posts 16 - 23 of 23
caramel washington
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

My biggest takeaway is that Hitler was an extremely charismatic leader, who had a way of impacting people. In Mein Kampf, on two occasions, he writes, “And then I learned I could speak.” After Hitler was gassed, he started giving speeches, and noticed that people listened. However, from what I have read, it doesn’t seem like Hitler was insane. Saying Hitler was insane is just an apology for him, because it implies that he’s not in charge of his actions, not responsible for his deeds, and it excuses his followers of blame as well.


However, when trying to understand Hitler’s rise to power, it is important to observe him in the specific circumstances that he lived in. At this time, Weimar Germany was suffering from a number of crises: hyperinflation, dealing with World War I veterans and their injuries, and a lack of steady political leadership. In times of comprehensive crisis, people invest feelings of hopes or expectations or salvation in an individual they see as possessing extraordinary qualities, and at the time, this was Hitler. He relied on a number of institutions, such as the democratic ones that got him elected. People were scared, and chose to go towards the extreme ends of the political spectrum, who promised the most radical change. Additionally, Hitler could not have come to power without the modern world. His regime required the bureaucracy of a modern state with numerous resources and real military strength. This context absolutely allows me to understand where Hitler was coming from better.


Hitler also had a unique leadership style that contributed to his rise to power. Ian Kershaw said it best when he described Hitler as “having a deep-seated, lasting sense of revenge—something you don’t come across in history too often.” Additionally, although the Nazis were far from unified and had many conflicts, Hitler usually stayed aloof from infighting until it was plain who’d won, and usually sided with the winner. He also often manipulated others to do his policy enforcement for him, simply by stating his opinion on an issue and letting the radicalization follow.


In my opinion, people honestly know too much about Hitler. The focus on his life and what led him to his position is understandably fascinating, from a psychological standpoint: what allows a person to believe and do such awful things? Are they insane, or completely logical? An idiot or an evil genius? And the most terrifying question of all: was this fate or a result of life circumstances? I think Boat1924 said it best: “[people] fear that genocidal maniacs that can cause the death and torture of millions of people due to his extreme and twisted thoughts are not born the way they are, but rather develop these beliefs through their experiences and choices in life.” By studying evil people, we have no choice but to wonder: could this have been me?


But by focusing on his background and understanding him as a person, it feels like we are humanizing him more than he deserves. When we discuss his struggles early in life, or how he slowly rose to power, we begin to have some sympathy for him. Even if it doesn’t make us excuse his actions, we shouldn’t want to know what his house looked like, or how he spent his free time.


At the end of the day, the most important perspective in learning about this narrative is that of the millions of victims of his reign of hate. When learning about the Holocaust, the focus should be on acts of resilience, and stories of survival, instead of the horrific psyche of one demented man.

augustine
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

I have been learning about Hitler for probably around 12 years now, and in all that time I still don’t understand the fascination that people have with him. I learned from these articles mundane facts, like the fact that that he was a vegetarian, and that he liked to wear a very specific outfit, but they are largely inconsequential. In my mind, it doesn’t matter how many details there are about him, his ‘humanity’ means nothing to the millions and millions of people that he killed. I think it seems more reasonable to learn about him through a psychological perspective, but trying to understand who he was as a person seems obsolete, it will not change what he did. If anything, learning more ‘humane’ details about his past seems to only lead to sympathy, of which Hitler should receive absolutely none. The Home Gardens and New Yorker article seem incredibly mundane, like a profile you would see about any given celebrity, and at the time that made sense- he was a charismatic leader who people looked up to (though he had always been very vocal about his beliefs so I was a bit surprised that there was almost no mention of them in these articles). But now, when the whole world knows what he did, the fascination is baffling.


As opposed to the Kardashians, or Donald Trump, the fascination with Hitler seems to me more like the fascination that people have with true crime, and serial killers. I have seen on social media countless accounts of people who are obsessed with killers like Richard Ramirez, or Ted Bundy, dedicating whole fan pages to them. They share ‘fun facts’ and gory details, most of which border on glorification, but pay no mind to the victims of these men. This seems incredibly similar to Hitler, this fascination with the gory and macabre, while disregarding the vast amount of harm that was done. At best it is insensitive, and at worst it is actively harmful and perpetuating a false narrative.


I think the biggest takeaway from this is that Hitler was not some isolated incident. He was not alone in his beliefs or his ambitions, and the only reason that it was him at the forefront of the Nazi party and later on the Holocaust was largely due to circumstance. It is those circumstances that I think we should focus more on, like the effects of that WWI had on Germany, that would ultimately help us to better understand the events that later took place, more than mundane and ineffectual details about Hitler would.

GullAlight
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

At the end of the day, Hitler was human. And although he demonstrates the worst of humanity, he was still a person with other interests and a life outside of committing genocide. None of this excuses him from the responsibility that he deserves for the Holocaust and Nazi regime in general,, But it does make him more terrifying, as the way someone like us, or even we ourselves, could theoretically do the same, give them the right combination of circumstances, similar to the ones that fuelled Hitler’s rise to power. As Ian Kershaw says in his article of Hitler, people with medical backgrounds have studied Hitler and arrived at the conclusion that Hitler could not have been insane. In our examination of history and atrocities like genocide, the easy way out is of course to blame outside factors, like insanity or simple evil, but it is necessary to grapple with the fact that they are not so different from us in order to truly learn from, and by extension prevent history from recurring.


Reading these articles helped me further understand this, as these articles demonstrates his life outside of genocide. Learning that he enjoyed watching movies, especially historical ones, from the article written by Flanner, and that he was a vegetarian, humanises him. According to the readings, he had an extensive library, especially focused on architecture, art, painting, and history. Personally, I believe he sounds almost like a normal person, and this is further demonstrated by the exercise we did in class about Hitler's art, and how many of us rather liked it.


Hitler's rise to power was caused by many coinciding factors. The economic failure and widespread desperation of the times drove people to political extremes, and all of this together facilitated the rise of Nazi Germany. In the articles, Hitler is described as charismatic, and rather likable, and therefore he was able to have many German citizens support him. He advocated for a return to supposed "traditional values", and promoted the self-sufficiency and strengths that the German people sought at that point, and in doing so was able to appeal to them and convince them to follow him, despite his ostracisation and mass murder of the Jewish people.


Despite all this, I don't believe that Hitler alone was responsible for the Holocaust. However, without him, I do not believe it would've happened. He created a convenient scapegoat for the people suffering, and they believed him. Ultimately, although it may be interesting to learn about Hitler as a person, I believe it's not necessary. More important, is how to prevent his rise to power in the first place, and also just why he was so appealing and therefore able to have people do such horrifying things they never would have considered before. It is necessary to understand that even people like Hitler, and the people below him, as well as the ordinary German people who carried out the genocide of more than 11 million people, were still human. Recognising the genocide is not some abstract thing, separate from us, but instead something that is gradual, and involves people, not monsters, is what I believe is most important.


I agree with Augustine, in that Hitler was not an exception. People like him had to have existed, and ultimately it is merely circumstance that separates them from people like Hitler.

Peverley
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Why Are We So Fascinated By Adolf Post

For me, the big takeaway about Hitler is that when given only the more mundane details of his life one would never expect a non-drinking, art-loving, vegetarian to have the capacity to carry out a meticulously planned, systematic extermination of an entire group of people. Yet he did. I found it fascinating reading these pieces because as one of the most evil people to have ever existed, naturally we would expect Hitler to have been a cruel, disrespectful, and murderous man his entire life. Yet he had humble beginnings, born to a poor Austrian family, and the child of a young mother. He was sickly most of his young life, but he was artistic, outspoken, and opinionated, notably declaring that he was a Pan-Germanist at a very young age. He lost both of his parents by the age of 18 and decided to apply to art school, but got rejected a number of times before he was forced into a life of poverty. He already started to have anti-Semitic and anti-Communist beliefs at this time which would only intensify as time went on. When WWI began, he eagerly signed up to join the German army despite his Austrian descent, and got mady accolades for his bravery and service even as a lance corporal and was devastated when Germany lost. Hitler was fiercely loyal to the German cause and intense nationalism was what got him all of the support he needed to carry out genocide.

His habits surprised me a lot as there is some sick and twisted irony in the fact that the instigator of a genocide was a vegitarian who loved children, however many of his personality traits were exactly as I would have predicted them. First and foremost, he was an exceptional speaker. Being able to speak to millions of people and have them not only listen, but believe what you say is a gift, and one that bodes well for someone who wants absolute control of an entire government. His ability to win over millions through brainwashing and propaganda earned him the position of the greatest mob orator in German history, proved in Janet Flanner’s article when she stated that he was “a born spellbinder of the emotional type, who produces in crowds the excitement he produces in himself” and that “his oratorial powers were the bases of his career”. He was able to prey off the declining state of Germany to point people to a common enemy (the Jews) and earned their unwavering adoration on which he was able to carry out one of the most horrifying atrocities in the world’s history.

I think an important distinction has to be made between understanding and justification. Learning about Hitler’s background to see why he committed genocide or to potentially justify his campaign against the Jews of Europe and other groups with a sad backstory is a dangerous thing to do. It starts to enter the territory of making sense of why he did what he did. Ultimately, there is no real logic to what he did (although he and many others thought differently), and he senselessly killed millions of innocent people. It is unequivocally unjustifiable. Conversely, learning about Hitler to see the experiences that shaped him into the man he became and learning about his rise to power is essential to understanding how he did what he did. Learning about the connections that he made, the skills he had, and his ability to garner massive public support helps to clarify how he even got into the position to be able to carry out such atrocities in the first place.

At the end of the day, none of Hitler’s kindness, artistry, practicality, friendliness, or sobriety can or will ever change what he did. Learning about Hitler is admittedly interesting because it gives insight into the person he was outside of his role as the leader of the Nazi party, but at the end of the day, his actions against the marginalized groups in Germany at the time are utterly unforgivable. It doesn’t matter that children loved him. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t eat meat, didn’t smoke, and loved art. His memory does not deserve to be honored with understanding, and I truly think it is best if all he is known as into perpetuity is a man with the blood of millions on his hands.


Peverley
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by GullAlight on March 28, 2022 21:47

At the end of the day, Hitler was human. And although he demonstrates the worst of humanity, he was still a person with other interests and a life outside of committing genocide. None of this excuses him from the responsibility that he deserves for the Holocaust and Nazi regime in general,, But it does make him more terrifying, as the way someone like us, or even we ourselves, could theoretically do the same, give them the right combination of circumstances, similar to the ones that fuelled Hitler’s rise to power. As Ian Kershaw says in his article of Hitler, people with medical backgrounds have studied Hitler and arrived at the conclusion that Hitler could not have been insane. In our examination of history and atrocities like genocide, the easy way out is of course to blame outside factors, like insanity or simple evil, but it is necessary to grapple with the fact that they are not so different from us in order to truly learn from, and by extension prevent history from recurring.


Reading these articles helped me further understand this, as these articles demonstrates his life outside of genocide. Learning that he enjoyed watching movies, especially historical ones, from the article written by Flanner, and that he was a vegetarian, humanises him. According to the readings, he had an extensive library, especially focused on architecture, art, painting, and history. Personally, I believe he sounds almost like a normal person, and this is further demonstrated by the exercise we did in class about Hitler's art, and how many of us rather liked it.


Hitler's rise to power was caused by many coinciding factors. The economic failure and widespread desperation of the times drove people to political extremes, and all of this together facilitated the rise of Nazi Germany. In the articles, Hitler is described as charismatic, and rather likable, and therefore he was able to have many German citizens support him. He advocated for a return to supposed "traditional values", and promoted the self-sufficiency and strengths that the German people sought at that point, and in doing so was able to appeal to them and convince them to follow him, despite his ostracisation and mass murder of the Jewish people.


Despite all this, I don't believe that Hitler alone was responsible for the Holocaust. However, without him, I do not believe it would've happened. He created a convenient scapegoat for the people suffering, and they believed him. Ultimately, although it may be interesting to learn about Hitler as a person, I believe it's not necessary. More important, is how to prevent his rise to power in the first place, and also just why he was so appealing and therefore able to have people do such horrifying things they never would have considered before. It is necessary to understand that even people like Hitler, and the people below him, as well as the ordinary German people who carried out the genocide of more than 11 million people, were still human. Recognising the genocide is not some abstract thing, separate from us, but instead something that is gradual, and involves people, not monsters, is what I believe is most important.


I agree with Augustine, in that Hitler was not an exception. People like him had to have existed, and ultimately it is merely circumstance that separates them from people like Hitler.

I think it is interesting that you talked about how humanizing Hitler makes him more terrifying. I completely agree and it is somehow so unnerving that someone who on paper appears to be nonviolent and, frankly, normal could commit genocide. It really speaks to what human beings are capable of when put in the right scenarios and how willing society is to support leaders despite their actions and concerning beliefs.

Winters2
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Why are we so intrigued by Adolf?

The main fascination we have with Hitler comes from our desire for knowledge and with him having orchestrated the largest genocide in history he is very intriguing. We have never in history had one individual cause such mass destruction. There are many parallels between Hitler and his execution of the Holocaust to other genocides in the past.However none have been seen in this large of an event affecting the whole world. This was also when information became more readily available and news could spread a lot faster so it was a lot wider spread. Our fascination with people like Kim Kardashian comes from our views of fame, drama and wealth. The unattainable has for centuries become a fascination for many. Our fascination with Beyonce comes from our admiration and desire for success and influence. Our fascination with Hitler, however, is spurred by our fascination with fright and pain and evil. With these becoming a trend in pop culture there becomes a fascination with people that execute such large events of mass destruction and death. To a certain extent trying to understand Hitler can be very interesting and informative. It is interesting to see what would have generated the insane behavior of Adolf Hitler, where it all generated and what it led to. It shows a lot of the flaws in his life as a child which affected him later which is one of the interesting things to learn and what could have partially led him to lead such a hateful life. I think it is very important to think about Hitler and consider his life and experiences and to think about what he came from.

SesameStreet444
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

I think society’s fixation on Hitler revolves around our desire to make a reason for why he did what he did. When somebody plots something as sickening as the Holocaust, it’s enough to make anyone wonder what would possess a person to try to exterminate an entire group of people. I think that a lot of people find themselves coming to the conclusion that Hitler must’ve been mentally ill if he was able to carry out such an atrocity. However, something that Ian Kershaw brought up in his interview that really struck a chord with me was the notion that deeming Hitler a “crazy” person would only give him an out for all of the monstrous things that he did throughout his life, almost acting as a barricade of protection. The truth was that Hitler, according to Ian Kershaw’s beliefs, was not a madman, and the way in which he spewed his fascist rhetoric was very systematic, given that the political, social, and economic climate of Germany at the time was in deter and was ripe to be exploited by anyone seeking power. It is completely understandable why people might have an intrigue for how and why Hitler came to power, but it should also be noted that his efforts were far from the workings of someone mentally ill.


To say that I actually understand Hitler better after reading the articles would be a complete lie, because, let’s be honest, there is no justifiable or logical reason that Hitler grew to become such a terrible individual who brutally murdered the lives of so many innocent people. It wouldn’t matter if I knew every detail of his life- it still wouldn’t give enough insight on how someone could possibly do such awful things. If I had to take a guess, after having read Flanner’s article on Hitler, I would think that Hitler needed some kind of outlet to blame for all of the misfortunes that he underwent in his life, given that he grew up poor and he lost his parents at a very young age. But to be crystal clear, absolutely none of these things make for any kind of excuse; they merely prefaced Hitler’s emerging German patriotism and fascist beliefs. It was actually rather interesting to me that the article worked so hard to humanize Hitler, considering what he would grow to become after childhood.


Overall, I don’t particularly believe that anyone should spend their time trying to figure out Hitler’s motives, for it wouldn’t ever undo any of the irreversible damage he caused in his lifetime. Reading the Homes & Gardens article, where Hitler’s dwelling and diet was distinctly detailed, it doesn’t really hold any relevance how the man who systematically annihilated millions of Jews and other marginalized communities also liked flowers and didn’t eat meat. I really think that, in this day and age, the only important reason to be informed on Hitler’s life and his background is so as not to repeat the same mistake again in this century. The main takeaway of the articles shouldn’t be to understand Hitler better, but to understand how Hitler got to the level of power that he did. Given the effects of the first World War and the Depression, Germany was vulnerable to be corrupted by someone who, in Ian Kershaw’s words, held charismatic authority. As Hitler gave voice antisemitism, other people also saw opportunities for exploitation, continuing to add fuel to the piling discrimination within Germany. Knowing these warning signs of Hitler’s power is the only effective way that we can prevent a similar dictator from rising up in power -although given the climate of today’s international politics, maybe our efforts have not been preventative enough.


SesameStreet444
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

Originally posted by no-one on March 16, 2022 21:01

To me, the fascination with Hitler, both the one at the time and our own today, is similar to our obsession with the personal lives of celebrities. I was taken aback to see that the Phayre article (published in the same month as Kristallnacht, no less!) made essentially no mention of Hitler’s politics, and in fact gave no negative mention at all of anything in his life, treating the lifestyle of a murderous dictator as an endearing peculiarity. It’s jarring to hear Hitler, who today holds the place of evil manifest, described as a “droll raconteur” or to read about his “passion about cut flowers in his home, as well as for music.” I am curious why the author took this approach—were they a sympathizer? Did they wish to avoid talking politics in “Homes & Gardens”? Whatever the case, this omission is glaring and to me, any description of Hitler’s life that fails to condemn him outright and unequivocally is overly sympathetic.

The Flanner articles, at least, are unafraid to describe Hitler’s Aryan supremacist ideology and his dictatorial rule. However, their tone still comes off as rather bland. They delve deeply into the personal eccentricities of Hitler, and his own history, which I found to be interesting. Her analysis of the influences on his beliefs from various other thinkers, philosophers, etc. seemed to conclude that, “he is ultimately convinced only by himself. His moods change often, his opinions never.” I think this article is not simply satisfying a perverse and morbid curiosity on the life of a public figure, but does in fact offer insight into the origins, motivations, and goals of a megalomaniac.

However, I believe that to delve too deeply into Hitler’s personal life is counterproductive, and even dangerous. The Holocaust and the many crimes committed by Nazi Germany were not the work of a single man. While it may be tempting (and possibly correct) to paint Hitler’s vitriolic hatred to be a result of his social and sexual insecurities, or of his disabilities in the war, Hitler is not the only person to have such circumstances. Nor do I believe that Hitler was a uniquely evil person. Surely he was an immensely evil and malicious one, but I believe there must be more people in the world, perhaps many more, who might share his scrupulousness and his hatred, but lack the circumstances he did to rise to power. As Ian Kershaw affirms, it was not Hitler’s iron will and ambition alone that pushed him into the spotlight, but a series of convenient circumstances (e.g. the Depression, German postwar resentment) that he was able to exploit. Moreover, to paint Hitler and perhaps his closest cronies as the sole force of the Nazi evil absolves the innumerable nameless individuals who made the choice to collaborate and support the Nazis in their mission. Had Hitler been killed, Germany would not have immediately dissipated into a friendly and tolerant nation welcome to all. In fact, the British plan to assassinate Hitler in 1944, Operation Foxley, was rejected on the grounds that he might be replaced by a more competent general, or that he might become a martyr to the German people in future.

In my opinion, the takeaway was that Hitler was especially suited to take advantage of the opportunities he found, but I believe that another person of a similar nature could have done the same. Hitler stepped into the spotlight when it was offered to him, but we must look more closely to discern what placed the light there in the first place. The failures of capitalism leading to the Depression, the already existing German spirit of militarism, and resentment over the First World War, among many others, contributed to this atmosphere. Humans have a natural attraction to symbols and figureheads, and they make more comprehensible to our mind what might otherwise be overwhelming. However, the lesson here is to avoid this draw and look at the faceless processes that drive events from the shadows.

I like how your response speaks on the factor of the economic climate which coincided with Hitler's rise in power. I think it's very easy for people paint the narrative that Hitler was a sadistic mastermind who claimed dictatorship of Germany as a result of his unprecedented evil, but in actuality, he was an opportunistic (and also sadistic) narcissist who saw a breach in Germany's political field and took advantage. As you said, without the failures of capitalism in play, Hitler's rise in power would've at least been much more tumultuous, if not nonexistent.

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