years, and all the pieces of literature that he read in his formative years. He read a lot of books with racist ideologies which he got a lot of inspiration from. Also after the war he lived in a very chaotic Weimar Republic in which he saw a lot of uncertainty and turmoil, and he thought he needed to fix it with all the things he had learned. It’s important to know that he was a narcissist that wanted power, and people were manipulated by him. Ian Kershaw mentioned how Hitler didn’t actually have to do much because people blindly followed him, and made everything he wanted possible. He barely had to lift a finger. Seeing a situation like that, and being able to see what’s really happening is a huge thing that we have to take away from Hitler’s actions. Being able to identify those who have so much power, yet barely have to use it are the people who we should be most weary of because they can get a very strong hold over people. If there were more people observing this during Hitler’s time, I think a lot of what happened could’ve been avoided.



Learning about the things that made him the person that he became is the most important information that we need to learn about him. Honestly I don’t think it’s important to know that he was a vegetarian, the clothes he wore, or what his house looked like. Those are trivial things that don’t really explain why he wanted millions of people dead. It’s worth understanding him because we don’t want to let a leader like that come into power ever again, but also aren’t we giving him all the “glory” he wanted by talking and learning so much about him. It’s an interesting dichotomy because why would we want to remember someone who was a monster? On the other hand are we ignorant not to study who he was and what drove him, so we can prevent it from happening again. Especially now with the rise of the antisemitic movement. Are we fueling all those people by continuing to talk about him? I think it’s important to learn about him, but not make him this “fascinating” figure that we need to understand because it puts him on a pedestal that he doesn’t deserve. It’s important that we don’t become obsessed with someone who harmed so many others.

iluvcows
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

Understanding Hitler

I think that we as a society are so immensely intrigued by Hitler because he is the epitome of evil. His actions and the atrocities he has inflicted upon individuals are cause to wonder what inspired him to commit such horrid acts. As @BLSstudent mentioned in their post, simply branding Hitler as insane is disregarding the fact that he consciously and strategically carried out these horrendous acts by blaming it on a mental issue. He exploited the weakness of followers to gain power as well as used scare tactics in order to manipulate individuals to do his bidding.


It was genuinely shocking to hear these authors casually discussing Hitler’s daily routines and passions. As I read Ignatius Phayre’s article, visualizing his light jade green themed house with chairs and tables of white, plaited cane seems almost laughable. A vegetarian, dislikes blood, and tries to eat healthy, as he strays away from drugs and alcohol did this? Someone who loved inviting friends and associates over to socialize in their presence and disliked having servants work for him caused the killing of so many people? As I read these texts I questioned how someone who committed such awful things appear to be just another normal individual in society. Both Flanner and Phayre’s writings were published in an attempt to humanize Adolf Hitler by diving deep into his favorite restaurants, pastimes, and hobbies. Although they did educate me on more of his background and experiences at a younger age, it does nothing to excuse or dismiss his role in the Holocaust as well as the killing of so many Jewish people.


These articles provide proof that this man partook in many of the basic activities that the average person in society may do. Yet it does not even begin to overshadow or outweigh what he did during this period in his life. Hitler's horribly anti-semetic actions during his dictatorship are inexcusable and can not be played down simply because he makes watercolour sketches or enjoys music and cut flowers.


Within Gene Santoro’s Interview with Ian Kershaw, there was more insight into Hitler’s strategic choices during his reign of power. His public speaking was prompted by him healing from his injury during the war and being sent to speak to demobilized soldiers. This inspired him to voice his opinions in order to gain supporters and protection. The article demonstrated that he remained absent from infighting until a winner was declared and he chose a side, as well as neglected to set policies in order to remove Jews but instead stood for it and found others to implement it. Through his manipulation as well as his instillment of fear in those around him, Hitler rapidly grew in power, leading to the evil atrocities he executed.


I think that the most important thing to know about Adolf Hitler are the heinous crimes he commited and the immense harm and damage he inflicted. It is so important to be educated on the suffering he caused and the lack of remorse he felt while witnessing the pain he promoted. It is also very crucial that we study what made him act this way and the causes of his behavior as well as how he managed to gain so much power. This will be much more educational than learning about his diet and what he enjoys to do in his free time.




boricua1234
Roslindale, MA, US
Posts: 16

Understanding Hitler

I think that a lot of the time people, me included, want to write Hitler off as this supreme evil because of the terrible and disgsuting things that happened during the Holocaust. But as BLS student others have brought up in this post, that is way to easy and almost not fair, especially when people try to deem him as insane. Reading through the posts I noticed that I felt similarly to many other people, that yes he was disgusting but that we cannot fully put the blame upon him. For me the big takeaway about Hitler was that he was a very narcissistic man, who was heavily influenced by the world around him. At a young age he identified himself as a pan germanist and I feel like that is where a lot of his story starts. Clearly this had a big impact on his ideals and without that influence I wonder if he would have turned out differently, although he surely would have remained narcissistic.

Honestly, reading through these I feel like I do know him a lot better which sort of freaks me out because I don't necessarily know if I want to know him like this. I understand that he is human and is not this evil supreme being, but it is really hard for me to see him portrayed as this "normal" guy when something like the Holocaust happened basically because of him. While reading it felt ridiculous talking about the architecture of his home, or the books in his library. At times they made him out to seem almost like a nice guy who would put on parties at his house. I think understanding him is very important because he was not this supreme evil guy he was just a narcissistic guy who wanted things to be done how he wanted. I think that is my main takeaway about him because I don't want to let him off easy by saying that he was mentally unstable or insane, he doesn't deserve to be writeen off so easily like that.

When they were writing this interviews and stories I feel like they viewed him similarly to Donald Trump. This super controversial figure that some people love, and others absolutely hate. They remind me a lot of eachother because of their narcissism, and superiority complexes. Both men are not this supreme evil, but they do bring out a lot of ugliness in their countries. For example in the Interview with Ian Kershaw, it talked of how Hitler would not even be the main perpetrator of things but people would think Oh what would Hitler do in this position, and then they would go on to do somethign atrocious to a Jewish person. Similarly with Trump, people actively became more outrightly racist because to them Trump is the embodiement of America and thus so is racism. I wouldn't say that they are they ultimate bogeyman but they definetly do bring out the worst in people. Hitler is not responsible for every evil thing that happened during WW2 but he did seem like a lot of peoples motivation to keep going.

In conclusion it is not fair to label Hitler as this bogeyman because it is letting him off the hook to easily and he doesn't deserve that at all. I think it is necssary to examine him even if you really do not want to because it gives better insight into WW2 and makes you think about how this evil can be inside of us all, its not just the fault of one person. It can definetly be difficult, and instense to investigate him because of all the trauma that he has caused jewish people, and in no way was that trauma ok, and with that being said it is not fair to pin everything on him because that lets everyone else who continued to be racist, or anti-semitic off the hook and that is unacceptable.

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