| A lunatic Chaplin imitator|
and his greatest fans
|First as tragedy|
|Then as farce|
“”Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized.
|—Adolf Hitler, contracted statement about his elitist taste in art.|
|—bill wurtz on Nazi Germany|
Schicklgruber[note 1] Hitler (1889–1945) was leader of the German Nazi Party from 1921, chancellor and eventually dictator, or Führer ("leader"), of Nazi Germany from 1933 until his suicide in 1945.
Hitler was Austrian by birth and came to power by way of a series of legal and extralegal maneuverings. His decidedly toxic message of racism and antisemitism is summed up in his manifesto, Mein Kampf, written while imprisoned in the 1920s after trying to lead a coup d'état[note 2] against the Weimar Republic. Hitler was a bad human being, though solely as a politician he was probably the greatest that ever lived, as he invented modern politics: discredit the opposition, create fear to control the population, make a permanent enemy that isn't tangible, push agendas in state-controlled media and glorify the military as heroes to the nation like some sort of Mycaenan Greek city-state. There's politicians today in most countries that use his ideas and are actually proud of it. Call him what you want, but he was simply not a bad politician. However, he was a comedically bad military strategist.
Most evil human ever?
“”Try explaining Hitler to a kid.
|—George Carlin, Brain Droppings|
As the leading perpetrator of the most destructive war in modern history and for his role in the murder of six million European Jews, several million ethnic Slavs (among others), gypsies, homosexuals and communists, he is viewed by some as being the most evil person ever to have lived. It is estimated that over 12 million people were killed as a result of the Holocaust (about 1.5 times the current population of New York City) not counting the even larger number of victims who never even saw a concentration camp (some 13+ million civilians were murdered in cold blood, worked or starved to death in the Soviet Union alone). Remarkably, this lunatic still has some admirers, although thankfully not quite as many as his lunatic contemporary Joseph Stalin, who killed a mere six to nine million (according to the "nicest" estimates at least; estimates from most mainstream historians put Stalin's death toll at about 20 million, though one could argue that since Stalin wasn't the main provoker of World War II and since Hitler planned to kill far more people if he'd had the chance, Hitler was still worse). This is partially evidenced by the fact that one can praise Stalin in public without fear of retribution.[note 4] The hive of unrelenting racists known as Metapedia likes to refer to Hitler "uniting Europe against the evil Communist menace", when in reality it was communist and non-communist Europe uniting against him and the countries he had bullied into throwing in with Germany, with communism dying off over 45 years afterward.
Despite what role Hitler may have had in the success of his genocidal quest, as an individual he had a finite existence and finite power and was reliant on a great many subordinates to push his agenda through. It could be argued that his own actions did not make him solely accountable for those who chose to follow him and enable his influence. However, he governed according to the Führerprinzip, according to which the top leader takes on responsibility for all decisions, with his underlings being only "advisers", so it could also be argued that Hitler himself took on some responsibility for the actions of his followers (although not all the responsibility).
Although the Holocaust was hardly the first genocide in human history and it may not even be the one with the most victims,[note 5] it is special for one reason: the creation of a whole industry (Industrialisierter Massenmord, or "industrialized mass murder") with the sole purpose of exterminating an entire "race" is a unique event in the history of mankind.
Germany, or rather the German Empire, couldn't feed its population due to lack of farmland. It was the number one issue in the late 19th and early 20th century. Crop failures were common, so when Hitler pushed his Lebensraum stuff in the thirties, he actually had a case. If the war had been delayed by a couple of years, the mechanization of the agriculture combined with the now-possible synthetization of fertilizer with air nitrogen (via Haber-Bosch) would have discredited this dated dogma. Well, not that it would have changed anything: simply trade would have done the same thing and yet the Nazis didn't pursue that route. It was a clear-cut, violent solution to an existential problem which many people in the countryside supported.
Hitler got off to a good start by taking over most of mainland Europe, but bit off more than he could chew by simultaneously fighting Great Britain (along with her
minions colonies and dominions, such as Canada, Australia, India, etc.), declaring war on the United States and invading Russia. Were he to have left Britain alone and to have stuck to his peace treaty with Stalin, it is likely he would have held his European mainland conquests for some time.[note 6] It is quite likely that Hitler never played the board game Risk as a child.[note 7]
His early campaigns against Poland and France were overwhelming victories for the Wehrmacht, but the reason was not Hitler's strategic "insight", rather a combination of Poland having indefensible borders and hinterland, bad planning on the French side, some reckless (but eventually successful) actions of a few German officers and a huge amount of luck.[note 8] As the years passed, his megalomania got the better of him and his later mistakes would cost him all his "gains". Obsessed with his desire to acquire
more vespene gas additional "living space" (Lebensraum) for the German people, he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Acquiring access to strategic resources, most importantly the rich oilfields of Baku, might have been a secondary motivation for this attack. Still not satisfied with the number of his opponents, he declared war on the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The later stages of the war would see his growing detachment from reality, accompanied by an ever-stronger desire to micromanage the entire German military effort. Despite facing a completely hopeless situation from late 1943 onwards, he went on to order his increasingly imaginary armies (notably that of Felix Steiner) into ill-fated counterattacks on the advancing Allied troops, but when the counterattacks failed, Hitler always blamed his generals. With the Soviets on his doorstep, he finally saw fit to rant about Hermann Fegelein and off himself on 30 April 1945, ending the war in Europe.
- See also: Religion in National Socialism, Positive Christianity, Hitler and evolution and Hitler and abortion
Hitler's religious beliefs or purported lack of religious belief are a matter of much dispute, both among serious historians and biographers and among political partisans wanting to score a cheap shot by associating Hitler with either Christianity or atheism. This has become particularly common in recent years, with pundits from the American religious right such as Ann Coulter declaring Hitler an atheist, with the implication that atheists are devoid of morals and that atheism leads to extremist politics like those of Hitler. On the other side of religious divide, many New Atheists are fond of pointing out Hitler's record as a practicing Christian. For example, Richard Dawkins, responding to a speech by Pope Benedict XVI during his Papal visit to the UK in 2010 which had associated the atheism and secularism with "a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society", made a speech quoting several comments by Hitler which had made reference to God and Jesus as sources of inspiration.
The problem here is that both sides are selectively cherry-picking evidence for how they view Hitler and their association fallacies aren't very effective since Hitler's beliefs and actions really didn't fit the conventional profile for either a Christian or an atheist. We cannot easily determine how far Hitler believed or did not believe favorable statements he made about Christianity. We know Hitler was a skilled manipulator and used the Nazi brand of Positive Christianity to encourage the way of thinking he wanted. Hitler was clearly not an orthodox Christian.
Worthy of note is that his propaganda officer, Joseph Goebbels, sought to make Germanic paganism popular as a religious movement. Hitler's idea probably would have been to slowly let people move away from the Christian doctrine to let them convert to Germanic paganism. So if there was anything that would describe the religious belief of Hitler, it would be this, despite the belief being very outdated and doomed from the start. Even back in his day, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who believed in the German heroic myths and considered Odin to be a supreme being.
Public expressions of faith
Hitler was confirmed as a Roman Catholic and identified as a Catholic for most or all of his life, never openly renouncing his Catholicism, though the theology he later developed for Nazi Germany (Positive Christianity) diverged considerably from Catholic beliefs and practices. Relations between the Nazi Party and the Catholic Church were uneasy. Although Pope Pius XI had an anti-Nazi encyclical read in all German Catholic churches in 1937 and his successor Pius XII (who wrote the anti-Nazi encyclical in question) has been nominated for "Righteous Among the Nations" status for his work in saving Jews during the Holocaust, the Catholic Church did not take all that much open action against the Nazis. On the other hand, one can argue that open defiance of Hitler would have risked the lives of Catholic citizens (and the Jews they might be protecting). The Church had better relations with some of Germany's fascist allies, Italy and Spain in particular.
As an adult, Hitler often spoke and wrote positively about religion and about Jesus Christ whom he viewed as an Aryan denouncing the corruption and decadence of Jews. References to God and divine inspiration were common in Hitler's speeches at Nazi rallies. The following are a few examples:
“”Today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.
“”My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.
|—Speech in Munich on 12 April 1922|
“”It matters not whether these weapons of ours are humane: if they gain us our freedom, they are justified before our conscience and before our God.
|—Speech in Munich on 1 August 1923 (grotesque interpretation of freedom, eh?)|
“”I may not be a light of the church, a pulpiteer, but deep down I am a pious man, and believe that whoever fights bravely in defense of the natural laws framed by God and never capitulates will never be deserted by the Lawgiver, but will, in the end, receive the blessings of Providence.
|—Speech on 5 July 1944|
A speech he gave in 1937 also contained numerous references to God, in which he also quite explicitly refers to "God's work" in talking about human beings and their characteristics.
As Chancellor, Hitler also launched an "anti-godless" campaign against atheist and freethought organizations, specifically against the atheism associated with Stalin's Communism, Gottlosenbewegung in German (literally "movement of the godless" associated with "wicked communism"). In a 1933 speech he declared "We have stamped [Gottlosenbewegung] out".
Private criticisms of Christianity
Accounts of conversations suggest that Hitler was privately much more critical of Christianity than he was in his speeches and possibly even an atheist or a deist. Most of these accounts come from Hitler's Table Talk, a collection of monologues and conversations between Hitler and his inner circle of advisers and high-ranking Nazi leaders in the early 1940s, which were transcribed in shorthand at the time and later collated and published long after Hitler's death.
Regardless of what Hitler believed about God or Christ, comments in Hitler's Table Talk indicate that he was highly critical of the church and of conventional organized Christianity with its "love thy neighbor" attitude (something he saw as weak), and that he resented having to pander to Christian values for popular support. He was also very negative about Paul of Tarsus, whom he viewed as the originator of these values and as a "proto-Bolshevik". Among the most outspoken comments are the following:
“”Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.
“”The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble.
“”Science cannot lie, for it's always striving, according to the momentary state of knowledge, to deduce what is true. When it makes a mistake, it does so in good faith. It's Christianity that's the liar. It's in perpetual conflict with itself. One may ask whether the disappearance of Christianity would entail the disappearance of belief in God. That's not to be desired.
“”I can imagine people being enthusiastic about the paradise of Mahomet, but as for the insipid paradise of the Christians! In your lifetime, you used to hear the music of Richard Wagner. After your death, it will be nothing but hallelujahs, the waving of palms, children of an age for the feeding-bottle, and hoary old men.
This negative attitude towards Christianity (at least in its conventional form) also reflects similar comments he had made in Mein Kampf, such as: "Each one of us to-day may regret the fact that the advent of Christianity was the first occasion on which spiritual terror was introduced into the much freer ancient world".
Krampf Kampf (My Struggle)[note 9] was written by Hitler whilst imprisoned for just over one year after the Munich Putsch in 1923. Apparently it was edited with the help of a Roman Catholic priest, who was subsequently assassinated on the "Night of the Long Knives". It is a rambling, seemingly unedited, account of Hitler's "personal difficulties". These he attributed to the Jews who were running the capitalist system; to the same Jews who were also somehow simultaneously running the Bolsheviks trying to overthrow the capitalist system; and to the Jews who had been responsible for the surrender of Germany in 1918. Despite this autobiography being a jingoistic, über-Germanic screed, Hitler also decided to give a shoutout to fellow anti-Semite Henry Ford for his sterling propaganda efforts against the Jooz.
A particularly poignant struggle was young Adolf's rejection from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where they advised him to try to become an architect, but he did not have a high school diploma, so he opted to try his hand at World Domination instead. The school probably still regrets this.
In the controversial The Jew of Linz, Kimberley Cornish suggested that Hitler's animosity against the Jews developed when he met one in his class at school, who was smarter than everyone else and generally irritating. His name was Ludwig Wittgenstein, who later became a philosopher. Wittgenstein, with uncharacteristic practical wisdom, fled to Oxford in the 1930s, where he did prove smarter than everyone else and threatened Karl Popper with a poker.
Mein Kampf didn't exactly sell badly until 1933, but with about 220,000 copies sold it wasn't a real bestseller either and in fact was held in contempt by most establishment conservatives and right-wing extremists (including, amusingly enough, Benito Mussolini). It wasn't until 1933 that millions of copies were printed and handed out for just about any major or minor event in the life of a German (marriage, childbirth, entry into the Nazi Party) as a gift.
Like any "bible", Mein Kampf isn't actually meant to be read by its believers. It is boring, repetitive and unsurprisingly poorly written. The most recent English edition is peppered with footnotes indicating each of Hitler's lies and exaggerations, starting on the first page. However, the book, is often strangely hilarious. Hitler's tendency to make outrageous claims in a completely unironic and deadpan manner are a frequent source of unintentional comedy.
In fact, Istanbul-born German comedian Serdar Somuncu for a time made a living touring Germany and reading Mein Kampf in a way that made it appear as the hilarious string of badly written sentences that it is (though not as badly written as this one).
Finding his religion
At the time of his rule, there were rumors that Hitler was a quarter Jewish because the paternity of his father was questionable and his grandmother had worked in the house of a Jewish man named Frankenburger in Graz. However, no evidence has been uncovered which would substantiate this rumor.[note 10] Hitler himself ordered genealogists to investigate the rumor. He concluded that he was not of Jewish ancestry and Johann Georg Hiendler was his paternal grandfather. Modern historians have also come to the conclusion that Hitler's paternal grandfather was not a Jew. This is because there is no record of Mr. Frankenburger ever having existed and because Jews were not permitted to live anywhere in Styria, including Graz, until the 1860s, several decades after Hitler's father Alois Hitler was born.
Hitler was raised a Roman Catholic and apparently professed Catholicism throughout his life, but historians generally believe there is no evidence that he received the sacraments of Catholicism after childhood and some argue that he mainly invoked Catholicism as a form of propaganda. Still, the fact remains that he tolerated Catholicism being actively practiced even in the SS and this is a guy who didn't exactly bite his tongue when he truly was intolerant of something.
- Although widely believed to have died childless there are rumors that he fathered a son, Edward "Eddie" Elizabeth Hitler. However, as Eddie was not born until the late 1950s these rumors are unlikely to be true.[citation NOT needed]
- In Heinz Linge's autobiography With Hitler To The End, Hitler's valet recounts how he was captured after the fall of Berlin and interrogated by the Russians who persisted in questioning him whether he had ever "seen Hitler's genitals, and if so had they been normal?". Linge had no idea why they were interested in this and laughed when the interrogators suggested that Hitler "had only one ball". Whatever could have given them that idea?[note 11] In 2015, the Staatsarchiv Muenchen released a 1923 medical record for Hitler from when he was imprisoned for the Beer Hall Putsch and the record stated that he had cryptorchidism.
- Hitler has been speculated to suffer from syphilis, tinnitus, intestinal cancer, monorchism (see above), Parkinson's disease, skin lesions, irregular heartbeat, schizophrenia and Asperger's syndrome, despite the fact that an individual with all of these problems wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning, much less run a country. Aside from an inflammation of the bowels and an injury to the throat and groin as well as scars all over his legs from shrapnel, incurred during World War I, it seems he was healthy, physically at least.
- The Hitler Diaries were a series of poorly made, fabricated documents, uncovered in Germany in 1983 and alleged to have been written by Hitler himself. Sold to the Stern magazine for 9 million marks, they are considered one of the greatest literary hoaxes in history.
- Hitler's sex life, or lack thereof, has provided the grist for many a rumor mill — ranging from the assertion that he died a virgin, to his supposedly having deformed genitals, to the possibility that he was gay. The idea that Hitler was gay is not in any way undermined by his taste in art (see illustration).
- Rumours persist that Hitler survived World War II, escaped Germany and lived out his life incognito. A wide range of places are suggested for Hitler's final years, but Argentina or other Latin American countries are most popular in these theories.
Marketing in India
- "Hitler's Cross Cafe" opened in Mumbai in 2006 (the name has since been changed to "Cross Cafe").
- A pool hall in Nagpur was originally named "Hitler's Den".
- A clothing store named "Hitler" operated briefly in Ahmedebad.
- A color-by-number coloring book produced in India included a caricature of Hitler. Copies of the book were sold by a Dutch drugstore chain unaware of the image, but were quickly pulled from sale after it was found.
However, the most newsworthy was (the now-discontinued) "Hitler Ice Cream" made by MVF Products. Company president Neeraj Kumar insisted his use of Hitler's name and likeness to sell vanilla flavored ice cream in waffle cones was not to glorify the genocidal tyrant, but to poke fun at a relative:
“”I want to tell them repeatedly that the name was not given considering Hitler's bad political steps and what they call as the Holocaust. I was not aware of any such bad thing. I don't think we even scored some marketing points by using Hitler’s photos. I don't think people who buy the cones, in villages, know anything about Hitler. One of my uncles is a short-tempered and strict man, so we nicknamed him Hitler. While naming this particular batch of cones, I thought why can't we have a little fun at the expense of my uncle and name the cones after him. That was how the name originated.
This is really not that surprising, as the world outside of Europe and Europe-linked cultures like the Anglosphere was little-affected by the Nazis. Hitler there is not synonymous with "pure evil" and many know little about Nazi Germany or the European theater of World War II.
Reductio ad Hitlerum
To some, evoking Hitler has become a special form of reductio ad absurdum; i.e. if Hitler or the Nazi party believed in an idea, then that idea is evil and immoral. There are flaws in that view, as some ideas that Nazis came up with that were used for good (for example, the Nazi built "autobahn" which would inspire the U.S. interstate system).
- Hitler’s Table Talk: An Update, Richard Carrier
- List of Hitler quotes — he was quite the vocal Catholic, PZ Myers
- Adolf Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was born out of wedlock and thus received his mother's maiden name to become Alois Schicklgruber, but was later renamed Alois Hitler when at age 38 he successfully petitioned to receive his late stepfather's surname, arguing that his stepfather had also been his biological father.
- The "Beer Hall Putsch" as it came to be known—yes, in Bavaria even coups start and end drunk
- A fact which confirms everything you've always suspected about your vegetarian friends and neighbours!
- Why anyone would want to do so is a question perhaps best left unanswered.
- The death counts of historical atrocities such as the Atlantic slave trade, the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Stalin or Mao, as well as European and Japanese imperialism are not fully known and quite probably never will be.
- Although the work of Adam Tooze in The Wages of Destruction: The Making and the Breaking of the Nazi Economy suggests that the Nazi economy was inherently fucked and going to collapse by the mid-1940s regardless of military action.
- Because frankly, if you can't figure out how to squat on Madagascar the whole game, you just shouldn't be playing.
- "Lots of trees" was a genuine French defense strategy. No, really. Look it up.
- The title was originally going to be Viereinhalb Jahre (des Kampfes) gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit ("Four and a Half Years [of Struggle] Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice"). Max Amann, Hitler's publisher, is said to have suggested the shorter title.
- The rumor was further spread by the "governor" of Nazi-occupied Poland during the war, Hans Frank, who said as much in an interrogation after the war. Fat lot of good it did him, as he was executed for his crimes anyway.
- Colonel Bogey
- The soundbite version of this statement: History of Painters: Nazi Censorship of the Arts — "Entartete Kunst" — Degenerate Art
- The actual original full version of this statement: German History in Documents and Images. Hitler’s Speech at the Opening of the House of German Art in Munich (July 18, 1937)
- history of the entire world, i guess
- The Producers says so.
- Complete text of Mein Kampf in English at Gutenberg Australia (1939 Murphy translation). The copyright is owned in the U.S. by Houghton Mifflin through 2015 and access may be illegal depending on your local copyright and censorship laws, so read at your own risk. The book may damage your intelligence permanently as well as being as badly written — and with less thought put into it — as Das Kapital.
- Two explanations of Hitler to kids: http://www.ducksters.com/biography/adolf_hitler.php , https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikijunior:World_War_II/Adolf_Hitler
- Synder, T.Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Killed More? The New York Review of Books, March 10, 2011.
- Ann Coulter: Who Would Jesus Kill? (well, not swathes of Muslims, Ann, as you've proposed).
- "Row after Pope's remarks on atheism and Nazis", BBC News, 16 September 2010.
- Richard Dawkins' Speech at Protest the Pope March, 18 September 2010, on YouTube.
- A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board, Was Hitler a Christian?
- Ralph Mannheim, ed., New York: Mariner Books, 1999, p. 65.
- Norman H. Baynes, ed., The Speeches of Adolf Hitler: April 1922–August 1939, vol. 1, New York: Oxford University Press, 1942, pp. 19–20.
- Charles Bracelen Flood, Hitler: The Path to Power, Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989, p. 208.
- See the Wikipedia article on Adolf Hitler § Beer Hall Putsch.
- Wikipedia (DE): Serdar Somuncu#Leben
- With Hitler to the End (The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's Valet), Heinz Linge. Pen and Sword Books, 2009 (p.59).
- Records show Hitler enjoyed special treatment in prison by Frank Jordans (5:41 a.m. Dec. 22, 2015) Associated Press.
- Mizuno, Yoshikuni; Abraham Fisher, Israel Hanin (2002) Mapping the Progress of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Springer Science & Business Media pg 312
- Karamat E. Gesterbrand, "Adolf Hitler's Parkinson's Disease and an Attempt to Analyze His Personality Structure", European Journal of Neurology 6 (1999): 121–27
- Washington Post: "All right, let's talk about Hitler's penis"
- Machtan, lothar, The Hidden Hitler, translated by John Brownjohn, Basic Books, New York, 2001.
- Adan, Peter, Art of the Third Reich, Harry Abrams, Inc, Publishers, New York, New York, 1992.
- The People Who Swear Hitler Is Alive
- Haaretz:"Mumbai's 'Hitler's Cross' restaurant to change name after uproar"
- JTA:"India’s Hitler’s Den pool hall raising hackles"
- HuffPostBusiness:"Hitler An Increasingly Popular Marketing Gimmick In India"
- Express.co.uk: "Why is India okay with HITLER brand ice-creams, Hitler brand clothing and Hitler cafes?"
- 'Hitler' shop in Ahmedabad to be renamed
- The Daily Beast: Hitler, the Ben & Jerry's of India