Adolf Hitler

By W. W. Crotch
New Statesman, 29 July 1933

Edited by Andy Ross

Adolf Hitler was a curious, garrulous chap. In those days I lived in Munich, and I frequently noticed in the street a man who vaguely reminded me of a militant edition of Charles Chaplin. He always carried a riding whip in his hand with which he would incessantly chop off imaginary heads as he walked. My grocer told me he was leader of a tiny political group, which called itself the German National Socialist Workers Party, and that despite his eccentric appearance he was quite a pleasant fellow.

Some time later I became a frequent customer of a little saloon frequented mostly by Bohemians, artists and art students. Discussions lasted far into the night over tankards of beer and bottles of wine. Hitler was an almost daily visitor. He had been a house painter in his early days in Vienna, but he was rather sore on the subject, and posed as an artist. He was very fond of airing his views on art and architecture.

One thing that struck me about Hitler was his extreme abstemiousness. He ate every night a dish of vegetables, and mineral water was his only drink. He never smoked. Sometimes, instead of regaling us with chaotic speeches, he would sit for hours on end in front of his mineral water, staring into space, not uttering a word. If on these occasions someone suddenly addressed him, he would start as if out of sleep, and stroke his forehead with his hand several times before coming back to reality.

Apart from politics and art, Hitler's chief topics of conversation were Italy and clairvoyance. He would sometimes talk for half an hour on end about the glories of ancient Rome and the greatness of the Caesars. There was something about his talk that made one think he believed himself to be inspired.

He made a confidant of a Jewish charlatan named Steinschneider, who subsequently founded a weekly newspaper on astrology. But the Jew's end was a tragic one. He was found murdered in a field in the environs of Berlin.

Hitler's faith in the occult gives rise to intriguing speculation. As everyone knows, he has adopted the swastika as the emblem not only of his party but of the state. But curiously, this swastika is reversed, and anyone acquainted with Eastern beliefs knows that this is to be regarded with positive horror. An inverted swastika is indicative not of endless life but of the flood and flame of life leading to a violent destruction. Did Hitler know this when he foisted it upon the German nation?

AR September 2013: The swastika fact is new to me. I noted years ago that the Nazi version has a sinister twist (its arms trail in counterclockwise rotation) whereas the "correct" version has a dextrous twist (clockwise trailing arms). Curious that the swastika's ancient dual symbolism is so little discussed. The sinister symbol is perfect for a Wagnerian Götterdämmerung, of course.

Adolf Hitler

By Volker Ullrich
Der Spiegel, October 2013

The remarkable thing about Hitler was his talent for dissimulation. His formidable abilities as an actor are often overlooked. There are only very rarely situations where we can say he was being genuine. He could be very pleasant, even to people he detested. Yet he was also incredibly cold even to people very close to him.

My impression is that most of his rages were staged. He did this deliberately, to intimidate people, when just talking with his political opponents didn't achieve what he wanted. Within minutes, he could be once again behaving with complete control over himself and playing the attentive host.

Hitler was an avid reader, a passion that stayed with him through all the phases of his career. He bought an immense quantity of books, especially on architecture, although biographies and philosophical works interested him as well. He consumed books incredibly quickly, but also very selectively. He only read works that fit his worldview and that would be of use in his political career.

He was never more than average as an artist. His great talent was for the games of politics. It's easy to underestimate the exceptional qualities and abilities he brought to bear. In the space of just three years, he rose from an unknown veteran to the king of Munich, filling the city's largest halls week after week.

He constructed his speeches very deliberately. He began very calmly, tentatively, almost as if he were feeling his way forward and trying to sense how far he held the audience. Not until he was certain of their approval did he escalate his word choice and gestures, and get more aggressive. He continued this for two or three hours until he reached the climax, an intoxicating peak that left many listeners with tears running down their faces.

Anti-Semitism was the core of Hitler's personality. He saw Jews as the root of all evil in the world. He became a radical anti-Semite during the revolution in Munich in 1918-19. The Munich Soviet Republic that briefly appeared included several Jews and led to anti-Semitism that spread through the city like a fever. At first, despite all the rhetoric of annihilation, "getting rid of the Jews" meant expelling them from Germany. The systematic murder of Europe's Jews did not enter into the plan until the beginning of World War II.

Hitler styled himself as a man who renounced all personal happiness in the service of his people. But he always appreciated luxury. He drove the latest and most expensive Mercedes models and owned a nine-room apartment on Prinzregentenstrasse in Munich. I think he had a very normal love life with Eva Braun.