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,
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.
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
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.