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freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 288



Reading:



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!).


redemmed2021
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

The big "takeaway" I got from reading these articles is that Hitler was a human. This seems like an obvious statement but I feel like it is sometimes overlooked. The quote from Kershaw's interview makes this point clear. "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.” Hitler was not medically insane,or anything of that nature. The evil that he committed was something so insane it would make one believe he truly was, but that is not the case, “Maybe the project was mad, but the man was not”.


From this reading I do understand him better, specifically regarding who he was as a person. Hitler had his interest just like many other people do. In the article by Flanner it talks about how “ He is crazy about films, especially historical ones”, showing how Hitler enjoyed watching movies. To add on to this I learned that “ He loves to laugh in company”. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing or hearing jokes. He often went out to restaurants, was a “ talkative charm with women, he once had a close friend named Rudolf Hess, and for a period of time he read a lot. In the article by Phayre, which describes his home, states that he has a library where “ quite half the books are on history, painting, architecture, and music”. To add on it mentions how “Every morning at nine he goes out for a talk with the gardeners about their day’s work.” I even learned that Hitler was a vegetarian. If one were to just read this paragraph about Hitler they would probably find some similarities. One might even conclude that he wouldn't end up doing any of the things he did. This goes to further the fact that Hitler was human.


Understanding Hitler is a worthwhile pursuit because he was a very significant person in history. I think this because, again, he was a human being. He was not of a different species. Understanding him can give people insight on potentially why he committed and facilitated such malicious acts to fellow human beings. Hitler is in the same boat as other people, he was a mixture of good and bad just like all humans.


The most important thing to know about Hitler, like I mentioned before, is that he wasn’t insane. He was conscious of the evils he committed. He had a desire for power and would do anything to fulfill that desire. Once we know that he wasn’t insane then we can understand in him better, and can hold him accountable for his actions.

runningdog96
Posts: 18

Why Are We So Intrigued by Adolf?

One of the biggest themes I found running throughout these articles, as well as based on what we’ve discussed in class, is the role of propaganda. As Ian Kershaw says in his interview, “People with medical backgrounds have examined the evidence and rejected the idea that maybe Hitler was insane”. Instead, he was incredibly powerful with his speech and used the circumstances of the times in order to gain power. Throughout the Great Depression, people were incredibly desperate; so much so that they were most likely willing to compromise on some things in order to simply live. While Hitler may not have mentioned his ultimate plan of extermination outright, throughout his rhetoric there is undoubtedly scapegoating of Jewish people. And while some may have heard this and not agreed with it, they may have been willing to compromise it because of the promises he made- especially if his language was not targeted towards them.

In this sense, propaganda and groupthink played a massive role in bringing Hitler to power. His role as a charismatic leader played to the emotions and moral beliefs of Germany’s citizens, pushing him into power. This is something I feel is often brushed off or talked about less in discussions of Hitler and Nazi Germany, as everyone simply views him as a madman. However, as mentioned previously, this was not the case. And that is what made him so dangerous. Hitler was not mad; he was not insane. He genuinely believed what he was doing was right, and was able to get the power to do it. As Kershaw states in his interview, this could only have happened in a modern society, which means it could happen again. I’d like to think that it wouldn’t; that genocide of this size could not go unnoticed, especially in such a time of cameras and technology. But since the Holocaust, many more genocides have taken place, and gone unnoticed by most of the world, or at least unacknowledged, because intervention may not be what is politically best for a specific nation. Ultimately, people were swayed by Hitler’s words and propaganda, which is something we should be placing a lot more focus on. He was able to appeal to people’s emotions, which, as we’ve discussed in class, is extremely powerful, and the biggest thing to play off of in order to gain trust. However, this was all under the circumstance of the Great Depression, and such desperation caused by it would have heavily influenced people’s decisions on who and what to support.

I believe we should be focusing less on looking into his everyday life, and more on creating a society where people do not allow themselves to be swayed by such misinformation. It has very evidently happened with the pandemic and discourse around masks and vaccines, but in order to prevent leaders such as Hitler from coming to power again, people need to be educated on how to identify propaganda. I want to mention though, that this is also not to say that others who have perpetrated genocide were not mad, or insane or had motives besides those that Hitler did.

To respond to @redemmed2021’s post, I think this is an important point to bring up. To think of Hitler as some superhuman evil or other - despite the fact that he was entirely evil- may be going about it in the wrong way. It may be important to acknowledge the fact that he was a human in order to show that humans are capable of such evil, and it’s important we understand how to stop them and stop such evils from ever occurring again. In the same sense, however, I also felt conflicted when reading our sources for this post. Should we really make such an effort to understand Hitler if he was such a human being, or should we be focusing more on the context in which he was allowed to take power? The profiles done on him were very similar to "a day in the life", a common video/text we see today. But what purpose does that serve? What purpose does the information on how he liked his house arranged, or the types of parties he hosted serve? I’m not really sure that understanding him as a person is as important as everyone makes it out to be. I believe the context in which he was allowed to think that destroying an entire group of people was genuinely right, or that in which allowed him to act on that is significantly more important.

Hitler wasn’t insane, and I’m not sure that asking WHY is as important as asking HOW is. If he wasn’t medically insane, or mad, or anything of the sort, then he most likely grew to think that what he was doing was right. So in that sense, the why isn’t that important. What we should seek to understand is how was this allowed to happen, and how can we ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

gato927
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 26

Why are we so intrigued by Hitler?

First I would like to respond to @runningdog96’s post because I think they bring up a very important point in regards to the role that propaganda played in Hitler’s rise and continuation of power. Because of the Great Depression, most people were so desperate and looking for alternatives to the current government that was keeping them from feeding their families, having a place to live, and not being able to even keep a job. I also want to agree with the point that Hitler was not a madman, nor was he insane, he was just a person who managed to get millions of people to follow him into committing genocide, whether they knew it or not. Misinformation has been a topic we’ve discussed, especially when facism is involved, and I have gained a greater understanding of what people will think/agree to when their life is impacted, which is why I think so many people supported Hitler as well.


I think we as a society are so intrigued by Hitler because it is unfathomable to think that one man can inflict genocide upon a whole group of people and there were little to no consequences. Doing something like this will for sure label one as crazy, insane, sick in the head, or all of the above. But in this case, those adjectives do not apply. Hitler “...loves to laugh in company, enjoys obvious jokes, and occasionally makes solemnly funny remarks”, said Flanner. Obviously, there is nothing extraordinary about his personality, or really his life at all. In “Hitler in ‘Homes & Gardens’”, there is nothing extravagant about his estate. “There is nothing pretentious about the Führer’s little estate. It is one that any merchant of Munich or Nuremberg might possess in these lovely hills.” These readings allowed me to understand and take away that Hitler was pretentious, not crazy. He believed himself better than most and used his ability of public speaking to sway the people in Germany (who were deep in times of crisis) to support him. Flanner also mentions “Hitler has moved up to his present supreme power on words” which really emphasizes the fact that Hitler had this natural talent and charismatic personality that allowed him to commit such atrocious acts.


I do believe that I understand him in a better way. However, I still do not understand why he inflicted genocide on Jewish people, or why he thought it was okay, and I do not think I will ever understand this. But, understanding him is a worthwhile pursuit to some degree. When we compared him to Donald Trump, there were strikingly a lot of similarities, so if we are able to understand him in a way, it could potentially help future situations if we find ourselves in this place. The most important thing to know about Adolf Hitler is that he was not crazy, and his actions can never, ever, be justified. A quote from the interview with Ian Kershaw says, “Maybe the project was mad, but the man was not. Saying Hitler was insane is just an apologia for him, isn’t it?” This perfectly describes what I believe now because saying he’s crazy is just trying to justify what he did, but he wasn’t, he was a mentally healthy man, which everyone needs to know.

TheHistorian9
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

Why are We so Intrigued by Adolf Hitler


I think that we are so intrigued by Hitler because Hitler has a notoriety for being one of the most wicked and sinister figures in human history. Our particular interest with Hitler’s personal life most likely stems from the curiosity we have about how humans can be evil and our fascination with the image of pure evil. Similarly, we are also fascinated as a society with figures like King Leopold II, Christopher Columbus, King Ferdinand, Catherine the Great, Kim Jung Un or Genghis Khan. Besides his notoriety, I think that our intrigue into Hitler’s life is, in part, due to the fact that Hitler was the head of state for Germany at the time and therefore was known throughout the imperialist world similar to that of knowing that the head of state of Great Britain is Boris Johnson. There was also a fascination with his genealogy similar to that of the fascination with the English royal lineage and family genealogy.


The biggest takeaway from reading these articles about Hitler is that Hitler seemed more like an ordinary citizen and not like a head of state. In her first article of three in The New Yorker, Janet Flanner used the knowledge from her interview with Adolf Hitler to casually write about Hitler’s closest advisors/friends and other aspects of Hitler’s personal life. Flanner wrote that Hitler enjoyed traditional Bavarian cuisine, ate modest meals, and that he wasn’t particularly intimate with anyone. In her second article in The New Yorker, Flanner writes about Hitler’s genealogy and his childhood past. I found this article interesting because, as we learned in Stanley’s How Facism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, Facist leaders create a mythical past for their countries and themselves in order to rise to power and to portray themselves as a savior of their country/society. What is interesting is that Hitler, in his interview, depicts himself as a war hero who fought courageously during WWI for the American audience that ended up reading Flanner’s articles about him. This, I believe, caused the American public to admire him and become fascinated in his story. On top of that, Hitler is also described by his fondness for reading books. This creates an image of a brilliant intellectual who rose to power from reading and learning from books.


I think that these articles helped me understand more about Hitler, as a person, but didn’t change my perception of him. Flanner’s first and second articles, especially, highlighted the humanity of Hitler and his rise to power, but overall didn’t change the fact that he was a wicked figure who orchestrated one of the most horrific events in human history. After reading these articles/sites, I felt like—at the end of the day—the most important information one should know about Hitler are that he orchestrated the Holocaust and gained most of his radical views from reading anti-Semitic newspapers and listening to anti-semitic oratorations. I think these are the most important pieces of information that we have to know about Hitler because his actions and beliefs characterize him as a person who is sub-human and immoral.

etherealfrog
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

Why are we so intrigued by Adolf?

In my opinion, a major part of the fascination with Hitler today is rooted in trying to understand what can motivate someone to become so incredibly evil, as for most people, it is impossible to comprehend what could drive a person to such extremes as Hitler went to. However, what interested me in the articles from the time when Hitler was in power was the way the authors attempted to humanize Hitler. I don’t think they were aware at the time of the extent to which Hitler would go to achieve his vision for Germany, although it’s clear that they did not actually support him. The New Yorker articles especially go to great lengths to explain what brought Hitler to his position of prominence at the time, but it also spends a lot of time describing Hitler’s personal habits, as if to make the reader try to understand and possibly sympathize with him more. For example, it often alludes to his dislike of luxury, which could resonate with the average reader who probably lives a relatively non-luxurious lifestyle. The Home and Gardens magazine does not even mention Hitler’s extremism and hatred, and it somehow portrays him in an almost positive light. It makes Hitler seem like a somewhat modest, tasteful man.


Based on these two sources, it seems like the public of the time were quite interested in trying to understand Hitler as a person, but I believe it may have been for a different reason than what interests people today. I think they may have wanted to find ways to sympathize with someone whom they knew was bad, because often, people tend to try to find connections with each other and, to try to find good even in the people they dislike. However, I feel that this attempt to humanize Hitler is no longer the motivation for trying to understand him. I think that because we know the evil he was capable of, we instead try to understand what led him to that extreme, possibly so we can know the stages that could go into the formation of such evil.


I do believe that trying to understand Hitler is a worthwhile pursuit, but only to a certain extent. We should try to understand him in the sense that it is important to realize that there were things that led him to become who he was and to do what he did, and that, as the interview with Kershaw said, we should not try to simply pass him off as a “madman”. Doing so can create an excuse for his actions. Understanding that he actively chose to do everything that he did in a sane state of mind is extremely important because it reminds us that people are truly capable of terrible things, and that we must not forget that someone like this could not exist again. We should not understand him to humanize him, but to remember that it is not impossible for the circumstances that made him who he was to occur, and that it is not difficult to become polarized. People like him exist, have existed, and will exist again, and we cannot allow them to gain the kind of power he had.

turtle17
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 24

Why are we so intrigued by Hitler?

A lot of politicians use tactics to try and make themselves more relatable to the people they want to have supporting them. Sometimes this is by the way they act, or what they eat, or how they dress, but they purposefully try to market themselves as “the same” as the general public. The thing about Hitler was that he didn’t really have to try in order for people to relate to him, they just did. Maybe it was due to some of the rejections he had gone through, like not getting into art school, or maybe it was due to his experiences with poverty, but people related to him. Throughout the articles and stories I had to read, I repeatedly saw a theme of his simplistic lifestyle being mentioned: his diet, his architectural style, his love of his dogs. All of these things are traits that I see on a daily basis, some I even see within myself. I think that this is where so much of the fascination comes from; how did a seemingly normal person become the leader of a genocide? Now, some people may worry about who else this could “happen” to (I don’t know if being a mass murderer is something that just happens to you, but it is defitinely a fear carried by some), and if it would be someone that they knew or knew of. So in order to separate themselves from the idea of becoming this person, a lot of people talk about Hitler. By talking about the tragedies and sins he committed, it is easier to isolate ones self from him. A person is able to acknowledge that they would never partake in that, and don’t know anyone who is capable of doing so. A lot of what I saw in the articles simply just emphasized the ‘normalcy’ of Hitler. For example, both the Janet Flanner article and the Hitler Special Feature in Homes and Gardens mention how Hitler didn’t drink or smoke. The Flanner piece even spent more than several paragraphs throughout different parts of the article explaining Hitler’s diet, and where he ate, and what people ate when he hosted them. The Special Feature also quotes: “These men, like the chauffeur and air-pilot, are not so much servants as loyal friends.” To me, even thinking about Hitler having friends or close aquaintances is absolutely bewildering, but maybe that is because I personally don’t perceive him as a normal person with normal emotions.


According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word Macabre means, “1: Having death as a subject: comprising or including a personalized representation of death. 2: dwelling on the gruesome.” Although this sounds like a characteristic of someone who is slightly more emotionless, macabre is a human emotion that stems from fear. But if people are more comfortable with talking about something tragic, they eventually become less timid of it; in this way, macabre is comforting to some. Not knowing exactly what made Hitler become who he ended up being scares a lot of people. In the Flanner article, it even mentions that it took him two years to be able to ‘convert’ to antisemitism. We are obsessed with talking about him not only because we see similarities between ourselves and Hitler, but also because talking about him gets us used to the fear, and eventually, we don’t feel scared anymore.


In my opinion, the most important thing to know about Hitler was that although he may have seemed like a ‘normal’ person he was not. It doesn’t matter if he was ruled mentally sane by several scientists or not, no person who is comfortable within their own mind is capable of committing a mass murderer, and essentially causing a war that killed around 80 million people. Hitler was not a normal person, and people need to stop treating him like he was.

hisoka
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

Why are we intrigued by Hitler

I feel the main reason for why we are so intrigued is because we want to learn why and how this happened so we can keep all that came from him from happening in the future. Learning more about Hitler also makes us learn more about the various forms of governments used over the years and around the world because it gives an explanation into how he gained so much power and followers. Something I learned from the “Interview with Ian Kershaw” was that Hitler wasn’t inevitable nor was he a madman. It just so happened a lot of instances lined up and Hitler had enough drive from revenge and enough people related to it that it was possible for it to be carried out. Celebrities like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian are forms of entertainment for our society to take in while Hitler was more of a political necessity that would help rebuild Germany to its former glory. We are fascinated by those celebrities because they bring us joy and laughter or the occasional drama to gossip over while Hitler committed genocide. Yes Hitler is a celebrity but for wildly different reasons. Trump on the other hand became famous for similar reasons with Hitler. They both had a group of people they despised and had a strong desire to get rid of them. There was a large enough group of people that they were able to rally to their cause because they had the charisma to draw them in, and although Trump didn’t completely get what he wanted they both got to such crazy heights of power that many believed they would.


I don’t know about a fascination with an image of pure evil, but for me it would be more of trying to understand why he would commit such an evil. Reading through the Hitler in home and garden article, you see how much of a peaceful life he had at home, and what he had waiting for him, so why did he take such a turn? We even learn in Janet Flanner’s article that he refused to eat any meat, so why kill people? Hitler overcame many obstacles that should have kept him from being able to do anything on his own yet he somehow overcame them and became the leader of a country. How many times does that happen? I don’t believe we at all see him the way we see Darth Vader or Voldemort, because we knew both fictional characters before they turned evil. Both Anakin Skywalker and Tom Riddle both came from poor backgrounds and would become one of the strongest in their universe but their personalities and how they became evil I feel are not comparable. Tom Riddle was mentally ill and by making the horcruxes he slowly made himself less and less human, while Anakin chose to switch sides of the year long battle that was being waged. Both are also fictional characters who never actually hurt anyone, whereas Hitler literally killed millions.


Much like Germany was 100% responsible for World War 1 Hitler isn’t responsible for every evil that happened during World War 2. His actions definitely didn’t help, because it gave people opportunities to change the blame or not get caught because people were focused on other things.


My biggest takeaway is that anything can happen and anyone can become evil if put in the right situations under the right coincidences. Another is to not let people with such radical views that plan on hurting people be put into power. I understand why Hitler may been a bitter and angry person but I will never understand why he would commit genocide. It might be worthwhile to understand him more to see more into what got him to be the person he became but it will never give me the answers I want: Why kill people who did nothing wrong? And with that the most important thing to know is that maybe those eccentric people do need to be taken down a notch every now and then to keep them from doing horrible war crimes.

dinonuggets
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Why are we so intrigued by Hitler?

I think we are so intrigued by Hitler because we want to make sense of the evil atrocities he committed and find some sort of reasoning or explanation, which is why we look at his personality and lifestyle. We want to comprehend how someone can act on such evil ideology. After reading these articles, as many people have been saying, knowing that Hitler was not actually “insane” makes his actions even more frightening. He was fully aware of what he was doing and thought it was the right thing to do. It was also interesting to me that he wasn’t necessarily the one who was making direct action in the government; rather, he stated his goals and opinions and let other officials implement change. As Kershaw says, “he intervenes where his authorization is necessary.” I also liked Kershaw’s explanation for Hitler’s charismatic authority, going back to Weber’s concept that “charismatic authority is an emergency arrangement” and essentially a relationship. This relates what we talked about in class surrounding the crisis Weimar Germany was in—the people were so desperate that they needed someone radical; a savior.

I don’t think it is productive to focus on Hitler’s lifestyle or personal practices, like the cakes he preferred, what his home looked like, and the fact that he was a vegetarian. I was not pleased by the lengthy pages about this in the New Yorker article. Instead of trying to understand him as a person, we should aim our attention at how Hitler rose to power and gained his following, where his ideologies came from, and how he implemented a genocide. For me specifically, one quote from Kershaw’s article stood out - Hitler had said, “And then I learned I could speak.” My junior research paper book is set in World War II Germany and my focus is on the power of words, reflecting their ability to do both good and evil. This is why I feel it is more important to understand what allowed Hitler’s goals and ideologies to be materialized by the German government. I do not think understanding Hitler’s personal life or background is a worthwhile pursuit, but learning about his political power, the German government’s actions, and the Holocaust is.

eac
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Why are we so intrigued by Adolf?

People don't see Hitler as normal. There's a genuine fascination with him, based on his surface level image. Everybody knows that he started World War Two, he orchestrated the Holocaust, he was known for being a great orator, he failed art school and... that's pretty much it. Anybody with a casual interest with Hitler probably stops around there. And honestly? It doesn't really need to go past that.

It's unimportant to delve too deep into Hitler. He certainly is an interesting man, but his background, especially after he became the Fuhrer, is unnecessary to learn. You don't need to try and rationalize evil. Yes, the man was a vegetarian and had a summer home. He disliked keeping servants and he was largely celibate. So what? What does learning this achieve? Leaders don't lead all the time. Donald Trump, one of the most direct leaders of the United States, went golfing for over 300 days of his presidency. Is this a neat fact? Sure, but learning it doesn't help you understand Trump very much. Every human in the world, good or evil, is also a human. But being a human doesn't make them any more or less evil.

Hitler's seen as the ultimate evil, even though Japan's atrocities were at a similar scale to those of the Nazi's. But there are multiple factors for why Hitler's antagonized to a degree that, say, Hirohito isn't. The major reason is because Hirohito was largely a figurehead. The military leaders of Japan held all the power, unlike Hitler, who bent the Nazi party around his ideals. It's inherently more difficult to hate a collective than an individual. Japan also consistently refuses to accept the blame for it's atrocities, which leads to a significantly less amount of attention being directed towards these criminal acts.

The main thing that needs to be seriously studied about Adolf Hitler is how he rose to power. Especially since the NSDAP was elected to be the dominant force in the Reichstag democratically, with the will of the people. How Hitler used the institutions put in place to gain ultimate power. How the perfect conditions existed in Interwar Germany for the populace to turn to the extremes. This is why Hitler should be studied. Same with the rise of Stalin, of Mussolini, of Franco, of Mao. There's no need to know about their personal lives, because it's irrelevent. Learn how they rose to power, so we can stop the next one.

giraffes12
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Why are we so intrigued by Adolf?

My big takeaway from all of this is that Hitler’s everyday life is not really important overall. The most important thing to know about him is that he was “anti-Semetic, anti-Communist, anti-suffrage” (Flanner 22). He was not a good person, obviously. The most important thing was that he was in charge of the government that systematically killed six million Jewish people, and many more.

The only reason that there would be any reason to try to understand Hitler is to make sure that this does not happen again. We should study Hitler to recognize the signs of a man gaining power to use it for evil. People who commit genocide need to be recognized from an early time so people can put an end to it. In “Hitler’s Mountain Home,” the author spends a lot of time describing and almost romanticizing Hitler’s life. To me, there is not much of a reason for this article, except to explain his attachment to Austria, his homeland. The article seems to be acting as though he was a modest man, living in a small house very peacefully. Or possibly it is trying to say that he seemed peaceful, not that he actually was. Still, this is not clear enough, about why this article exists.

The Interview With Ian Kershaw was very interesting. It gives you a good insight into what he thinks about how Hitler actually was mentally, about how mentally stable he was. I think it is important for people to know that he was not insane, he knew exactly what he was doing the entire time. Overall however, his daily life is not very relevant. Knowing and learning that he was sane and killed millions of people is what matters. I agree with hisoka’s last paragraph. It is very confusing why he did all of this, and we might have to live with the fact that we might never know. Multiple world leaders have committed genocide, and countless others have stood by and watched.

mango04
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 32

Why are we so intrigued by Hitler?

First, I would like to address @redemmed2021’s post. Yes, biologically Adolf Hitler was human, but in every other sense I disagree. It’s hard for me to be able to sit here and type that this man was anything more than evil personified. Yes, he was “fond of oatmeal,” “love[d] to laugh,” and was a vegetarian according to Janet Flanner’s The New Yorker profile of him, but doesn’t that make him even more unhuman? This man was living a “regular” life while planning the extermination of a whole people. I can’t get behind the idea that THAT is human. On a similar note, I would like to mention that my definition of human is based on ethics and morals rather than the biological definition, and that by calling Hitler unhuman I am not offering an excuse for his actions. Instead, I am trying to say that we can not call Hitler, nor should we even find it significant to call Hitler “human” because through his own acts of dehumanization, he has dehumanized himself. Also, I understand how it’s important to show how someone so sane could commit such heinous crimes, yet I don’t believe that he deserves the adjective as human. Why should he be remembered as human when he massacred millions because he deemed them as completely different species?

Now, to answer the question of why we are fascinated by Hitler. I think that the straight answer is that it is our instinct to search for the why. I believe that the world is still grappling with the Holocaust and learning how to acknowledge that point of history. Because of this, we are looking for answers of how this was able to happen— leading us to the main executor of this plan, Hitler. We are searching for reasons for his ways of thinking like mental illness or prolonged trauma. Even Ian Kershaw said in his interview with Gene Santoro that people “with medical backgrounds have examined…the idea that Hitler was insane.” Yet, they have rejected this idea. People are also obsessed with the idea of “what-ifs”surrounding Hitler. Famous what-ifs include “What if Hitler had been accepted to art school?” and “What if Hitler had died in World War 1.” Nevertheless, examining mental illnesses and raising what-if questions gets us nowhere. Similarly to what @runningdog96 said it’s almost useless to understand the WHY (Hitler did what he did), when the HOW (did Hitler do what he did) is much more important. As we talked about in class the HOW was mainly due to intense extremism, propaganda, and fear. The German people were met with countless periods of extremism in politics and culture, which as we discussed in class never really went/goes away. In class we also looked at the beginnings of propaganda against Jewish people at the end of WW1 as we saw one photo of a Jewish person stabbing a German soldier in the back. This was meant to plant the idea that Jews were among those who had failed Germany in the war, leading to extremism. And lastly, we discussed fear. Today we learned that the Germans had no stable economy and were even using their money to fuel their fires and warm their homes at one point. When the Great Depression hit there was mass unemployment and poverty as well. All of these factors combined made an environment which Hitler took advantage of and used to propel his influence.

Given that I have covered him a lot in past classes, I honestly don’t understand Hitler better after these articles. I could’ve gone my whole life not knowing that his mountain house’s “curtains [were] of printed linen or fine damask in the softer shades.” I don’t intend to do any more research on him going further either. Instead, I plan to study the ways in which he orchestrated a mass genocide and how this was able to occur in the 20th century. With that said, I don’t think learning about his eating or hosting habits is a worthwhile pursuit, but the historical context and how he did what he did is. I guess the most important thing to know about him has nothing to do with his being at all. The most important thing to learn about Adolf Hitler is what he did. The personal aspects of his life are insignificant on so many levels compared to what that man was able to get away with. I guess my reasoning behind this is: why focus on the why of the past, when the how and what are the most threatening to our present and future.
flowerpower
Posts: 23

Why are we so intrigued by Hitler?

I think people are interested in learning about Hitler often out of fear, but also a genuine curiosity. For those who are afraid, it is of others like him. Maybe if they learn all about Hitler and what he was like in every aspect of life we would be able to recognize if there were others like him. So I think it’s possible people are intrigued by him because they want to prevent people who may be “like him” from causing future atrocities. Another reason is a strange curiosity that could be due to the disbelief of such a great evil? People may be looking for excuses to explain why he was so cruel, in order to ease fears about the possibilities of that same evilness in others. I think most of the fascination is people wanting to either make excuses or ease their own fears of this kind of evil existing. In Ignatius Phayre’s article for Homes and Gardens he describes Hitlers home as “one that any merchant of Munich or Nuremberg might possess in these lovely hills.” This quote and the article overall do not speak of Hitler in any negative light, it actually describes his home very nicely and tries to humanize him. Another example is describing “his passion about cut flowers in his home, as well as for music.” This description, isolated, would seem like any normal person which makes it confusing to read these things about Hitler, who we know was evil.


At the end of the day the most important thing to know about Hitler is that he was an extremely evil dictator who brought about the murder of millions of people because he does not deserve to be examined to make excuses for, and he does not deserve to be humanized. He was not clinically insane, he was able to fully choose his own actions, and the acts he did commit were some of the worst seen in human history. Because of this I found the second profile on Hitler from the New York Times to be the most beneficial read. While both the other articles and the two other profiles talked about Hitlers traits, habits, social circles, home, likes, dislikes and more, the second profile for the times talked about some of what he did to Jews in Germany and more of his political agenda. I find this to be more important to read about than whether he eats meat or how friendly he is to his gardeners. I do agree with the last sentence of the first post (of the discussion) that it is important to know he was not insane and he should be held fully accountable for all of his actions. Overall I just found myself uninterested in reading about him through a lens that was not about his political actions before and during WWII.


groot
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 29

The biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from these articles is the unexpectedness of Hitler’s entire regime. So when psychologists studied the inner workings and evidence of his actions and found nothing that would categorize him as insane, it was a shock (Interview with Ian Kershaw). If they came back with different results, we would have something to point to, something to explain his unspeakable acts, but they didn’t. No medical reason could be pointed to. Hitler wasn’t insane; he was simply corrupted. To me, finding this out was surprising; if nothing neurological can be pointed to, who's to say that had Hitler not come to power in the time he did that, someone else wouldn’t have? He came to power because of the circumstances in Germany, because of the Depression, and because of German postwar resentment. He had the ambition German people wanted in their leader and therefore was the popular vote. And because political parties polarize during times of crisis, as we discussed in class and Hitler took advantage of this by promising an end to disorder while at the same time constructing more of it. Hitler, who was just a man, a man who killed approximately six million people, served as a symbol of rebellion and escape to millions of Germans.


I think I now understand him both better and worse after this research. I learned that Hitler had a rough childhood, that he always had a deeply rooted need for revenge, and that he enjoyed creating watercolor sketches (Hitler’s Mountain Home). But what I didn’t learn and couldn’t uncover was how? How does the trauma he endured as a child somehow manifest into a crazed rage that started a mass genocide? I read these articles looking for the answer, but I don’t think I found one. The best explanation given was that it was simply the times Germany was in. The articles talked a lot about how Hitler was able to manipulate the German people into placing him in power by taking advantage of the hard times Germany was in. And while I do think that that does a good job of explaining how he got to power no article is able to explain the things he did with that power. The articles talked about the normalities in Hitler’s life, his passions, and his friendships, but reading about them only made me even more confused how someone with such tame average hobbies becomes a mass killer. The dots still don’t really connect for me.


I think trying to understand Hitler is definitely a worthwhile pursuit to a certain extent, but an extremely challenging and difficult one. We can look at his childhood to look at the pressures placed on him but that still doesn’t completely answer the question of how he became who he did. Although I think the greatest takeaway Hitler has given the world is what signs to look for. As time went on it became more evident that Hitler was a far-right extremist willing to do any means necessary to retain power, which is quite a recipe for disaster. Hopefully, from him, we can learn to spot these warning signs earlier on and prevent someone with such extreme views from ever becoming dictator of a country (although, as we know, it’s not something that’s always preventable). However learning things about him like he was a painter, that he had a lovely home, and that he was friends with his house servants I found to not be worthwhile. I think more importantly we need to focus on specifically the factors that got him to power, and what influenced him to do what he did with that power.


I think it's most important to know that Adolf Hitler was incredibly manipulative and charismatic, the two traits that gave him the ability to exploit millions of people. We need to understand the ways and methods in which he rose to power, eventually leading to the systematic killing of six million Jewish people. Hitler is not a victim and we shouldn’t treat him as such. He had a hard childhood but that does not excuse anything he did. But it’s important to remember not to glamorize him, not to learn meaningless little quirks he had as a child (such as that he avoided fish, loved apples, or that as a schoolboy he got in trouble for drawing) (Profiles: Führer). Adolf Hitler was a man who manipulated himself into power, lead a genocide, and has the blood of millions of people on his hands.









etherealfrog
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

Originally posted by dinonuggets on March 17, 2022 20:46

I think we are so intrigued by Hitler because we want to make sense of the evil atrocities he committed and find some sort of reasoning or explanation, which is why we look at his personality and lifestyle. We want to comprehend how someone can act on such evil ideology. After reading these articles, as many people have been saying, knowing that Hitler was not actually “insane” makes his actions even more frightening. He was fully aware of what he was doing and thought it was the right thing to do. It was also interesting to me that he wasn’t necessarily the one who was making direct action in the government; rather, he stated his goals and opinions and let other officials implement change. As Kershaw says, “he intervenes where his authorization is necessary.” I also liked Kershaw’s explanation for Hitler’s charismatic authority, going back to Weber’s concept that “charismatic authority is an emergency arrangement” and essentially a relationship. This relates what we talked about in class surrounding the crisis Weimar Germany was in—the people were so desperate that they needed someone radical; a savior.

I don’t think it is productive to focus on Hitler’s lifestyle or personal practices, like the cakes he preferred, what his home looked like, and the fact that he was a vegetarian. I was not pleased by the lengthy pages about this in the New Yorker article. Instead of trying to understand him as a person, we should aim our attention at how Hitler rose to power and gained his following, where his ideologies came from, and how he implemented a genocide. For me specifically, one quote from Kershaw’s article stood out - Hitler had said, “And then I learned I could speak.” My junior research paper book is set in World War II Germany and my focus is on the power of words, reflecting their ability to do both good and evil. This is why I feel it is more important to understand what allowed Hitler’s goals and ideologies to be materialized by the German government. I do not think understanding Hitler’s personal life or background is a worthwhile pursuit, but learning about his political power, the German government’s actions, and the Holocaust is.

I completely agree with your point that it is unproductive to focus on Hitler's personal lifestyle. The way that article went so in depth on these trivial topics made me somewhat uncomfortable, because it seemed like it was trying to understand him, almost to the extent of sympathizing with him, as opposed to what led him to commit genocide.

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