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Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

Winston Churchill once described Hitler as "a maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have ever corroded the human breast..." Adolf Hitler's unprecedented appeal, the elevation of this man to the status of a demi-god, can be explained only on the hypothesis that he and his ideology almost exactly met the needs, longings, and sentiments of the majority of Germans. Hitler was no accident, he was no innovator, and his appeal was based precisely on his lack of novelty. Every significant element of the Nazi regime was a recapitulation [however magnified] of elements previously manifested in Imperial Germany, or other countries around the world.

For centuries, the Germans were hoping for a restoration of the German Empire to its former mediaeval glory. Hundreds of beautiful myths and legends predicted the return of the Kaiser Frederick I, or, as he was popularly nicknamed, Friedrich Barbarossa, "der Rothbart," who, as the legend ran, had never died, but was sleeping in the caves of the Kyffhauser Mountain. With him a large army of valiant knights was said to be concealed in the subterranean abode, who would, at the proper season, awake and break forth under his leadership to liberate Germany and to restore its union. It was told that, after every lapse of a hundred years, the old emperor, whose beard had grown all around the marble table upon which his head was resting, would call a shepherd to his cave, and ask him whether the ravens were still flying around the mountain-top; One of the first and signal deeds with which Barbarossa was expected to astonish the world was to wage a successful war against France.

Germans followed Hitler because Hitler represented everything that official Germany had been conditioned to want, to wish for and to accept. One may take it as axiomatic that sixty or seventy million intelligent people would not support and would not sustain a form of government that did not represent something of what they wanted. The nineteenth century in Germany was a preparation for the advent of the Hitler Regime. That is why Walter Lippmann, in his column on July 15th 1943 could write: "Though Nazism is evil incarnate, Nazism is the culmination of tendencies in Germany which are older than Hitler and may presumably survive him." The forces and elements in Germany that raised Hitler to power and maintained him were the forces that stood behind Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm. The German people repudiated Hitler when he failed; but as long as Hitler was successful in bringing home the bacon, they wanted him.

After World War Two, Germans clung to the belief that they had been held hostage by a criminal gang led by the charismatic Hitler, bent on conquering Europe and exterminating Jews. Hitler's irresistible charisma that captivated Germans was largely artificially constructed by the Nazi propaganda machine, which pumped out pictures of entranced fans at rallies. Large parts of the population supported Hitler while others were opportunistic in following him. Finally with almost limitless power he was no longer dependent on the consent of the population.

"Eternal peace is a dream; it is not even a beautiful dream, and war is one of the elements of the order of the world created by God. It is through war that man's noblest virtues-courage and unselfishness, devotion to duty, the spirit of sacrifice unto death-are brought to fruition. Without war the world would sink into a morass of materialism."
Field Marshal Count von Moltke, 11 December 1890

"What men stand out pre-eminently in the nation's history? Whom do German hearts most fervently revere? Is it Goethe, Schiller, Wagner or Marx? No. It is Barbarossa, Frederick the Great, Bluecher, Moltke and Bismarck. Hard men of blood and iron! These men, who caused the sacrifice of thousands of lives are the ones for whom the souls of the (German) people exhibit the deepest feeling-one of adoration and gratitude."
Berliner Post Jan. 28, 1912

"Our (Pan-German) civilization must build its altar on mountains of corpses, oceans of tears and the death-rattle of countless peoples."
General Count von Haessle, 1893

"We must learn to understand that we live in an age of war; that for the individual, as well as for the State, strife is a natural phenomenon, and that this strife likewise has its foundation in the divine order of the world. ... Herein lies an idea as indispensable to the political education of the German people as the knowledge of the fact that in future, war must always be the last and only decisive factor in the settlement of political questions. This thought, complemented by a manly love of war, cannot be withheld from the German people by the Entente, however much they may wish to take it from us. It is the cornerstone of all political understanding; it is the cornerstone of the future, and especially of the future of the German people, who have been reduced to slavery. .. " The warlike qualities of the German and Prussian armies have been proved on the bloody fields of battle. The German people need no other qualities for their moral regeneration. The spirit of the old army must be the germ from which this regeneration will spring."
General Ludendorff, 1922

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