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Boston, US
Posts: 205


Janet Flanner, “Profiles: Führer,” The New Yorker, 1936

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

A transcript and facsimile of the article is on this site:

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

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!).

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 11

I think that considering things about Hitler like his interior design taste and diet are not worth considering. The description of his home on the border of Austria sounded lovely, and as I was reading it I almost forgot that this was Hitler's house. No matter how many potted flowers and jade accents his home had, he was still the orchestrator of millions of deaths. I do, however, think that it's worth considering his relations to others. They described his relationships with his house servants as less of a boss and more of a friend. It was even weirder for me to read about the "Fun Fairs" he held for local children. He let them into his home, gave them sweets, and let them play with his dogs. That is extremely odd to me. Did the children's parents know that it was Hitler, the dictator of Germany, who was taking their kids for joy rides in his plane? They must have. I think this is so important because it can be hard to remember that even bad people have good moments. I'm sure the children in his town thought of him as their nice older neighbor with the good desserts and nice dogs, not as a brutal dictator who ordered millions of murders. He wasn't one or the other, he was both. I agree with Kershaw in that calling Hitler a madman is a disservice to history. The way Kershaw explained how Hitler caused such havoc not through direct policies but instead through setting a firm example makes things a lot clearer to me. It's weird to see things from history that you can see happening today (anyone remember "build the wall"?). I think the most important thing to know about Hitler is that he was a single person, and he lived an entire life; he was once a child, he had to learn to walk and talk like the rest of us. Overanalyzing his life too much is futile, I think it's most important to understand that he was a person, a single person who cause millions and millions of deaths.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Societies Fascination with Hitler

Something that I think makes Hitler so intriguing to many people is the fact that he is known for all of the horrible things he has done and is responsible for in the Holocaust, and when you see someone so superficially it makes you more fascinated with what their motivations are or what they are like on a more personal level. I think in a way these articles relate to today’s celebrity gossip/lifestyle talks because it shows someone who is distant from you or has a life you could never even imagine, whether that's in a good or bad way, in a more personal and humanizing view. In my opinion it is important to remember that he is a person and to not boil Hitler down to an evil being because then you almost lose the fact that he made conscious decisions to carry out the deaths of millions of innocent people and that it is within human nature to do so. I agree with @purplenailpolish00 when they say that “calling Hitler a madman is a disservice to history. The way Kershaw explained how Hitler caused such havoc not through direct policies but instead through setting a firm example makes things a lot clearer to me.”. Like Ian Kershaw said in the interview, I think that calling Hitler insane or evil doesn’t really accomplish anything, it almost excuses his actions that resulted in an unimaginable number of deaths.

In some ways trying to understand Hitler is worthwhile, like knowing his motivations and beliefs so that you can have a better understanding of the Holocaust in general. But knowing what his home was decorated like doesn’t seem worthwhile in my opinion. I think that humanizing him is, but I feel as though even that can be done in more productive ways. But at the end of the day, in my opinion it is most important to understand that Hitler was indeed a person, a human being, but that didn’t stop him from having horrible views and beliefs that caused so many innocent people to lose their lives.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

The Public's Fascination With the Extremes

We are intrigued by Hitler because we want to know how someone that led a group, which was responsible for genocide and such senseless violence, acted and what may have led him to act in such ways. People, such as Janet Flanner, are interested in his diet, how he chose to furnish his house, what kind of music he liked, his gardening interests, his library, and many of his other personal preferences and things he enjoyed. It is akin to our fascination with celebrities. I agree with @greenflowers58, “in a way these articles relate to today’s celebrity gossip/lifestyle talks because it shows someone who is distant from you or has a life you could never even imagine, whether that's in a good or bad way, in a more personal and humanizing view.” I think that people are intrigued by such extreme differences.

I do think some people might see him as the ultimate “bogeyman” of the twentieth century. Genocide is one of the most horrifc events that can possibly happen. I think that most people think of the Holocaust when they think of Genocide. When they think of the Holocaust, they also probably think of Hitler and blame him for much of what happened.

By reading these articles, I don't understand Hitler any better. I don’t think that learning about his diet, how he chose to decorate his house, or anything of that sort is a worthwhile pursuit. If anything, I think that learning about those things humanizes him. I think it is worthwhile learning about the qualities of bad things when learning about them will help prevent them from happening again, but that doesn’t apply to learning about such qualities of Hitler. On the other hand, qualities that may have been directly connected to his actions should be investigated. I agree with Kershaw, “Hitler’s life teaches powerful lessons: ‘He comes to power in a democracy. He uncovers the thin ice on which modern civilization rests, and shows us what we’re capable of as human beings.”’ Learning about the parts of his life that are related to his rise to power and his thoughts is important. I think it is equally important to learn about the conditions in Germany when Hitler gained power.

Hitler is not responsible for every evil thing that happened in World War II. After World War I, Germany was drained by war debts and reparations. Up to 3 million Germans and 15% of German men were killed. To meet reparations, Weimar Germany printed more money. This caused hyperinflation and the economy collapsed. In late 1929, the Great Depression left 6 million Germans, which was over ⅓ of the working class, unemployed. Germans were desperate for change and Hitler promised revitalization, “Charisma is in the eyes of the beholder. So it’s not saying the individual has fantastic personal qualities, but that in times of comprehensive crisis, people invest feelings of hopes or expectations or salvation in an individual they see as possessing extraordinary qualities. Charismatic authority is an emergency arrangement. Weimar Germany was a comprehensive crisis, and thus a very peculiar, specific time when people were ready to see the qualities of a national savior in Hitler.” If it wasn’t HItler, it could have been someone else with similar qualities. The conditions in Germany allowed someone like him to come to power. In addition, Hitler was surprisingly uninvolved in some things. In the “Interview with Ian Kershaw” by Gene Santoro it says, “I stumbled across this in a Nazi document, which opened my eyes to how the Nazi system could function without Hitler having to shout out streams of diktats. People second-guessed or anticipated what he wanted… He himself said, ‘On the Jewish question, I have been forced to remain inactive.”’ This is hard to believe, but it does show that he did not act alone and he did not force some people in the chain of command to act how they did. It seems like he didn’t openly state his intentions because he did not want to be held responsible.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Humanizing Hitler

Reading these articles was very strange. It felt as though I was reading some random person’s life story, not a murderer of more than 12 million people. I guess I don’t really have some sort of big takeaway about Hitler. Something that came across my mind so many times while reading these were that he was a human. For example, Hitler did not smoke or drink and he was even a vegetarian. This horrible man lived a healthy lifestyle, just like anyone can. He was a man who was responsible for the Holocaust. He was an ordinary guy in most ways, aside from what Kershaw said “[Hitler] had a deep-seated, lasting sense of revenge- something you don’t come across in history too often.”

I definitely don’t understand Hitler any better. I don’t think anyone will really understand what drives someone to these evils.

Trying to understand Hitler in the ways that these people did is not a worthwhile pursuit. Just like @purplenailpolish00 said, “No matter how many potted flowers and jade accents his home had, he was still the orchestrator of millions of deaths.” I think that sure, psychologists and doctors can argue about what was wrong with Hitler that made him the way he was, but in reality I think that, just like Kershaw said, “Saying Hitler was insane is just an apologia for him isnt’ it?” I honestly think that it is good to humanize Hitler because after all he was a human, and I think that that really emphasizes that anyone can attempt to wipe out an entire population, and almost succeed. I really think that is the most important thing to know about Adolf Hitler.

If we want to prevent these horrific events from happening again we cannot dehumanize Hitler as some sort of monster. Yes, he was a monster, but he was no less human than you and I. I think that is something I came to realize when reading these articles. I have grown up thinking of Hitler as some sort of nightmare-ish being, not someone that had a house with furniture and gave candy to children. I think that I’ve now started to realize how that can be harmful, and that is my biggest takeaway from it all.

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Why we're so intrigued by Adolf

It felt a little bit strange reading through articles in the 1930s describing Hitler’s tidy habits and his love for music and art, of course only the Nordic-German art. He liked cars, enjoyed watching movies, had insomnia, and was a vegetarian. These aren’t really the things I would think of when it comes to Hitler. I don’t think I understand Hitler better after reading these articles; if anything I’m only confused. How can someone find enjoyment in such simple, normal things and still hold such violent and intolerant beliefs.

An important thing to know, as Ian Kershaw says, is that Hitler was certainly not a madman. Calling him a madman is incorrect and makes him seem less responsible for the genocide he carried out.

I think people are so intrigued by Adolf because it seems impossible how one man could gain so much power. There must have been something about him different from anybody else. It is definitely a worthwhile pursuit trying to understand Hitler, at least to a certain extent, so that we can learn from the past. Max Weber’s notion of charismatic authority is one of the most important things to understand about Hitler. It wasn’t only Hitler’s character that made him attractive as a political figure to so many people; it was just as much the specific time and place, where Germany was in a crisis and felt the need to go to the extreme. People saw Hitler as a savior who would pull them out of the crisis. Weimar being a democracy was also essential to Hitler’s coming to power. People only saw Hitler as a savior because of their expectations in an individual with extraordinary qualities in a time of crisis. Hitler’s incredible oratorical power worked. Moreover, Hitler’s coming to power required a strong bureaucracy, army, and economy.

I think it’s so interesting that Hitler tended not to “intervene in his underlings’ intense infighting.” Because he was a charismatic figure, the Nazi system could essentially function without him because people anticipated what he wanted.

The “Hitler’s Mountain Home” transcript surprised me a little bit because it made no mention of the horrible things he was doing. It only mentions Mein Kampf as a best-seller book that allowed Hitler to buy a nice estate. It seems a lot like any other celebrity house tour. The Janet Flanner article seems to have more depth to it though and more of a motive behind it than simply exploring the life of a famous person.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Our Fascination With Hitler's Life

Similar to the majority of users above, reading these pieces really took me aback; like @madagascar explained, it felt like I was taking a look into Hitler’s personal diary, hearing about all the mundane aspects of his life that would have otherwise been unheard. However, I must respectfully disagree with everyone who has posted before me. The general consensus seems to be that everything in these articles—Hitler’s potted plants, celibacy, vegetarian diet, etc. (Special Feature)—is superfluous and suitable for trivia-night content or “celebrity gossip” at best. To me, though, I not only found these pieces entertaining, but also packed with further contextualization of Nazi habits and mindsets during WW2.

After reading these articles, my big takeaway is that Hitler was a lot more human than many of us view him to be. When we think of Hitler, we never imagine someone who was fond of the arts (considering artists were among those who were killed within concentration camps), struggled with insomnia, and failed to maintain many relationships and friendships (Flanner). Although this list could go on and on perennially, such that all the content seems irrelevant and random, it serves a reminder that Hitler was (at one point) like the rest of us. Knowing this kind of material furthers the argument that Hitler was technically a sane person, according to Kershaw. When we lack this perspective and knowledge of even the smallest aspects of someone’s life—their likes, dislikes, habits, beliefs, etc.—it’s a lot easier for us to make negative, unjustified assumptions. And because many people have argued that Hitler was a “madman,” the impacts of his and the Nazis’ actions are often diminished and diluted. However, this culmination of these arbitrary details of Hitler’s life lets people know that he was, surprisingly, sane; it was not any kind of mental disease that forced him to carry out mass genocide, but rather, his own free will.

I think I do understand him better, oddly enough. After taking a closer look at more intimate aspects of his personal life, I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t understand him better. Flanner’s piece delves the deepest into Hitler’s interpersonal relationships, and those were the most useful in getting to know Hitler better: “Von Hindenburg at first considered that the Bohemian Corporal, as he called Hitler, could never keep his word and that as an unreliable young politician might be safely elevated to the position of Postmaster General—but no higher.” Now, this could just be me, but hearing this gives a lot of contextualization when reflecting on Hitler’s political journey. For one, he ended up becoming president after Hindenburg’s death! Sure, I guess I didn’t have to know about Hitler’s throat operation and “Fun Fairs,” but I would still say that it was nice taking a glimpse into Hitler’s personal life. It’s weird; how could someone who spearheaded the genocide of millions of innocent people, seem so normal? I think learning more about Hitler himself, not just the Holocaust, is a worthwhile pursuit. It really makes you think, where did it all go wrong? Were there any warning signs beforehand? Was this truly all Hitler’s fault, or was he just made to be the figurehead of the genocide? (I ask this because Kershaw’s interview states: “He himself said, ‘On the Jewish question, I have been forced to remain inactive.’ Yet the radicalization carried on.”

Finally, the most important thing to know about Adolf Hitler is that he was human. And I don’t necessarily mean that in the way that we should feel sympathy/empathy for him. Because frankly, he doesn’t deserve any. But it’s important to remind ourselves of this because we should always remember that humans have the ability to both uplift and destroy. As seen from Hitler, humans have the capability to pit groups against each other, wreaking havoc and inciting political and religious turmoil. Hitler also shows us that just one human being has the potential to rewrite history, affecting millions (if not billions) of families in the future. Therefore, the most important thing to learn from Adolf Hitler is that humans have the potential to destroy, yes, but also the potential to rebuild and avoid further destruction (just as Rena had championed).

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

A Platform of Hate

Hitler has always fascinated people around the world. Many people wonder how such a man could gain power and cause one of the biggest events in history, the Holocaust. He is known for all of his crimes and people wonder what went wrong with him and why he ended up the way that he did.

The article in Homes and Gardens is very interesting as it gives a sneak-peek into Hitler’s private life. It reminds me of the tabloids at the grocery store that expose some aspects of a celebrity’s life. It mentions his daily activities and other meaningless things. The article really humanizes him as most people never really learn anything about him as a person. I think it is worth it to try to understand Hitler’s motivations and personal beliefs but I think this article glorifies him in an unacceptable way. It doesn’t matter what he ate or how he liked his curtains, what matters is the effect he had on the world and why he did what he did.

After World War 1, Germany had to pay massive reparations which it just couldn’t afford. The Weimar Republic printed lots of money which caused insanely high inflation rates. People could no longer afford anything and the money was worthless. Hitler was an opportunist and his party benefited from the Great Depression, which pushed people to the extremes politically. We saw how quickly the NSDAP gained seats once things got bad. Germany’s economic state allowed Hitler to come to power, and if he hadn’t, someone else would have.

None of these articles really help me to understand Hitler. The Interview with Ian Kershaw helped me understand why Hitler gained traction in post-war Germany, but it didn’t really explain why he thought it acted the way he did and it didn’t really rationalize him. I agree with @greenflowers58 that Hitler was a human but it never stopped him from committing horrible acts. The articles didn’t really change how I understood Hitler but it did help my understand the platform he built himself on.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Dangers of Humanizing Hitler

I do not believe I understand Hitler any better than I did prior to reading. The articles from 1930 describe Hitler’s passion for art, his vegetarian diet, his social life, and even his favorite dishes. These articles displayed Hitler’s humanistic qualities, which I originally believed he was devoid of. If anything, like @Earl Grey Tea mentioned, I am only more confused. How can someone who was depicted as so seemingly normal, commit one of the greatest atrocities in humanity?

I think my big takeaway is that Hitler’s possession of “normal” qualities, show that there are other people that bear the potential to repeat the same mistakes as him if given the opportunity. I think the popular fascination with Hitler is due to his possession of human characteristics, since so many of us view him as a person born from evil. Many people want to understand the reasoning behind his abhorrent beliefs and how such a sick person rose to power after seeming so normal. I agree with Ian Kershaw about the dangers of labeling Hitler as insane. Although his actions were inarguably reprehensible, labeling Hitler as insane would only create excuses for his crimes. For if he were truly insane, why did so many Germans follow a so-called madman? I think this shows us that even “normal” individuals, when hungry for power in the presence of resources, can possess evil tendencies. We have seen through many historical and modern examples that relating crimes to mental illness, only excuses the perpetrator and lessens their responsibility in committing those offenses.

I believe it is worthwhile to understand Hitler to an extent. We should at least acknowledge the many warnings and signs that led to his dictatorship and abuse of power. However, when learning about an infamous figure’s life before their crimes, it seems to be a prevalent trope for people to forgive or justify the actions of the person. Although I believe it is important to understand that there were certain opportunities or rather faults within the society that allowed for Hitler’s malicious ideas to come to fruition, it is useless to understand the trivial things that humanizes him, when the crimes he committed were so inhumane.

I think the most important thing to know about Hitler is that he appeared as what we would consider “normal”. The fact that he was not insane should be a scary realization for humanity. This shows that there could essentially be many “future Hitlers” out there in the world. This was a man that intentionally acted on his pernicious beliefs and gained political traction through exploitation of opportunities and circumstances. If 60 million people were able to blindly follow this dictator and were complicit to his crimes, what are the odds of history repeating itself?

Boston, Massachuesetts, US
Posts: 19

Adolf, a Human, Not a Monster.

I think we are so intrigued by Hitler because he is the example of the far stretches of humanity and free thought of humans. We have celebrated heroes as long as humanity has existed, and these people are just one end of the spectrum. Where there is good, there is also evil, and it seems as though evil personified was Adolf Hitler. The important thing to recognize, which is so important as it aids to not push Adolf out of the realm of human possibility, if that makes any sense. By calling him a monster, satan, evil, we are denying what he truly was, a human man. He was a vegetarian, he fought in World War 1, he was a real person, who committed evil atrocities, but that does not denounce his status as a human. By calling him a monster, or the Devil, we push away the thought that anyone could ever be like him, which is not true. If any person can choose to be a hero, an upstander, they also have the opportunity to be evil, to be cruel and to be awful. It is up to them to choose which path they go down. As the article displaying Adolf's home suggests, he was a person, he was poor, wrote a book which sold many copies (The legitimacy is skewed on how those copies were sold and how many were bought by people and not his political party) and did what many would, when they become rich, he bought a house and his sister came and lived with him. This is a thing that normal people do, Hitler was no hissing beast, he was no evil monster with horns, he was a human.

Something displayed in the other novel was the idea that calling him insane or a monster is almost forgiving him in many ways, giving him an excuse for his actions. Statements like 'Oh, it wasn't his fault, he was insane' or 'He was mentally challenged, and that's why he couldn't make proper choices' give him almost an excuse, or a pass. He does not deserve that, he doesn't deserve to be held a part from humans, or given a pass for his deeds, he was a terrible, awful, person. Calling him a monster may make him seem misunderstood, or saying he had an illness may give you reason to be sympathetic, which I do not believe he deserves.

As @madagascar had said in their post, in which they wrote "It felt as though I was reading some random person’s life story, not a murderer of more than 12 million people." I completely agree, it was odd, he was interested in interior design, he was vegetarian, these are all reasons to remember that he was no different biologically to any person you may meet on the street, he wasn't possessed by evil, it's insane to even consider the fact that an average person without even any neurological disorders could cause and run the murders of 12 million people. That is the reality and horror of free thought and humanity, the capacity for evil, which is just as large (or even larger, as it can sometimes be easier to do something bad than good), as the capacity for good.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Reason Why People Are So Intrigued By Hitler

There are many reasons why Adolf Hitler interests today's people. One is how he could even go through with the acts that he committed. Another could be what happened to him after everything happened? What fascinating to many people about Hitler is how he is still an actual human who did basic human things but then went through with this. When you think of Hitler, your mind does not think grocery shopping or lovely homes and be passionate about ordinary human things like gardening. However, this is true. In "Hitler in "Homes and Gardens," it described Hitler's mountain home that had a garden, lots of bookshelves, a fantastic view, and many more humane average items. It is very odd to attribute those characteristics to a man who started a world-known genocide. People always want to know the evil Hitler did, as it quite clearly outweighs any good. Although our interest in Hitler can be similar to today's celebrities, even Trump did not do nearly as much evil as Hitler.

Although Hitler did indeed contribute to WW2, he is not accountable for every evil thing. Other things were happening during these times. In contrast, the Holocaust outweighs all of that, which is why that is all we hear about.

To conclude, I do not think I understood Hitler more by reading the articles, but I learned some more information about him. I do not think trying to understand him is worth it. In the end, it is essential to know what evil he did. Although there are other aspects in his life, this is by far the most important.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Trying to Humanize Hitler

Reading these articles was weird since these are not what I would normally think of when thinking about Hitler. Even though these articles felt like I was reading modern day gossip about celebrities, there is a sense of strangeness to them knowing that these are about Hitler. Like @madagascar said, “Something that came across my mind so many times while reading these were that he was a human.” Oftentimes, Hitler is portrayed almost as a monster that orchestrated the death of millions of people. It is important to understand that Hitler was a human being that was capable of such evils and that he was not the only one.

I don’t understand Hitler any better. If I were to assume anything of someone capable of such evils, I would think that they went through something traumatic in their lives. In Hitler’s case, he lived a normal life. He had a nice house and was continuously decorating and adding to the house for guests. He did not smoke, drink, or eat meat. Learning these did not help me understand how he came to have his ideologies. I do not think that continuously trying to understand him is a worthwhile pursuit. Even if we analyze every aspect of his life, we will never know for certain what led him to act the way he did. Like Ian Kershaw says, “‘Why did 60 million Germans follow a madman?’ So it’s an apologia for them too.’” Trying to understanding Hitler will not be able to tell us much about how evils, like the Holocaust, is started. Hitler is not solely responsible for the crimes as millions of others followed him.

The most important to remember about Hitler is that he is human like the rest of us. Agreeing with @greenbeans, Hitler reminds us of what humans have the capability of doing in terms of evil. In trying to understand Hitler, I realize that a normal seeming human being can one day be able to incite violence that affects large groups of people. Although Hitler is responsible for the death of millions of innocent lives, he is not solely the only human that did such a thing throughout history.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

I believe that we as people are so interested in Hitler and his thoughts and actions because humans are always drawn to the unknown. So many people that are interested in him and his mind are interested in it because of how different it appears to be compared to their own. We find it crazy that anyone could ever do that to so many people, and that is why we are so interested in him. These articles did make me think of Hitler in a new light, as they are making me think of him as more of a person that I thought it him before. It is much easier to absorb information about something if you detach a real person from doing the actions. Reading about Hitler with a real personality, interests, and life, was honestly hard to believe at first because of how inhumanly I thought of him. One takeaway that I got from reading these articles and talking about him in class is how important your childhood environment is in shaping how you become and how you are think. Shown in the New Yorker article, it discusses how Hitler did well in geography and history in school and took special interest in the Franco-Prussian War, and that teacher was a Pan-Germanist. This teacher influenced 12 year old Adolf so much that he decided he was a Pan-Germanist, showing how much one person can impact someone’s entire life. This teacher had such a big role in the genocide that was committed on orders from this 12 year old boy, and had no idea at the time what his role would be. Hitler started reading anti-Semitic books when he was 13, and paired with his love of history, influenced him enough to become a tyranny and kill millions. My favorite part from all of these articles is when Kershaw wrote “Saying Hitler was insane is just an apologia for him isn’t it?”, when discussing how there are many psychologists and doctors trying to find the one true mental illness that lead to the deaths of 6 million.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Attempting to Learn More About Hitler

I believe that we are so intrigued by Hitler because he is indeed seen as the absolute embodiment of evil. He is often the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of pure evil since he was the one responsible for such horrific tragedies. As a result, people want to learn more about such a character, which prompts this kind of fascination. We want to dig deep into his life and see how he lived. We want to find out how a person with such malicious intentions can stem from a seemingly normal life and home. Fidget also brings up a good point by saying that Adolf “is the example of the far stretches of humanity and free thought of humans”. Hitler is just one end of the extreme spectrum, yet forcing the name of evil onto him detracts away from the severity of his actions and takes away his humanity in a negative way. If he is painted as absolute evil, his malicious nature is only to blame for what he did, yet that is false. There is potential for someone to equal the atrocities of Hitler, like Fidget mentions, and continuing with this narrative of pure evil only eliminates that possibility.

This type of curiosity is somewhat similar to what we hold with modern celebrities, like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian. For instance, the dissection of Hitler’s mountain home in the Bavarian Alps in the article by Ignatius Phayre resembled the house tours that celebrities give on Architectural Digest today. Since these people hold such prominent positions and are extremely successful, the public is desperate to find out the inner workings of their daily lives. They want to learn about every minute detail, in hopes of discovering the secret formula that is responsible for their fame and success. This is a similar idea with the current fascination with Hitler. People want to know the root of his malice and understand why he did the things he did. The article mentioned above went into depth about the details of each room and what Hitler would do there, such as reading the home and foreign papers in the outside rooms. This article showed how similar the fascination with Hitler was with modern celebrities, which is all an eager attempt to dig deeper into the lives of prominent figures.

I don’t think that Hitler is responsible for every evil thing that happened in World War II. Hitler drew inspiration for his Nazi idealogy from the Armenian Genocide, as we’ve learned in class. Also, as the “Interview with Ian Kershaw” by Gene Santoro mentions, Hitler does not instigate a set of policies to lead to the notion that Jews should be removed. He merely stands for the cause while others with similar mindsets implemented his ideas in various methods. In short, Hitler didn’t do much to push along radicalization and anti-Semitism, but was the main figure encouraging the process. Since Hitler himself didn’t implement such policies, I don’t believe that he is responsible for all the evil that occurred in World War II. However, he is to blame for feeding the flames of anti-Semitism.

Overall, my big takeaway from these articles is that Hitler has a human side to him that we all often forget about. Especially in Janet Flanner’s article, she delves deeper into Hitler’s personal life, revealing things like vegetarian diet and his preferences in women, such as being well-dressed. However, I do not feel that I understand him better in the way I wanted to. I didn’t learn more about how he felt as a perpetrator of such a massive tragedy or what drove him to such malicious intentions. The article did do a good job of painting Hitler as a plain human being but didn’t go to the point of explaining the reasons behind his atrocious actions. In regards to trying to understand Hitler, I do think it is a worthwhile pursuit. It’s significant to learn about Hitler’s past and character and how that fueled his later actions. We can’t paint him as a madman once we learn about his normal lifestyle and average habits. Doing so and diving deeper into Hitler as a person only proves how aware he was of his harmful deeds and places more responsibility onto him. All in all, the most important thing to know about Adolf Hitler is that though he is not to blame for all the evil in World War II, he is responsible for horrific crimes and extreme damage inflicted against an entire population. He was the root of mass suffering and did not have any guilt for his actions or the ideology he stood for.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Intrigue Over What We Seek to Understand

While Hitler is a symbol of evil, we are somehow still intrigued with him, but is it for better or for worse? I agree with @yelloworchids, I think part of why we are so intrigued by Hitler is because of the human qualities that he exhibits in places such as these articles, when he is simultaneously an image of pure evil. However, focusing on these small aspects of his life can be dangerous if we forget to put the emphasis on the horrific crimes he committed. There is a difference between trying to understand what could have been prevented and analyzing his every move and letting his story bleed into the horrors of the Holocaust. Reading about his humanity is both good and bad. It is good in the sense that it reminds us that he actively chose to kill so many people, a choice that he was capable of making as a human being. Reading Kershaw’s article gave a little more insight into this, as Kershaw makes it clear that he does not believe that Hitler was a “madman” and that saying so makes excuses for his actions and choices. What isn’t good however, is letting his small bit of humanity cloud our judgement of the horrific actions he carried out, and spending more time looking into who he was as a person than learning about the humanity of the millions of victims of the Holocaust.

While I didn’t gain much understanding of Hitler through these articles, I certainly felt very confused. One part of Janet Flanner’s article that I found especially interesting (/horrifying) is that the article mentioned how he “is kind to dumb animals” and “becomes sick if he sees blood, yet he is unafraid of killing or being killed”. I do not understand how someone can be a vegetarian or have a very human fear of blood, and then continue to be responsible for genocide. These articles did not help me understand Hitler, but I think they were written as an attempt at understanding, trying to see if there was anything in his personal life that could be behind his actions, or trying to see if we shared anything with someone who was so evil. In trying to show the small, personal aspects of Hitler’s life however, it only is more upsetting; how is someone who committed such atrocities able to live a “normal” life and then be treated as another topic of gossip? How can someone who fixes up his mountain home also be the epitome of evil, and how can we see characteristics of ourselves and everyone inside someone like him?

I don’t think that any amount of understanding will answer those questions, which is yet another reason why I do not think it is always worthwhile to pursue it, although sometimes it certainly is. We can understand some of what caused him to turn to hateful ideologies and we can try to understand some of his past, but I don't know if we will ever understand how a human being could do something so terrible. If we say that the main reason we seek to understand Hitler is to learn what caused him to be capable of committing such atrocities and to prevent history from repeating itself, then why is it important to know about his cactus plants? More importantly, why aren’t we spending that time trying to educate future generations about the past and the dangers of ideologies of hate or addressing problems such as white supremacy in our countries? I think it is only human to be at least a little bit intrigued by the presence of someone like Hitler and of course, we need to know who he is and we do need to acknowledge his humanity, but I still think that investing too much time in his story is not completely worthwhile.

My biggest takeaway from these articles is that Hitler did have some very human characteristics, and that is one of the things that scares me and all of us the most. He lived a somewhat normal life for the time, but still went on to kill millions. I agree with @greenbeans, Hitler shows that even someone who exhibits some form of humanity is capable of evil, but we are also capable of good. Our intrigue is rooted in the desire to understand why he chose to exercise such evil, but it is difficult to find the straightforward answer we are searching for, causing such fascination.

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